Today, a Fairfax blogger wrote an article that questioned the effect of videogames on the relationships of ‘grown men’. I won’t link to it, for reasons that will become clear in this piece. It’s easy enough to find if you’re interested. The basic thrust was this: the relationships of adult men who play videogames suffer because of their videogame consumption.
The article, while being fairly restrained in tone (in comparison to other articles of a similar nature, anyway) is obviously hugely problematic and ripe for an error-picking response. Mostly, the suggestion that videogames are the sole domain of straight men is a harmful assumption that does not hold to the slightest scrutiny.
But I’m not going to do that. The author has stated on her twitter account that she wrote the piece “to start a conversation”.
My response is clear: I don’t want your conversation.
After years spent challenging and responding to similar pieces, it’s clear that such conversations are always stunted from the start. The conversation is a rhetorical move that fits discussions about videogames into the author of the day’s favourite pre-existing topic. By responding to an article about how gamers can have relationship problems, we automatically hand over the power of framing the debate. By the same token, a response, say, to an argument suggesting videogames lead to obesity will always find it incredibly difficult to escape the fundamental assumption that there is some link there, that this is a conversation worth having. That these topics have an inherent power to shape debate is rarely noted; the temptation to respond and respond with some anger is often too great to resist. Before long, the debate seems to have substance, to be a competing war of ideas, when the actual circumstances of videogame play are often left untouched.
So I say this: the argument that videogames can impact on love and relationships is so fundamentally unsound that I cannot and will not respond to it.
Videogames do not need to go unchallenged, and this is not an attempt to thumb my nose at all and every criticism. Far from it. Videogames simply need different conversations than the paucity of those usually made available by a reactive mainstream media. These conversations need to be conducted within frameworks that mean something, that are based in the actual use of videogames and not just a favourite media narrative.