The Thing About Video Games


As I mentioned in this post, one of the things I lament most about growing older is the infrequency with which I am able to play video games. From ages five to twenty, I spent as much time playing in front of a console as I did reading or playing-slash-watching sports. Now that I think about it, I wonder when I found time to eat. As I got older, my dad frequently harassed me about the amount of time and money I spent fueling my habit, and I grew predictably indignant, swearing up and down that I’d be playing games ’til the day I died. While my time as a gamer is by no means over (I did play through a twenty-plus hour action/RPG game over the summer), I have to admit that when I’ve got time to spare, I don’t often consider using it to give the next great game a try (even though I know I’m missing out on some games I would love). That said, the following things are still true:

– I honestly believe that I am better at Super Smash Bros. Melee than I’ve ever been at anything in my life. If this strikes you as sad in some way, I don’t know what to tell you. I wouldn’t trade a minute of the thousands (yes, literally thousands) of hours I spent playing that game during high school and college. Smash Bros. was the centerpiece around which my friends and I gathered. Despite the seemingly singular focus video games often demand, these gatherings were incredibly social, and some of my strongest friendships have their roots in this game. For the last three years, I have invited my students to bring the game in on the last day of school. They still, apparently, play the game with some frequency. In those three years, I have yet to lose a single match, and I haven’t picked up a controller in between those end-of-year contests (the expression on my face is exactly as smug as you’re imagining, and I’m totally fine with it).

– In 2011, Gray Matter Books published The Legend of Zelda and TheologyThe book includes pieces from a lot of really knowledgable theology professors. It also, somehow, includes an essay I wrote on the ideas of sanctification and the afterlife in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. (OK, “somehow” is a little disingenuous; a really close friend of mine edited the book and, knowing my lifelong Zelda infatuation, he allowed me to contribute to the book [which was, to be fair, peer-reviewed by the previously mentioned theology professors].) The book got some positive press on the website of my favorite video game magazine, Game Informer, which was, to quote High Fidelity, “unassailably cool.”

– I think video games are probably as close a thing as my generation has to its own art form. I’m guessing that in thirty years, we’ll look at a lot of video games through an artistic lens similar to the way people started to look at film in the 60s and 70s (the transition from pure entertainment to more canonically accepted art). It cracks me up that Roger Ebert thinks that video games are any different in the way they should be appreciated than any of the other dozens of art forms which were dismissed by the entrenched critical establishment throughout history. Remember Rog, at some point, people thought the novel was low-brow trash by definition.

I’ll leave off with this TED talk given by Kellee Santiago, which Ebert also links to in his piece. She tackles the question about video games being art in a pretty engaging way. Enjoy.


I, like the other writers here at TTAF, essentially grew up with the video game industry.  I played Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Marble Madness, and Donkey Kong as a kid.  I played Goldeneye, Sonic The Hedgehog, Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball, WCW vs. NWO, and that game with the plastic green army men as an adolescent.  I played NCAA Football, FIFA,  Halo, and Ghost Recon as a college student.  Drew and I have gone on a few binges of Modern Warfare as recently as three or four years ago.  Even now I will dabble for a while with an Ipad game from time to time.  I wouldn’t say that I have ever been obsessed with video games, but at the same time there have been periods of my life (college) in which I spent way too much time playing them.

The only reason that I do not have a gaming system right now is because I am afraid of how easily I could be sucked in to whatever game the kids are playing these days (FIFA will always be a weakness).  There is nothing inherently wrong with video games, addressing here specifically video games and men, and so I do not think that they can or should be categorically condemned.  Like Josh, I have many fond memories that are based around a bunch of guys staying up all night playing Grand Theft Auto,  FIFA ‘97,  and yes even the Aerosmith game in which you shoot enemies with C.D.s and so I cannot deny that gaming has played a formative role in my life to some degree.

Like many other pastimes, playing video games in moderation is certainly acceptable.  What is unacceptable is when we as men begin to waste large amounts of time playing games, or in some type of alternate reality that we have created with our games.  You will read some examples of this in the links included below.  When video games, or anything else for that matter cause us to change our views towards what are our responsibilities as men, there is a problem.  We are not anti-video games here at TTAF, but we are anti anything that supplants authentic manhood, anything that keeps us in a perpetual state of childhood, and anything that causes us to ignore our real responsibilities in life.  So go ahead and hop on your Playstation, or your ZBox (as my grandfather calls it) just don’t let that video game define you as a man.

Have a look at some of these articles, and yes I purposefully included some articles on being a man in general and also added more ant-gaming articles than pro gaming ones.  The pieces below do not necessarily reflect my opinion, just throwing them out there.

(Warning: This article contains some suggestive images) Opinion: Video games and Male Gaze – are we men or boys?

Fixated by Screens, but Seemingly Nothing Else


‘The Demise of Guys’: How video games and porn are ruining a generation

(A response to Philip Zimbardo, mentioned in the article above) Video Games are Destroying Boys and Men? Not Again

Violent Video Games Turning Men Into Crazed Murderers

Expert: Youth violence is complex, media doesn’t cause violence, reporting on it is tough

The Sorry Lives and Confusing Times of Today’s Young Men

The Benefits of Video Games – ABC News

The world is filled with boys who can shave

How much is too much? Small study examines pre-bed gaming and sleep

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2 Comments on “The Thing About Video Games”

  1. October 24, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I’m 54 years old, and I love video games! I’ve seen the entire advent of them, all the way from Pong, and I have loved every minute of it. In some twisted way, I think they may be the greatest invention of mankind. Okay…probably not the “greatest,” but certainly a great one. And I agree with you about them being some kind of art. When I was in my twenties, I was hitting the ninth key in Pacman. I still remember the first King’s Quest. I’ve played Tomb Raider, all the Silent Hills (the only game franchise that I can say truly scared me!), Bloodrayne, I buy every year’s MLB 2Kwhateveryearitis, and I’m still playing WoW, but a lot more casually than I used to. There was a time when I would literally play WoW for eight hours on a Saturday.

    I don’t play very much, these days, though. I might get in an hour a week of MLB, and some scattered WoW while watching TV at night. That’s about it.

    My autistic daughter loves the racing games. The only thing is…she doesn’t really race. She just drives around. 🙂 She loves the MLB games, too, as she is an avid baseball fan.

  2. Michael Burchett
    October 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Video games were a staple of my childhood, and to a degree I can attribute some of my development to video games. Goldeneye taught me how to gather and utilize resources in a strategic way, including my surroundings. It taught me how to problem solve and gain ground over competitors. Halo taught me how to work as a team. This may be a bit dramatic, but I wasn’t a”leader” in the sports that I played, so games filled that void that a lot of people that were my age were utilizing sports to fill.

    My favorite RPG games are the ones with a great story. I often used cheat codes all the time, not because I didn’t enjoy playing the game, but because to me the story is the key. When a movie comes out based on a video game, I experience a similar feeling as when a movie comes out based on a book…could be cool, but it can never be as good as the story in the game. Resident Evil, for example, is a series with a great story of good v. evil in which good must fight against all odds to suppress and defeat evil…and ultimately we see evil winning in the long run. Each game is one step forward and two steps back against evil, and although I hate how bloody and violent these games have become (they used to just be creepy), I kind of wish I could see how the series wraps it all up.

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