Video Games vs Reality

I’ve lost count of how many times over the years that people have argued that video games are killing kids’ imaginations. Recent experience has demonstrated to me that this definitely is not the case.

While playing the explicit and controversial fifth instalment of the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series online recently, I received messages from adolescents containing the most imaginative, profound insults I have ever heard. And trust me, I’ve heard a lot.

The only thing more impressive than the insults themselves is the horrific disregard for spelling and grammar used to deliver them. There is something bizarrely amusing about having to decode the insult that has been directed at you digitally.

I won’t get into the debate around whether or not people of a certain age should be allowed by their parents to play such games. However, if you throw a tantrum when someone steals your car on a game about stealing cars, you’re probably too young.

I’ve also had the argument put to me that I should be out experiencing real life instead of spending my free time playing video games. This point is particularly pushed when talking about games such as FIFA. Why would I pretend to play football on a video game instead of actually playing football?

At first, this seems like a valid point. It isn’t though. Here are just a couple of the reasons why:

The first one that springs to mind is that on FIFA, I can make pinpoint passes, flawless tackles and score phenomenal, European Cup winning goals.

In real life? I can barely run twenty feet without being sick. If by some miracle someone makes the catastrophic mistake of passing me the ball, I’m likely to do one of two things. Either I’ll stand on the ball and plummet face first towards the floor, or I’ll toe-poke the ball with surprising force in the direction of a team-mate’s face.

If you think I’m joking, unfortunately I’m not. I was nicknamed ‘Jonny Toe’ throughout school for this exact reason. I still use that nickname when creating my own player on football games, as if somehow trying to salvage the reputation the name holds.

The second reason why FIFA is better than playing in real life is that really ‘doing things’ is dangerous! A couple years ago I moronically agreed to play five-a-side football with the colleagues at my last job, in hope that I had magically become better since leaving school. I cracked a rib and haven’t played since.

Chris, a developer here in the R&D department, agreed to play football with other TSG employees in his first week of employment. He broke his ankle in his first game.

I am in no way suggesting that exercise is bad, just that for people like me, certain exercise will likely cause, at best, light embarrassment, and at worst, injury or death. So being able to enjoy these activities without these risks is an enjoyable alternative. Other exercises are significantly less risky and more accessible. That’s why there are very few games released about jogging or sit-ups.

For me, like with films, TV shows and books, video games serve as good escapism. A way to blow off steam after a day at work. In the same way that watching a horror film doesn’t make me want to become a murderer or be murdered, playing these games doesn’t make me want to steal cars or play professional football. If I did, and was able to, I wouldn’t be playing on my Xbox, I’d be doing those things already.

As a final example, last night I spent two hours on GTA trying to break into a military base in order to steal a fighter jet. After being arrested 4 times and dying roughly 36 times, I eventually managed it. I then immediately crashed the plane into a tree.

In real life I can’t even sneak up on a developer wearing headphones (trust me, I try this a lot). Even if I did have the skills I have on the computer game, I’d have been arrested 4 times and died roughly 36 times in one evening. This would be impractical.

At the end of the day, video games allow us to do things we just physically, morally or financially can’t do.

Except for that time I became an Italian plumber.  My sister still hasn’t forgiven me for killing her pet turtle…