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]


    Wow... well said. Although, I don't really think the original article deserves the time of day, let alone a response as eloquent as yours.

    Hear hear!


    just look at her other articles, shes a trach writer. nothing to see there.

    meh, who cares what some nobody thinks about the thing that I do in my downtime.

    It's such a stupid and outdated argument. Plenty of the teenagers who played video games growing up (the current crop of 30-40 years old) somehow still magically managed to develop social skills and social connections, even back before online play was both common and easy. They've managed to have families and friends and rich lives. I've begun to suspect that CK's definition of 'socialising' is prohibitively narrow and only includes dinner parties or clubbing and other 'grown-up' but tediously boring activities.

    Not to mention, any long-dead connection with video gaming and social skills was almost certainly a matter of correlation rather than causation. (i.e. introverted and socially inexperienced people finding refuge in games, rather than games causing bad social skills.)

    Hello -
    Just wanted to say that I've found this whole discussion very informative. Have included a link to this article in the original blog post, with brief comment.
    Thanks to everyone who contributed their views - very robust response.

    On a similar note, the new SSX game really pisses me off. The older games were great to play with friends on the couch, trying to out-race or out-trick each other.

    The new game instead is single player with RiderNet, which lets you go up against the 'ghosts' of your friends attempts at the track.
    I do think this is cool, because you're not always going to hace friends to play with but the loading screens are constantly telling me that 'SSX is best played with friends'.

    Just not real life friends that you can sit next to and socialise with while playing. Derp.

    Reading the original article and then the author's responses in the comments, it seems the whole point of the article is "Meeting people and being social is a good thing." However, somehow she twists that message into some anti-gaming vendetta that reads like a Cleo magazine article.

    This article however, hits the proper response on the head. It's really good to see wives so supportive of gamer husbands (and vice versa) because it's a great sign of people starting to accept gamer culture more. Quite a lot of gamers I know are social creatures who will regularly meet up for LAN gaming sessions or some other non-gaming activity.

    Now, if only we could get rid of the commonly held belief that a gamer is a 40 year old, pasty white, overly large, basement virgin, manchild who plays violent games while drinking V and eating Cheetos in a darkened room and only has virtual girlfriends while yelling insults at everyone over the internet.

    fantastic response.
    You somehow managed to refrain from insulting this trashy columnist

    Just to add, video games have certainly impacted my life and my future career. I'm doing my PhD in the copyright protection of video games and gaming consoles so I am in the opinion that all those times I spent sitting alone in my room beating all the Dark Aeons in FFX was not a waste of time.

    Well written! Kudos to this author, not just flaming at silly journalists who lack the time to come up with sensible articles, but to actually trump it with a proper first hand example.

    I used to go out every single weekend and "socialise" (ie. get annihilated). Now, I often spend time with my wife on a Saturday night, possibly playing video games.

    I'm just an abhorrent fringe member of society, aren't I?

    I stopped reading the original article after the first paragraph, where she assumed only men play games.
    Meh. Guess some women are happy being a vacuous katherine heigl movie watching, cosmo-reading, shopping, sex and the city cliche. Meanwhile the cool girls are the ones having all the fun because we're not living our lives according to tired old gender stereotypes...

      Oh yeah, and graceful response, CookingMama, you didn't resort to petty insults or name-calling. :) Hope the author of the original article reads it!

    I met my girlfriend on World of Warcraft and now we have a son together.

    i read her piece, and frankly the entire thing falls flat on its face in the sense that she admits to having no first hand knowlege on the subject and then proceeds to make inflamitory comments based on stereotypes.

    even for an opinion piece it was some fairly poor journalism when your 'opinion' is based on another person's opinion piece and some broad generalisatoins.

    Has anyone else noticed the original author has posted in this comments section, and that in her blog he has aknowledged and linked this article?

    Looks like she read your rebuttal, her response is not inspiring.
    I'll paste the response here so she doesn't get the pageviews.

    Hello again. There's been another rebut I wanted to include, from Kotaku reader 'CookingMama'. Valid points abound, but I'd like to point out the research referenced has already been addressed in comments below - it's important to acknowledge, in the interests of full disclosure, that the research was commissioned by an association comprising members who profit from gaming. Recognising the commercial forces at play here is particularly important in view of the highly emotive responses from some gamers who contributed to this discussion. I don't mean to suggest that gamers aren't aware their pleasure satisfies someone else's profit motive, but I just want that noted. Feelings, lovely though they are, can cloud reason and objective judgement so...

      I'm reading her response trying to figure out what she's trying to say.
      Is she making a point here and I'm just missing it?

        I'm not sure what her point is either, other than perhaps the DA12 report is some sort of gaming conspiracy.

          She's trying to trash your source. I just checked her article, and all her sources are www.someguysname.com, and one is a Wiki Link. I hope she's being ironic.

    I don't want to be offensive but when I saw the title and pic I thought this was an article about Mark Serrels :O Glad I read on :)

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