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How should entertainment be consumed?

     I honestly hate people who use video games as a scapegoat for society's problems. "Video games are evil, they cause school shootings and teach kids through latent learning and desensitization to violence to become murders!!!" And even though I love psychology and the thought behind it, at the end of the day it's all about money. Psychologists know that causation doesn't equal correlation, especially with all those pesky confounding variables that seem to be infinite. So why do psychologists attack games? It's easier than admitting that gun violence's root is the gun itself, but if you made that the story on television than who would fund or provide these psychologists with grants to do research? "People would start to want to regulate guns, the government would come to take them out of our dying corpses, and chaos would rain free with all them' gay hippies n' liberals..." I think you get my sarcasm as well as my point. However, there is some truth to the dark side of games. And now I, a gamer, a humanely game developer, and a friend admit that games can isolate, alienate, and bring out the worst in people.
     We've all seen how online game communities are toxic, how the word "faggot" gets tossed around like it's nothing, and even if I as an openly bisexual gamer say "Hey, I'm gay. Can you just not say that please?" I'll get a "I didn't mean it like that" or a "FAGGOT", but usually they'll continue to say it even after the exchange. Just bringing the word into the conversation, brings with it the weight. I for one, shake it off and just kept quiet after a while. I'm not too overly politically correct nor do I advocate for social justice 24/7, but I just want people to connect personably online. This toxic community is a problem because of the buffer between the screen as well as the anonymity gained from it. People don't feel socially accountable for their words or actions, so this provides players who tend to be more on the sadism side of play to become "internet trolls".
     There's a lot of different types of players or play styles; it's a spectrum. You have your explorers, social butterflies, customizers, creators, those who love the challenge of mastering the mechanics, story lore fanatics, and then the sadists whom just want to cause other gamers pain. The two that are at risk for developing a harmful addiction to games are the challenge masterers and the sadists. Both can thrive in a competitive setting full of un humane candy crushing feedback loops of stimulation reward. I've seen friends who I know get sucked into a game that's meant to be a social game based off of teamwork and mastery become so engrossed in it that they go on autopilot. These addicts multitask playing games with watching videos of youtube let's players play games side by side simultaneously. Relationships in real life become phased out, and the only medium to reach these people become the games they play, but even then... it becomes disheartening. The problem doesn't just lie with the individual's intake of content, nor does it the developer who needs to not penalize the player for not investing as much time, or playing casually... The problem is more systematic than that. It lies with all of us, and how we as society consume entertainment. Our capitalist nature drives us to get the most "Bang outta our bucks!", but that's not the goal of art, at least humane art.
     Not all games can be games that, as my last internship's mission statement, "change the way you think", because I'm going to be honest - I like un original huge triple AAA dopamine rushes, and I myself have put in thousands of hours into online games, but I have a life outside of games. Games can be a temporary escape, but they can't be your sole refuge. Games can help you find your people, prepare you for real life through experiencing virtual hardships, provide some comfort when there is none, and you can conquer your own personal demons through art therapy. For instance, I made a game to process my coming out called Tales from the outerspace, a game called Catharsis to forgive myself for an unpleasant exchange that ended with me hurting some people I cared for but also hurting myself for apologizing for standing up for myself, and finally Awkward Dimensions Redux where I bear my emotions and the anxiety and just bad thoughts that I don't show ever, but also the good. Without games to vent out everything where other art forms couldn't work, I'd probably be dead. Games are empathy machines where you can literally put someone in your virtual shoes and see people at your booth sharing that experience with you and just getting you, understanding you, or shrug it off after playing for a minute and move on to one of your stupid arcade games, Ultra Dance Murder.
     Meaningful games don't adversely affect anyone's life, games like The Beginners Guide, Thirty Flights of Loving, or even The Last of Us. These games teach us, and make us reach out to people on the other side of the monitor by means of empathy, story, and artistry. However, this is very difficult to pull off within the bounds of a competitive environment funded by microtransactions, pay walls, and neural feedback loops intentionally designed to get the widest playerbase, revenue, and cater to providing the most gameplay time for our consumerism. This is what we need to as an industry fix, we need to start designing with the player in mind, rather than their pocket book. Easier said than done, but it starts with the indies. And I do hate the term "indie" for the most part, but let's just say it's those who create not for the sake of consumption, but for the sake of expression. And once we fix how we design, market, and sell games we'll be setting an example for other types of media that get the benefit of the doubt like television and film.
     In the end it's not that all competitive or free to play online games are bad, but like actual sport sports, Esports suffer from the abuse of how people enjoy them. It's all about moderation and how healthy your relationship is to entertainment as well as the people around you. I do respect those who can devote themselves to elevating the play of one particular game, but you need to ask yourself at some point am I actually playing anymore, or is it work now?
     All in all, take any of this unread and unedited mind vomit with a grain of salt. I like to rant, and blogger makes it easy for me to do just that. This an opinion piece based on my experience with games as well as those close to me who have in my relative perspective, problems with consuming them. My opinion may change as I get older, and my taste in games matures, or not. However this is only to make you think about this, not convince you on what to think. So thanks for the read, it was nice while it lasted hopefully, and it's now midnight here soo... good night!
   

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