Originally posted at NY Videogame Critics Circle
Despite a deep love for breakthrough technology and videogames, I’m still old school. If I spot a magazine I’ve never before seen, I’ll check it out with an enthusiastic curiosity. So it was as I approached a table far away from the concert at Summerstage in Central Park. I was flying from the visceral excitement of seeing Cults (A new band! One I actually like!). In a giddy almost-Austan-Goolsby-on-Jon-Stewart mood, I saw Moves magazine on the lower left corner on that table. (A new magazine! Maybe the rare one I’ll actually like enough to want to write for!) It turns out that Moves is a New York-based magazine that’s taken inspiration from Complex in that it’s split into two sections. Half is for women and half is for men.
But as I flipped through the glossy pages, I stumbled upon Hannah Simone’s ugly rant on videogames. My heart sank. It was decidedly the rankest, rudest takedown of videogames I had seen from someone without a vested political or corporate interest in slamming the complete industry.
In a nutshell, this very angry woman has been in a three-year relationship with a man who must surely be an addict. He seems not only to play games constantly, according to Simone, he also smokes pot…while he plays games. Simone was livid as she wrote. The vitriol. The cursing. The game playing (and I don’t mean bits and bytes). These partners are immersed in a regrettable cycle from which they can’t break free. She can’t quit him and he can’t quit games. It’s the stuff of which D-grade reality shows are made. She thinks the problem is him, not her. The reader, judging from the many responses from both sexes after I posted a link on Twitter, thinks it’s both of them.
Why do these seemingly dysfunctional folk stay with each other to continue this supposedly videogame-induced, Jersey Shore-type soap opera? Opposites attract, but in this case, opposites detract. Unfortunately, since the argument presented isn’t of the highest quality, we don’t know much about either woman or man, except for a couple of scenes. Simone makes blanket statement after blanket statement about videogames, but she only mentions a couple. She seems to firmly believe that Mature-rated console games are the only kinds of games available. She suggests that all women hide the power cord and threatens to throw the console out the window. “I don’t want to be his mother,” she says. “I want to fuck.”
Simone says that all games are wastes of time. But she hasn’t taken the time to educate herself because she wants to hold onto her beliefs. She just wants and needs to wail and moan, as if she had no choice but to stay with this addicted gamer. So she lets it all out in words, as if writing it out of her body can somehow help her mend this relationship.
Why get so down about this? It’s just one person in a small, quarterly that few have heard of. I guess my problem is less with Simone than with the editors who published the oddly crafted story in a fashion magazine that hits, according to their press kit, 250,000 people each quarter, each with supposedly an average household income of more than $150,000.
If their magazine is geared to both men and women, shouldn’t some guy have responded with his counterpoint? Shouldn’t Simone’s editor have asked her to address the idea that Simone is stereotyping everyone who plays games, men and women, old and young, alike? And who really has the grudge against gaming? Simone? Simone’s editor? The editor in chief who saw fit to make this the magazine’s first story? The publisher? All of them?
Part of the reason I wrote All Your Base Are Belong to Us was to explain to gamers and non-gamers alike how wonderfully artful games can be, how they fit, sometimes perfectly, into our American culture of entrepreneurs and artists. Then comes Simone, yelling from the balcony like a Juliet/banshee that all games are horrible wastes of time. One could utter the same things about fashion and celebrity lust, the stories that make up the bulk of Moves magazine. But I wouldn’t. Because everything written can have a useful purpose, everything can inform – if it’s well crafted and well conceived.
Yet though it’s not written about very much, addiction to games attacks a minority of gamers, and it attacks them as relentlessly as Zeus in God of War 2. If someone I cared about loved games or pot too much to the point of addiction, I wouldn’t embarrass them in print with haranguing. Instead, I’d suggest and then push for a doctor or a counselor. I’d suggest that I come along, too, if that’s what the significant other wanted.
It’s corny; it’s cliché. But it’s ultimately true: Life is a balance. Everything in moderation can make for an extraordinary compelling life. There’s little logic in Simone’s story and no balance, just the boom-goes-the-dynamite beginning of what appears to be the end. That’s sad, and it has very little to do with videogames.