Outside games journalism itself, the press often gives video games a hard time. While this is a sweeping statement, you only have to look to figures like Mary Whitehouse, Jack Thompson and even other vocal opponents such as Julia Boseman or Hillary Clinton for proof.
Now, most gamers I know wouldn’t try arguing games are without issues or faults – far from it. Most would implore very particular treatment of young gamers, for example, and few would dispute the fact that, like all things, games are a hobby best suited for moderate consumption. However, this is a long and complex discussion that has been raised before, and I am not about to wade into the quagmire today, especially without considerably more research.
The point of this article is simple: to underline my belief that there are very valid and very personal reasons why games can be a good thing. In my case, it’s my brother.
Although similar in age (we’re just 18 months apart), my brother and I are very different people with very different interests. Fortunately for us, being brothers and all, we have the same parents. This means we shared the same upbringing, and have – over time – come to share many values. Growing up, despite all the tomfoolery, squabbling and enthusiastically destructive play in which we indulged, we remained quite close. Sure, there were some wobbly moments in the teenage years when I didn’t like my brother (or anyone else) very much, but time has mellowed us both.
However, my brother likes the UFC and MMA, boxing, cars, and Formula 1, none of which hold much interest for me. I respect what he likes, except when I don’t, or see an opportunity to take the piss, but his interests are not my interests. The exception is gaming.
We grew up playing games together – both video and “real” ones. Everything from Roland in Time on the Amstrad CPC 464 to Goldeneye on the N64, we played it. Perhaps nostalgia has helped cement the bond (we both remember going to look at the £1.99 Amstrad tapes under the glass counter in our local toy shop), but we still love games now. It’s a common interest for us, and we will chat for hours about the upcoming releases, the good times on Gears of War or Skate 2, and even what idiots we encountered in the latest round of online gaming. He knows the same people I do online, we like the same games (shooters, mainly), and he is of a similar standard.
My brother, Tommy, is good company anyway, and we’ve shared many a magical moment online. I will never forget the time Tommy pulled up next to me in a Warthog and yelled at me to “get in the van.” You’d never guess he was involved in the building trade at the time… Okay, so he’s not quite as devoted to gaming as I am – he tends to wander in and out of remembering to pay his broadband bill – but that makes no difference to either of us.
In short, gaming has brought us closer – we always got on well, but over the last few years my brother has fast become one of my best friends. I have faith that many other such stories exist out there – perhaps a couple who met through gaming, or a father and son playing together; maybe a family where video games have provided an outlet for other problems.
This is all a far cry from the thoroughly negative press that gaming often gets, and proves that video games can be a positive influence. As someone else once said, “virtual spaces, real relationships.”
Some come on, what do games mean to you and yours?