Why I Stopped Playing Video Games
Swapping one virtual world for another.
March 31, 2012 - 12:29 pm
My first Nintendo arrived after I finished kindergarten in 1990 — my “big brother present” to celebrate the birth of my first younger sibling. The Super Nintendo followed a few years later, around about the time when I wore a Clinton/Gore ’92 button on the playground. The Nintendo 64 materialized in the middle of junior high around when Bill made a mess of Monica’s dress. Yet by the time the Nintendo GameCube came out two months after 9/11 my time had passed. As I prepared to head off to college the brother whose coming heralded the first Nintendo sat on his throne as the family’s Gamemaster.
I’d found a new game to play. In his great piece “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Memory Hole” from last week, Ed Driscoll pinpointed when video games met obsolescence:
…for many people, the online world didn’t arrive in full until broadband reached their home, which started to happen around 1999 to the early naughts. (If I’m recalling the year correctly, my Northern California neighborhood didn’t get cable modem access until the spring of 1999, and we were pretty early adopters.) The political Blogosphere didn’t fully arrive until the arrival of Instapundit in August of 2001, and the rapid growth of blogs on both sides of the aisle in the wake of 9/11.
For many years I fed myself a steady diet of self-serving delusions. Giving up Nintendo meant I was better than those who had not. Now was the time to grow up. I’d given up video games because they were a time-waster.
But were they?
Or did a childhood crawling around the green pipes with Mario and Luigi prepare me for navigating the bowels of the blogosphere? When I was “playing” was I actually learning how to problem solve and decode the biases inherent in a programmed reality? Was I learning the difference between playing in someone else’s program and how to program my own realities? (See Rushkoff’s previous book Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age.)
Rushkoff’s exciting graphic novel will inspire readers to see themselves in the pages and look with fresh eyes at the artificial, programmed media narratives surrounding them. Like his Bible-inspired comic series Testament, A.D.D. rewards with each rereading, revealing new insights and connections.
And a sequel’s premise should be obvious.
What happens when the children of Gen X, raised today on iPads, grow up? How will the world look through their eyes?