Every now and then, I get together with a bunch of college buddies. It usually happens for no particular reason. One of us decides that it’s been too long since we’ve gathered to drink, laugh, boast and lie. So we meet. We eat and imbibe. We flirt with waitresses who pretend to enjoy the attention. We are loud and borderline obnoxious. And the food and beverage industry loves us, because we overspend, over-tip, and help keep America’s bars and restaurants afloat.
Last week we met up for another evening exactly like our last one, and the dozen before that. As usual, we took turns savaging each with whatever blunt instrument our respective lives left close at hand.
One of my best friends, Rodney the human oak tree, is one of the largest, strongest specimens of homo sapiens you’ll ever encounter. He’s also fighting a losing battle against his wife Celia’s excellent cooking. His expanding gut provided excellent fodder for fun – fun that will last until the next time he flattens one of us like a bug on the basketball court. For my part, I took hostile fire over my bizarre on-and-off (and on-and-off again and again) relationship with my bizarre girlfriend (?) in England, whether she might be sharing a bed with someone else, and whether that someone might be male or female.
And then there was Ted. Ted doesn’t play sports anymore. He doesn’t go hiking and camping with his wife the way he used to. He’s quit playing in his neighborhood garage band, doesn’t help coach his son’s teams, and no longer calls to kick around ambitious new ideas he wants to implement at the company he works for.
Ted has become a toad. A boring, video game-playing toad.
At last week’s dinner, the first time he brought up the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) to which he’s so devoted, the rest of us nodded and made meaningless grunts of non-interest. The second time he tried to trumpet his video game prowess, we shifted about a little uncomfortably. We like Ted, and he’s been a friend for a long time, but…
“What are you, thirteen, dickhead?” said my tiny pal Robert, a terrifying attorney. “Nobody cares about video games. Can we get back to baseball, politics and sex?”
The gang got a good guffaw out of that, but Robert was wrong. Some people care about video games. Ted cares about video games. A lot. Too much. In fact, too many men care too much about these electronic time-wasters.
According to industry estimates, Americans spent in excess of $25 billion last year on video games, hardware and accessories. More than double what we spent on either music or movies. That’s a lot of kids blowing a lot of their allowance, right?
Wrong! The Entertainment Software Association shares a lot of carefully-sifted and massaged data designed to offer a rosy picture about the business, but a couple of items are inescapably scary.
· The average video game buyer is 37 years old.
· The age of the most frequent video game buyers is 41.
For the love of God! If you want to know what’s wrong with America today – and particularly American men – why not start right here? I saw some statistics showing the average adult video game weenie is spending between 20 and 25 hours per week on this foolishness.
Let me ask this: While these dolts are blowing their money and time refining their ability to blow things up online, what are they not doing?
I’ll answer my own question. I’ll tell you what they’re not doing. They’re not:
· Working - which men are supposed to do.
· Looking for work, going to school or completing training - which men are supposed to do if they don’t have work.
· Playing sports, running or doing other exercise - which men are supposed to do, to remain reasonably attractive, physically fit, mentally fit, and capable of fighting off criminals, wild animals and Scientologists.
· Playing with their kids, doing homework with their kids, reading to their kids, and coaching their kids – which men are supposed to do because it’s the most important thing in the world.
· Enjoying normal leisure time with actual friends in the real world – which men are supposed to do, because it keeps us grounded and requires us to bathe occasionally.
· Talking to women, flirting with women, and above all making love to women – which is what men are supposed to do… because we’re men!
My buddy Ted is becoming a loser. He likes to call himself a “gamer”, because “gamer” sounds better than “pathetic, 36 year-old man with a stalled career, unhappy wife and neglected child, because he’s addicted to stupid video games”.
Here’s another sad anecdote. The 50 year-old husband of a friend of mine just lost his family and house in a divorce. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty much all his fault. She begged and pleaded, but he had no time for her or their child. No time for walks, to ride bikes or have a picnic. No time for romantic dinners or shared activities. But he had endless hours to spend on World of Warcraft. It’s very hard to find much sympathy for a guy like that.
Closer to home, I’ve got a rule at my office. I’d better not catch you “gaming” during business hours. If I do, you’re on the way out. Because you’re stealing from me. And, since everybody gets a bit of profit share, you’re stealing from the rest of your colleagues, too. I’m far from a hardass boss, and I turn a blind eye to a bit of petty larceny - whether it’s a few pens, or a few minutes on Facebook, or with your friends on the phone or email, or even if you absolutely must sneak out for a smoke break. But playing games on company time is grand theft – and grand theft is a firing offence. I’ve got my eye on one of my men. He’s an adequate researcher, but I walked in on him once in the middle of some furious online firefight. He got a warning letter. Next time, he’ll get the door.
Now the video game apologists try to argue that there are benefits to (ugh… I hate even saying it) “gaming”. They claim it can improve multitasking and hand-eye coordination, among other things. I say it’s all BS. Multitasking means you’re doing several things badly at once, rather than focusing on doing one thing right. And you know what’s good for hand-eye coordination? Actual physical activities that require hand-eye coordination!
And I know there are economic arguments, too. Apparently the industry supports something north of 100,000 domestic jobs. Well that’s fine. But why don’t we keep the jobs, restore American men to their proper condition, and ship all the dumb games overseas? Just export them, so they mostly hurt foreigners – the way we like to do with other destructive things like tobacco, Baywatch reruns, and war.
I realize America has lots of other problems, many of them political. But plenty of other people are already screaming at each other about those things. This one’s mine (at least today). Grown men have better things to do than play video games. These kids’ toys on steroids are one thing that’s sucking the will, pride and productivity out of the American male.
I swear, the next time I see an adult man buying a video game, I’m going to ask if it’s for his kids. If it’s not, I think I’m going to twist the twerp’s arm behind his back and give him an MPRGCI (Massively Painful Rectal Game Console Insertion).
Thank you for listening. I feel a little better now. J
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