Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Monday, February 04, 2008

Open letter to Times Online's Kate Muir

Ms. Muir -

"The dark ages" was an interesting choice of title for your piece, and I hope you'll permit me to explain why, amid what I'm certain are copious amounts of email in your inbox full of all kind of angry hate-mail from other gamers. "Other gamers" - yes, I also play PC & video games, but I like to think of myself as being of the more level-headed variety. I'm also 33, married (since I was 27), and have two adorable little boys (4 months & 3 years) with whom I can't wait to start playing games of all stripes: board, card, sports (gasp! outside even), and video.

I find it interesting that you lay a large piece of the blame for families getting started later than they used to right at the feet of the desire of men to play video games for a couple hours a day, on average. The fact that families are starting later is well-documented, but I think the reasons for those are as diverse as there are people in the world. It would be as irresponsible of me to assert that it's happening because more women these days are putting college educations & professional careers of their own ahead of their desire to start families as I believe it is for you to make your assertion.

In the interests of keeping this short, I'll cut to the chase. The reason I believe your assertion is baseless is the reason I find the choice of title interesting (you were wondering if I was going to tie back to that first sentence, weren't you?). "The dark ages" connotes a regression to some period in the past where conditions were less than ideal - but to me it was just another evocation of what videogames really are, in the grand scheme of things: a medium of storytelling.

Think about it: the earliest form of entertainment was storytelling, and indeed, one might argue that all entertainment is storytelling of one form or another. It started, pre-written history, with verbal traditions and legends, passed down through generations' memories. Until we discovered that we can write these legends down and therefore not lose them to the winds of history. Then someone decided that they'd have more impact if the action in those legends were acted out on-stage. Theater was predominant (though books, God bless 'em, have withered the tides and remain popular still) until the Industrial Revolution gave us electricity & radio waves, at which point the drama troupes started broadcasting their acted-out stories over the air. This was followed by television (theater productions broadcast with visuals, then by larger-scale productions on the big screen. It's all just storytelling, through media that evolved as time and technology advanced.

An interactive movie is just the next logical step in the evolution of storytelling, and if there's a better two-word descriptor for video games than "interactive movie", I honestly don't know what it is. If you had perhaps looked into the demographics & usage data more deeply, you might have found that during the time period where game-playing time has increased among the ever-important "males 18-34" set (only one year left in my membership therein), their time spent watching TV & movies have decreased by almost the same proportion. We men aren't eschewing family & careers in favor of video games; we're eschewing other forms of entertainment - nee storytelling - in favor of video games.

There are many factors that are leading people of both genders to postpone marriage and families later than in generations past, but despite what you and Ms. Hymowitz have asserted, the form of entertainment we choose to partake in is hardly a credible option for inclusion into that list.

Jason Trippet
San Antonio, TX USA


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