I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines, its almost every other week or so we see a detrimental act by a teen or child sometimes even adults committing because of a video game. Now all I see in response to that is shock and confusion, as to why would one kill oneself, or take loans (to buy items) for the game, after all they’re just pixels running around. Firstly I’d like to defunct the reductionist view of the matter, if video games are just pixels running around, well then we’re just atoms running around, that doesn’t mean that we don’t matter and nor do our actions. If it seems like an unfair comparison, well to give you a real life example, in 2019 a popular video game Fortnite held a competition as to who plays the best by eliminating all the other players and the winner of that tournament went home with $2 Million, the total prize pool was of $30 Million. Those pixels created a huge effect in the atom-world. This is nothing, one of the oldest game CSGO has professional players, that are paid to play the game (games like LoL, DOTA have it too), apart from the tournament prize pool they may or may not win, the monthly salary of the average top tier teams is 20,000 Euros, and this is excluding the sponsorships, the contracts (the latest one being of $1 Million), the ads they do, the streaming that some do and so on; just like a sports personality. The eSports (as they call it) is on track to beat the $1.5 Billion net worth mark by 2023, and a single game as League of Legends (LoL) has already crossed the Billion mark in revenue, which I’d say isn’t too shabby for pixels.
Now that just pixels argument is out of the way let’s get into the understanding of why “incidents” happen in video games. Now I’m sure you’ve seen the temper tantrums of young children over not being allowed to play, just play. The era before hyper-realistic video games, even then it existed. It also is the same for games like football, cricket etc. essentially they’re just kicking an air-filled ball around, and hitting wood with hardened leather respectively. But, the reason why we “respect” them is because the market around them allows wealth to flow in and create a separate strata of society called celebrities. Noting that the eSports in on its way to such a high bracket of market, soon it’ll be quite mainstream for them to have the same kind of stand in society. To give you an example of how quickly its going on, 2018’s Super Bowl event (US’s biggest sport event) had a viewership of 98 Million, where as the LoL’s World Championship had a viewership of 100 Million. With all this said I think it’s fair to compare an athlete’s failure to achieve a goal or lose a match to an eSports player. Although it’s to be recognized that an athlete’s achievements are far more difficult , no doubt that’s true.
What happens when someone plays a game is that their mind goes into focusing of the goal, with all the scouring to get weapons, then slowly building up a strategy, dying and saving your friends, eliminating opponents and then winning the round or match. This is a classic goal driven head; start, rough work, patience, nerves, pressure, and win or loss that determines the reaction. Now this exact formula is repeated in a cycle of hours together, same emotions, same suffering or elation. Now combine a loss with a personality of an aggressive child, you get rage clips and table breaks.
Video games are also more than just that, today’s young have more potent “relationships” online in games, than real life in school or the park. They talk there, laugh, play, compete, “grow”, their entire self’s interaction with the worldly essence of socialisation, achievement, kinship, the bonds built up over time through loss and win revolves around just pixels. It ironically and rather paradoxically makes sense for them to invest real money in pixels, real tears even, when life’s cores themselves are shifted to that dimension of reality then one actually can’t criticise them for it. When the parent takes away the game the entire world of the child is taken away, it isn’t that just a game is taken away.
So what am I getting to with this? Well, the first thing to realize is that those pixels are no longer “just a game” when you can earn the same or more amount of real life income of sports like cricket and football. The problem there is that unlike sports, where you have to be really physically fit to even give yourself a chance to enter a trail for selection into a team, eSports requires just your hand-eye coordination, you can be over or underweight, doesn’t matter as long as your arms are working well. Now this difference opens the competitive field much more, the competition in eSports is far higher to get into top-tier than traditional sports, not harder, but higher. What that means is that the saturation in eSports is much more, this hinders with the chances of becoming a professional eSport player because the route currently to find the talent for eSport is in infancy. Secondly, the way of treatment of a game by an adult towards the child if is going to be of dismissal of its reality to the child, then they’ve build the perfect mix of anomaly. If parents are going to allow a child to play video games, they need to realize that it won’t be “just a game”, it will be an abstraction of real life effects, just like they’d balance out traditional sports with education and all the other stuff, the same mindset needs to be implemented here, it would be detrimental if they don’t. And unlike traditional sports, video gaming industry literally hires psychologists to help them make the game more addictive. To give you an example, you’ll see that people spend actual money on video games items, but why? I’ll tell you why, what happens is that rather the game telling them to buy an item for money, they build a separate currency in the game, that you can either acquire by working hard as hell over long periods of time or get more done than your friends and competitors by buying that in-game currency with real money and then spending that currency on the items, this bypasses the defense to spend on items that have no worth in real life. Thirdly, is probably an important factor, is what kind of games are the children playing, because everyone being almost anonymous online, the communities can be very toxic, and many are, some children even get confused between real world and the pixel world, confusing the knowledge of the latter with the former. This is especially true with children below the teenage years.
I was frustrated with the frankly dumb reactions of people on the news of such kind and not thinking of anything about the built reality of video games. This ignorance of the meta-reality I’d say that video games create is what led to this mess that we face now. So I’d suggest that people stop viewing it as a just entertainment, because so was traditional sports, theatre, movies, music, but now, for good or bad reasons their top performers are hailed as idols. If one is wrong then consequently so is other, because they’re all of the same spectrum, with the same goal of entertainment, capitalising on engagement, sometimes addiction and living mindless lives of no knowledge of actual reality.