Let Off Some Steam: 'If You Define People By Their Hobbies, I Feel Sorry For You.'

Yesterday, Fairfax columnist Katherine Feeney wrote a piece titled The Games We Play. The opinion piece suggested that men who play video games are dull and lack the social skills to engage in romantic relationships. Kotaku reader, CookingMama, decided to respond.

As I was writing this article, I had to consider carefully why her comments sparked my ire so. Commentators make sweeping generalisations all the time, usually to provoke a response from their readership. I think in this case, however, it was an argument so poorly constructed that I felt the need to share my own experience (and hopefully that of others).

My husband and I have been married for eight years this year, and we’ve been together for 14. He's a PhD in computer science, works long hours, plays soccer all year round, watches rugby league and cricket with a passion and loves taking our little son to the beach on the weekend. I think he's quite a catch.

He also plays video games. Lots of video games.

“...video gaming promotes a lifestyle that is socially counter-productive simply because it takes up time that might otherwise be spent out of the lounge-room, socialising..."

According to Ms Feeney, people (and I refuse to say men) who play games are wasting their time, when they could be Out Socialising.

The Digital Australia 2012 Report from Bond University reveals some interesting information about the consumption of video games by Australians, and their attitudes toward them. The average age of people who play video games is now 32. That's a lot of people who are old enough to be established in their career, have a young family, and value their precious spare time. And yet they choose to play video games. (My husband and I are both 32).

The assumption here is that if you are playing video games then it must be taking something away from the rest of your life. Apart from being a patronising view, the distinction between a hobby and an addiction should be made very clear. A video game addiction will certainly have an impact on your social life and ability to form and maintain relationships. But so will an addiction to anything else. If you have trouble meeting people and forming relationships, playing video games is more likely to be a symptom of an underlying emotional problem than the cause.

As for getting Out and About, I fail to see why playing games in particular are any worse than watching TV, reading a book or staring at the Internet for hours on end. If I had the choice between having my husband at home playing something on the XBox or having him out at a pub getting drunk and Socialising every weekend, I'd choose the game every time. Less vomit to clean up, for starters...

“...the well documented controversies surrounding the portrayal of women in video games as some sort of indication that perhaps the messages aren’t really helping us all be friends and have healthy adult relationships. Healthy adult romantic relationships, that is. Ones built on good communication skills, mutual respect and reasonable expectations."

Ah. Because some games feature scantily clad women with bouncy boobs, video games are therefore Bad For Society. What utter nonsense. I could list many games that have wonderful female characters, but really, that's beside the point. Just because I think that The Hangover 2 is an awful movie that no one should ever watch, that doesn't mean all movies are just the same, or that anyone who watches that movie should be dismissed out of hand. That would be ridiculous.

Video games are not, and should not be, role models for young people. Neither are movies, magazines, TV shows, music videos, books, sports people or anything else for that matter. The most important role models in learning about relationships are your family. Their example (good or bad) is what will most likely shape your relationships in the future. They help you make your first friends, help you deal with bullying, fights and breakups and will (hopefully) help guide you through the maze of your life.

Now that I'm a mum, I wonder what sort of man my little boy will grow up to be. I also know that it's our responsibility to teach him about how to value others and treat them with respect, how to recognise damaging stereotypes for what they are, and that his behaviour online should be the same as if he was in person. When it comes to unreasonable expectations and forming unhealthy relationships, I see pornography as a far greater threat to young men than video games.

Video games are not just the domain of teenage boys who sit in the dark and can't get a date. They're a part of everyday life in Australian households, played by grandparents, mums, dads, kids and their friends. Somehow in the last 30 years people have managed to develop their social skills, find a partner, get married and raise their kids, all while enjoying playing video games.

If you're not into video games, that's ok. I really don't like golf. But if you define people by their hobbies, I feel sorry for you. You're going to miss out on meeting some very interesting people.

[Image courtesy of NeatoShop]


    What about women who play video games? What do commentators say we should be doing?

      If they're in the kitchen while playing games, that's fine. If it interrupts meal schedules that's another story.

      Commentators say the only ones of you who play video games are a weird minority. Also you're probably just enduring it because of the horrible nerdy men in your lives!

      What is ACTUALLY evident is that these sort of commentators are idiots that are trying to make a quick buck by pushing a tired old stereotype. Who needs truth when you can just make shit up eh?

        reminds you of the old saying "why let the facts ruin a good story" seems it doesnt matter if its a tired old (and wrong) stereotype as long as she can put her name on an article about the way games are ruinig peoples social skills it doesnt matter if its true or not

      Probably teaching our kids how to blow stuff up if they're a boy, and cook and clean if they're a girl. Thankfully there are video games out there for each of these scenarios. And if you don't have kids, you shouldn't be wasting your time playing games, but making babies instead.

      Ugh. I really do hate how video games are still being made an issue considering how mainstream they are . It's just that there are still quite a (vocal) few still out there that like to poke the bear into a fight. It's as if they deem it to be the "Mein Kampf" of our generation.... Understand I do not.

      Many young adults in their 20's grew up playing video games.

      This journo? She just mad.

      Meanwhile, I suspect the folks in the tech department could be making her office tech life hell right about now.

    I play video games religiously and have 3 girlfriends. That is all.

      Yeah, I went Liara in ME1, Miranda in ME2, then Tali in ME3. You're not alone , man,

        How can you get Tali in ME3? You need to romance her in ME2 as Male Shepard in order to get a chance to romance her in ME3.

        WTF those are the same names as the girls I am seeing. Something is going on here! I think they may be two-timing me....

          Yeah, I get the feeling it's not going to end well ;)

          I'll see your three and raise you a Subject Zero.

          on topic:

          "If you define people by their hobbies, I feel sorry for you. You’re going to miss out on meeting some very interesting people"

          That is all.

    Well said, CookingMama.

    I had an elaborate, multi-paragraph ramble about the dangers of dismissing new technologies just because you don't understand them, but decided to spare you all. :P

    There was actually a study done once (pardon the lack of link) which demonstrated that gaming took the place of other screen-based activities, rather than outdoor ones. So someone who got into games and used to spend 2 hours a day outside (playing soccer, whatever) and 4 inside watching TV would eat into their TV time to make space for games rather than the former.

      This seems pretty likely to me. I am probably the fittest person amongst my friends, with the exception of my brother who is in the commando's. I'm also the only gamer. My girlfriend always wants to know how I find the time to play games, and I always respond "when your watching my kitchen rule or whatever, I'm doing a brain workout."

    Well, you know what they say about people that work for Fairfax Media...

      The question is, why are we playing computer games instead of digging stuff up for Gina to sell to china!?!?!?

    Nothing more to be said really.

    At least a bad article can be the catalyst for a good one. I spent some years trying to be less geeky (not competely non-geeky though, that's impossible :P) before I realised that people are idiots if they define you based on your favourite pastimes .

    Nerd it up!

    Jesus, that was a well written and succinct response. Between you and Dan Golding (I think it was he who wrote a similar response on crikey yesterday?) the internet has done well in responding to that other amusing article.

    Man, I think batguy is quite a catch too. Nice article and very well written.

    I love your response... I will be the first one to admit I probably play computer games too much,but I have never really had a problem with socialising with the opposite sex and despite my gaming hobby I also spend a lot of time out and about with my wife of 9 years ...

    Very nicely written.
    I wonder if Katherine Feeney will take anything seriously from all these well written rebuttals, or whether she will just shrug and go 'oh lol I made some nerds angry'. I really, really hope she listens.

    That this vapid excuse for journalism was even acknowledged is that part that surprises me. Have you looked at anything else this joke has written? If she actually believes half of the things she writes then she's a tragic human being indeed.

      Did you see the part that said a Kotaku reader wrote it or does that reading part do your head in?

        Apologies, I think you may have been referring to the original article. Derp, me brain work good not so.

          no delete comment function means when things come out, they stay out. everybody hurts, sometimes.

            True. I just got so used to seeing so many negative comments cropping up lately that I automatically assume the worst.

            But again, apologies DrBoon. I dun goofed.

              Haha. FTR: I wasn't having a dig there, because I have also fallen victim to the horrors of speaking before understanding a comment. All you can do is apologize and you have done a fine bit of that my friend.

              "I dun goofed."

              Consequences will never be the same :P

    I play the occasional videogame when I have a minute or two from my busy life of banging supermodels and doing drugs with famous rockstars. I may be a better person then everyone on this site but I can sometimes enjoy what you nerds get up to.

    "Smart, passionately participatory and nakedly truthful, the CityKat blog with Katherine Feeney is where sex isn’t taboo, it’s a talking point. With a mind open to every modern love, seduction and relationships dilemma you care to confess, join Kat and her brazen band of commenters every Wednesday and Friday for one of the most explicitly enticing conversations on the web."

    LOL I think watching Sex in the City as much as "CityKit" does has clearly given her a skewed view of reality :)

    I kind of took the fairfax article with a grain of salt. It seemed to me more that the author would be an abusive partner - trying to control how you spend your down time is creepy. I also don't think gaming has much to do with socialising. You can obviously do both, if you choose not to its due to preference not necessarily compulsion.

    It seems every few months now a woman (and I hate to be sexist but it IS almost always a woman who does this - usually some gossip columnist with a grudge) slaps a keyboard until an unresearched opinion piece about men playing video games falls out of her brain, and it makes me sad.

    Not because my hobby is being defamed but because these people never learn from their mistakes. They're all basically the same garbage, over and over.

    Here's my view of how every one of these articles seems to go:

    Men play video games and that's wrong! Since I personally don't play or understand video games, I must therefore speak for all women, and all women think it's time men grew up! Games are for teenagers and even though I will grudgingly acknowledge that many of the men playing these games are much older than that, I will flip this point without justification to say that that only makes it weirder! I am incapable of accepting games as a viable form of entertainment for adults so I will assume that 30 year old men playing video games is just men refusing to grow up by playing with the GI Joes or Tonka Trucks they had when they were children.

    So basically men need to grow up, be socially active, and probably make lots of money so they can afford to have a woman in their lives. Presumably this means women are supposed to stick to cooking and having babies, because we apparently live in 1932.

    These articles never acknowledge or provide an explanation for women who play games (here it's acknowledged but quickly swept under the rug as irrelevant) or couples who play games together. I actually asked Katherine (who was drawing a lot of flak over Twitter at this point) what she'd say to a man who wrote an opinion piece noting that many women enjoy watching sad movies and that this is entirely abnormal/abhorrent. She acknowledged she'd probably "feel the same".

    Of course the difference is men could never get away with writing such an uninformed, sexist, misogynistic article.

      Oh man this reply is great. I love how you collectively sum up these articles so succinctly.

      A million internets to you!

      +1 and many million more internets to you good Netizen. Well written and consisely put.

      It would indeed be interesting to see what Mizz Feeney would rather see men doing to build valuable social skill(zors).

      Perhaps they should stay up late emptying increasingly more expensive recepticles of alkyhol down their pie holes and gesticulating like epileptic mastubators on a dance floor? That's always good for building ones opinion of the opposite sex.
      Or maybe they should go to the football and scream themselves hoarse at a lot of scantily clad men rubbing their sweaty bodies against each other? Surely footballers will teach them about healthy relationships, ones built on good communication skills, mutual respect and reasonable expectations of course.

      - "slaps a keyboard " - Lol

    I enjoyed the article, but that last line is bullshit.
    Your hobbies are absolutely an important part of what defines you.
    The problem is in the results of the analysis, not in the act of analysing.

      I think the point being made was more to do with 'judging' or perhaps 'defining in entirety'

      I kind of agree. You don't choose your hobbies in a vacuum. Part of my identity is as a gamer. Its the assuming thats my only identity that pissed me off about the original piece. I'm also an alcoholic.

    I take my hat off to you CookingMama, very well done and the Fairfax columnist Katherine Feeney doesn't have a clue really. All I can say is that she (sorry for saying this) is a fool and small person.

    What is it with shoe shopping? God, if women could just use that time and money for more productive things, they wouldn't be the...

    No, actually, I can't stoop that low.

    Well said. Some people love going to clubs and getting shitfaced and all that, and that's cool, I enjoy it once in a while too, but given the choice, I'd usually rather be at home playing games on a Friday night than be out on George St past 10pm.

    There is a cyclical progression to the "video games arent legitimate hobbies" argument. I mean, pretty much every year some self-entitled blogger on some website-you-think-has-some-semblance-of-journalistic-integrity says "video games hurt x, video games make you y, video games are bad because they do z and stop xy". I love your response CookingMama but I feel like this problem continues to exist because of the way the community and those who play video games quickly get offended by the whole idea that their hobbies and things they enjoy aren't regarded by other people, people that can make noise via a website or paper.

    Why does anyone care that Kat Feeney or whatever her name is thinks that gaming is anti-social. It isn't. If this lady said knitting was anti-social or going to the movies was anti-social, there will be some backlash but most of the community will just go... um, wha? and get on with it. That's the difference between writing about social behaviour and video games. It's like people who play video games need to defend themselves. We really don't need to. I am quite fine with my social life, career aspirations and all that and I am quite fine playing video games and having people go - that's weird/silly/antisocial. I know full well that that isnt the case.

      I can't speak for everyone, but personally calling video games a hobby in general is kind of dismissive these days. The industry is so sprawling and lucrative that it's rivaling both the television and film industries as the preferred form of entertainment and it's only really just begun. You're right though, contributing to the never ending cycle with outrage is probably not a good idea.

        I would politely disagree that playing video games could be more than a hobby for the layman and woman. Just like watching movies is a hobby or knitting is a hobby so is video games. I am interested to know what you mean by calling it a hobby is dismissive.

          I re-read my post and didn't mean to imply that your post was dismissive, just the general attitude of using the term to marginalize something new in general just because it's not fully understand. There's nothing inherantly insulting about something being called a hobby, but the term's often used to box something away and strip it of some relevance. I'm not making much sense. I blame the dull ache of the wisdom tooth I'm currently ignoring. :P

            Oh, man. That paragraph reads poorly. Again, I blame the wisdom tooth. :P

            Haha I think I get you now man, no problems. I understand the wisdom teeth thing can be a disaster.
            I think using the word hobby to describe playing games is appropriate for the most part, but I see that you mean by doing so, you actually decrease its relevance in the eye of mass media. Its like saying playing guitar is a hobby and that is such a niche thing to do, whereas gaming is much more prevalent that its surpassed the point of just being something people do, to being something that a lot of people do all the time. I think I know what you mean.

            Either way, my point stands that lets leave this idiotic articles alone. It is almost like the community and industry as a whole wants to stamp their feet like a two year old until people recognize that we are big kids now. Thing is, usually it just sounds like throwing a tantrum (not saying this does CookingMama). As a whole, I think somehow, people with not much knowledge of video games get to spread their filth in mass media places more than the people with astute knowledge of video games do. You don't see many newspapers with gamingcentric readerships or columns etc. (screen play is the best one I know of that caters for this and produces quality output [most of the time, Jason Hill is great and DexX too, although there was one guy there that was questionable])
            The next generation will see a major difference in video game journalism in the mass media I think. Just needs a kick in the right direction first. Mark, Tracey, see to it.

              Yeah, that's basically what I meant. Only phrased decently. I pretty much agree with you too, man. Just a pet peeve with me. People have dismissed new things for generations. Movies. Movies with talking. Colour movies. Rock 'n' Roll. Television. Colour television. Articles like this have been written time and time again, circling in on entire groups of people and bad mouthing them for something that becomes prolific years later. Probably not even relevant to this article, but always riles me up to the point that I rant incoherantly. :P

                I see it like this: wisdom teeth + idiotic journalism = MAD DC.
                I like that.

                The worse thing is people write about things that they have little knowledge about all the time. This is why it is frustrating to watch us go "WE ARE SOCIAL PEOPLE AND WE ARE NOT KIDS" all the time because we are just trying to influence the understanding of one (largely irrelevant) person. Your not gonna find the world's best writers/journalists make such stupid statements, I can almost guarantee. Let's not give amateurs the time of day.

                  *sigh*...except for Roger Ebert.

    Oh well done CookingMama. Forget about your husband being a catch, I think he's lucky to have you. :)

    You said all the things I was thinking when I read the original article but in a much more reasonable manner than I would have.

    Very well done CookingMama, you have spoken what I have said for ages now. These people who right the articles criticising people who spend time playing games as anti social I love Puppies and Rainbows, deserve a royal booting up their backside. I fail to see why they dictate us playing games is more anti-social than watching TV of a night?

    TV: *watches* *may make brief comments on shows*
    Games: *conversations with other people around or most cases multiplayer, playing with a group of people working togeather etc*

    TBH I find gaming more productive than TV, Facebook, writing articles on how anti-social gaming is and oh of coarse going to drink at the pub ;D

    *Comment edited by Mark Serrels*

    Devil's advocate:

    The original article actually makes enough concessions as to the author not being terribly familiar with games and speaks broadly and gently enough that a focused response doesn't seem warranted. Feeney's piece is actually relatively inoffensive.

    She doesn't take a hard line, and even invites alternate views on the topic:

    "...I am not a gaming expert. So by all means, gurus, counter my musings with a rebuttal smack-down that says, ‘but Feeney, video gaming is great for my love life and here's why!’ with super-powered action-awesome zing. I promise I will read and listen and take your opinions on board."

    And also, while I admit it's a great response, is Kotaku really a worthwhile venue for it? I get the impression Katherine Feeney's probably not a regular reader, and judging from comments, it's preaching to the converted.

      Depends whether the purpose of the piece is.

      Is it to

      1) directly engage in argument, or
      2) to ensure the people who read the original and felt about three centimetres tall that they are being unfairly described?

        It's not really directly engaging in argument though, and that's my point. It's another of those "Hey everyone, that person over there thinks we're a bunch of idiots! We should all be angry about it, now let's get together and console ourselves, alone."

        I play games. I reckon most if not all people that read Kotaku regularly do the same. My self-confidence didn't take a beating from reading a stranger's misinformed opinion, and I'd be genuinely surprised if anyone on here read that original article and actually felt ashamed or persecuted in some way.

        Anyone who has actually read Feeney's article would notice that she herself has actually kicked off a debate (somewhat) by posting links to rebuttal on Ausgamers and Crikey. Hopefully this article will get linked to as well.

          This is my point. I believe that 2) is the purpose of this article.

            Yeah, I got that. My point is that I don't think this article addresses 1), and does 2) really need addressing?

            People who play video games are not really the underdog any more, but you wouldn't know it from the tone of this or the Ausgamers article. The Crikey piece is pretty good at taking the situation from a more objective perspective.

      Claiming that you're not an expert in something doesn't excuse you from being rude or saying things that are simply untrue.

        I'm no expert in feminism, but them hairy-legged hippies are just a bunch of dykes, right?

        Absolutely, but it's an opinion piece, and obviously misinformed. It's not presenting itself as fact at all. And it's not really that rude, either.

        It's basically the equivalent of someone thinking aloud.

        I'd totally be behind you if Feeney had linked to some spurious study or research data that supported her opinions, but she doesn't, and she's totally clear about that. I mean really, her article can be summed up with "I don't really 'get' video games, but here's what it looks like from an outsider."

      I found her article wasn't particularly histerical and like you said she made certain admissions about being disconnected from gaming as a whole. If you read the comments on the site she is actively discussing the comments being left and had posted up rebuttal articles from other sources. It is an opinion piece and should be read as such.

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