There are so many different ideas about video games and gaming, both positive and negative. They can range from opinions on the industry as a whole to ideas about specific tropes and stereotypes. However, a lot of them revolve around reasons why people don’t like or want to play video games. But that is exactly why I’m writing this post. Quite obviously, I’m a big fan of video games. I have been since I was a very little child.
As such, I have seen and heard all kinds of different ideas of what people think gaming and gamers are. Therefore, I wanted to cover some of the more common misconceptions of video games.
Video Games Are For Kids
Let’s start with the most common yet completely incorrect idea of gaming; that it is childish or just for kids. This actually comes from a specific event in the history of the gaming industry. You see, back in the days of the Commodore and Amiga, video games were seen as a family entertainment system. However, when the video game industry crashed following poor sales, and shops stopped stocking them, everything changed.
Nintendo came along and wanted to reinvigorate the industry with the Famicon/NES system, but were basically told that it had to go on the toy shelves if it were to be stocked. Therefore, from that moment on, video games were considered kids’ toys, simply due to the fact that it was the only place that the consoles could be shelved.
But if you were to actually look at gaming and all of the different video games that come out, you’d see it certainly isn’t aimed at kids! Just take a look of Grand Theft Auto, The Last of Us or Horizon: Zero Dawn. They are all aimed square at adults, with either very adult themes (like GTA) or deep, meaningful and emotional storylines (like The Last of Us or Horzion). In fact, the age rating alone should say everything… When a huge percentage of video games are rated 18+, it is pretty obvious that they are meant for adults. Heck, even the 15+ games are, just like movies.
So yeah, whilst there are games out there for kids, the large majority of the industry is focused entirely on the adult population. Why? Because the people who got into games with the NES or MegaDrive have since grown up, and also because it is the adults who have the money to actually pay for games.
Video Games Are For Boys
This one couldn’t annoy me more… It’s such a misguided idea and really diminishes all of the women who work in the industry, either making the games, streaming them or writing about them.
The reason why this became such a prevalent idea actually also came from the same event as the previous misconception. You see, when Nintendo were told that they had to put the NES on the toy shelves, that meant that they had to make a choice. As we all know, toy shelves are split in two (stupidly); one for boys and one for girls. So, Nintendo had to decide which shelf to have the NES stocked on. Obviously, they chose the boys’ shelf, and from then on people just assumed video games were just for boys.
But you see, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, just take a look at all of the strong and dominant female protagonists in games these days. You’ve got the obvious ones like Lara Croft, especially in the newer Tomb Raider games. But then you’ve also got Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn, Samus from Metroid, Aya Brea from Parasite Eve, Jill Valentine of Resident Evil and Heather from Silent Hill, amongst hundreds of others.
Gaming isn’t for one gender… It is for everyone. There’s at least as much diversity in games as there is in TV shows, if not more… So, if you’ve never played a game because of this misconception, you need to give it a go. Take a look at all of the different games and find one that you might like… You probably will!
Video Games Are Just Violent Shooters
This is something I hear a lot, and unfortunately, it is partially true… But only partially. Games like Call of Duty have flooded the industry with their yearly releases of new games, which definitely adds to the idea that this is all video gaming is. But that just isn’t true. In fact, in my personal opinion, these yearly releases are damaging the industry as a whole. They just bring out the same game with a different paint job, tarnishing video games in general.
But it is really important to understand that, whilst these games get the biggest marketing budgets to get ads on TV, they are actually a minority genre! When you consider all of the platforming games like Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario, racing games like GT Sport and Forza, roleplay games like Skyrim and Final Fantasy, puzzle games like Tetris, and the wealth of uncategorisable indie games that are out there (like Okinawa Rush or GalactaGirl), it is easy to see that gaming is much more than “run and gun”.
There are such deep and meaningful storylines, memorable characters, amazing puzzles and beautiful soundtracks to enjoy. So next time you see a Call of Duty advert on TV, just remember; that’s just one genre… There’re hundreds more!
Video Games Aren’t A Form Of Art
Ok, so bear with me on this one as it might seem surprising to you to begin with. Art, by definition, is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. That was a long definition, wasn’t it? In short, art is something that comes from creativity, and showcasing beauty and emotion. Video games do just that! Ok, so maybe not racing games or the aforementioned Call of Duty… But trust me, there are some games that you cannot argue are art.
One of the best examples of this is Shadow of the Colossus. This is a great that looks breathtaking (even more true with the upcoming HD remake), have an outstanding musical score, and leaves you in awe at the world it presents you with. However, on top of that, the story fills you with such a range of emotions, from hope to joy, to guilt and sadness… Therefore, it showcases both beauty and emotion… That, by definition, makes it art, right?
And, of course, it isn’t the only game to do that. I’ve mentioned The Last of Us many times on 16-Bit Dad, and there’s a good reason for it. In this case, it once again captures beauty in both graphics and music, but also in the storyline and the worldbuilding. As for emotion… Well… If you can get through the first 10-20 minutes of the game without shedding a tear, then no level of art will ever affect you.
Video Games Are A Waste of Time
No. Just no. And that’s not because I’m some video game fanboy who will defend everything about the gaming industry… Trust me, I have a lot of grievances with the industry. The reason I completely disagree with this is because people who push this idea also sit down in front of the TV and watch the latest episode of their favourite show. Now, I guarantee most of you aren’t of the mindset that watching TV is a waste of time, correct?
Well, did you know that watching TV is “passive entertainment”? This means that there is no engagement or interaction between the viewer and the entertainment. Sure, you may get shocked or surprised, but you’re never actively engaged with or having an effect on the entertainment source. You are just absorbing information without connecting to it. On the other hand, video games are “active entertainment”. This means that you have direct engagement with the medium.
So, rather than just sitting and being shown images and accepting that things are as you are shown, in video games you directly affect what is happening. You have to think and control and plan everything that you are doing. This engages your brain far more than watching TV, as you have to constantly react to the changing events of the game. You can’t just sit there and switch your brain off. So, actually, playing games is better for you and your brain that watching the latest episode of whichever TV show you are binge watching.
Video Games Are Lonely Entertainment
The amount of times I hear people say that gamers are loners who don’t have friends or don’t know how to get into a relationship is frustrating! I mean, I think the fact that I have a wife and daughter puts that second part to rest already, don’t you?
But anyway, there is a common belief that people who play video games lock themselves away in their rooms and avoid talking to anyone, preferring to play a game by themselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If gamers didn’t want to communicate and spend time with others, then sites like Twitch would have never worked… Nor would the community behind Steam. We also wouldn’t have huge social gathering events at things like E3, because the gamers would all be in their rooms.
Gaming is a huge community, and yes, there are toxic members of the community, but it is still a community. That’s how multiplayer games became so successful and popular; because we actually quite enjoy spending time with and sharing our experiences with others.
Gaming is not a solitary pursuit… It’s a subculture of its own right.
Video Games Make People Violent
We’re going to end this list on probably the most well known and voiced, yet wholely inaccurate misconception about gaming and gamers. I’m just going to put this out there; video games don’t make you violent. They don’t. No more than TV shows or books or movies do.
The media constantly puts the blame for acts of violence onto the video game industry, often without actually doing any research. On top of that, they actually create stories about games that are completely false. A good example of this was when one news reporter claimed that there was full frontal nudity and sex scenes in Mass Effect. The truth; neither of these things happen in the game, ever! The closest it gets is a kiss…
Secondly, the few times when someone committed a crime and then named a game as inspiring them, they were kids and they named things like Grand Theft Auto… Now, we don’t let our kids go and watch 18+ or R-rated movies, do we? No. Why? Because it might influence and affect them. So, why exactly are their parents letting them play an 18+ video game!? Like, seriously? What the hell is wrong with a parent to sit there and think that this is okay? They have an age rating for a reason, just like movies!
So no, video games don’t make you violent, if you follow the age rules like you would with any other media…. Which brings us nicely back to the first point in this list; people need to forget the idea that games are for kids. Then, maybe, they’ll start noticing the big, red 18+ label on the game and all of this stupidity can end once and for all.
And That’s All Folks
Those are 7 of the most common gaming misconceptions, and why they’re wrong. Gaming is a huge industry that caters for everyone, with such a diverse library of things to enjoy. So, if you’ve never played a game because of any of these, then please, take a look around, find one that interests you and just give it a go. Go in open-minded, not ready to judge, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Did you believe any of these misconceptions? Got any more that you want to add? Let me know in the comments below!