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Home Opinion He Said/She Said: Perspectives on Video Games

Male Perspective

by Benjamin Middendorf

We’ve come a long way since Pong. According to Forbes, video games now contribute $11.7 billion to the country’s GDP every year, and as of 2015 more than 150 million Americans were playing video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association. That number can only have gone up since then.

I’m definitely one of those people. I’ve been playing video games for years, from the educational math games of my childhood, to my latest favorite game, Crusader Kings II, a strategy game where you can control entire dynasties of medieval history.

Gaming can be an intellectual pursuit. The essential component of all games is problem solving, and many do it in multiple ways. There are the platformers, the puzzle games, the mystery titles and many more genres. Games are constantly keeping you on your toes; a new variant of an enemy kills you in a few hits, and you have to learn which tactics will move you forward again. Websites and communities are devoted to figuring out the complex algorithms behind loot drops and spawn rates.

Video games can also be a social activity. Though there are some gamers out there that fit the stereotype of the pale nerd hunched in front of a screen for hours on end, games are also intensely cooperative. Whether you’re playing with someone sitting right next to you, or online with someone on the other side of the planet, many games encourage cooperative problem solving or good natured rivalry.

Some of my fondest memories are of trading the controller back and forth between my siblings as we tried to defeat a particularly tough boss in Lego Star Wars, or of sniping friends from behind in GoldenEye. Many MMO titles require split-second coordination between a team of players to accomplish a goal, and the best competitive gaming teams need the same qualities of teamwork and communication as professional sports teams.

Gaming comes with costs however, both monetary and temporal. As the technology behind game engines (the software programs used to render graphics and simulate physics) and the capability of the hardware increases, gamers are demanding bigger and better games, and the companies are happy to oblige. The new (and somewhat redundantly named) Xbox One X will run you $500, and most individual games are in the ballpark of $60. If you’re a PC gamer, the cost of keeping your graphics card, CPU, and memory completely up to date can be thousands of dollars.

It’s not always a cheap hobby. I don’t even want to think about how much money I

threw into character slots and region expansions in a Lord of the Rings themed MMO during high school, and my Steam library holds about 130 different game titles, some of which I’ve never actually played (though most were acquired through the Humble Bundle, a great way to get a lot of games for very cheap prices, and support charities at the same time).

Furthermore, gaming costs time. Beyond the average playthrough hours of stories, today’s gamers are demanding more length and content in their games. There’s always something else to do, some quest to complete, some ability to unlock or some daily challenge to finish for a few virtual points. If you’re not careful, you can let it take over your life. In some Asian countries, there are rehab facilities specifically for those who’ve let gaming become an addiction. I know I’ve sacrificed time I could have spent with a good book, homework or with family, to grind a cool looking piece of gear—almost every gamer has at some point.

The brave new world of virtual reality is also beckoning, and it’s beginning to seem like less of a fad and more of a definite future for video games. How much more addictive and all-encompassing will games become with that added stimulus of actually feeling like you’re inside a world? Will we all wake up in the Matrix someday?

It’s an interesting question. In the meantime, I’ll continue to try to get my landed baron to marry himself onto the English throne in Crusader Kings 2. But I won’t play for too long today.

Female Perspective

by April Bayer

From Samus Aran (Metroid) to Mrs. Pac-Man, females have been present in video games to some degree since the beginning. But what does it feel like to be a female on the other side of the screen? Though I’ve never been a hardcore gamer, I’ve had my fair share of gaming experiences.

My cousins and my next-door-neighbor (all female, all very talented gamers) were the ones who introduced me to games growing up. There were nights we stayed up until 4 a.m. defeating one level after another.

I was around eight years old when I received my first Gameboy from my parents as a Christmas gift. I remember looking at my mother and complaining that she’d gotten me the wrong kind of handheld console. This wasn’t because I had any sort of knowledge about the pros and cons of different Nintendo systems but because I was put off by the name. I was a girl, so why had my parents given me a Gameboy? Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I learned that Gamegirl consoles didn’t exist.

The idea seems laughable now, and the name that Nintendo chose for one of its old handhelds probably shouldn’t bother me. In some ways though, it still does, because the world of video games still does not feel like a place where I am entirely welcome.

While there are increasingly more games that feature strong female characters, I remember struggling to find games growing up that included women who didn’t function as sidekicks or eye candy. Even when the character selection screen did offer one or two female options, I was thrown off because their unrealistic virtual body proportions looked nothing like mine (or those of any female I knew).

I tried online multiplayer gaming with a male friend for the first time in high school. I was new to the game, and my friend told me I should pretend I was a guy because people would be harder on me if they found out I was a girl. My friend referred to me as a ‘he’ in the live chat the whole time we played, and I didn’t correct him.

Despite all this, I still find video games to be a fun and relaxing way to spend an afternoon every now and then. The talents and interests that people have are not necessarily determined by their genders but from the wonderfully unique gifts and personalities God has given them. No matter who you are, if you find an activity you love, don’t be afraid to give it a try, and don’t let anyone hold you back.

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