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The Virtual Male World

August 26, 2009


In the previous post on electronic games, I wrote:

Electronic entertainment is one of the few realms in which boys can still be boys. I agree with Ron on this point. And, it’s a very important consideration.

But, it shouldn’t be that way. Virtual games, at least the obsessive and exclusive playing of them, are not a good replacement for other types of aggressive play that involve physical movement and real social interaction. The boy who plays games and only plays games is in an artificial world where he is not forced to respond to real people. In sports or idle rough-housing, there is a check on the isolating aspects of male aggression. There are real people interacting with each other and a boy is forced to react to them. That’s not the same as responding to someone in an electronic game.

In truly aggressive play, the boy’s energy is used and satisfied. He is ready to turn to things that involve a different sort of mental effort and patience. A boy can be sated  by aggressive physical play. Games are addictive and a boy never realizes he has had enough until it is too late to play outside or shoot hoops. He gets easily lost in them. That explains the irritability of boys who sit for long hours at the screen and their declining performance in school.

I think games in excess are much more destructive for younger boys than for older ones. They are used by parents as a form of babysitting. Many parents rely on them almost out of necessity because of the destruction of real community in which kids can congregate outside for pick-up games and boys can  engage in mischief.

My husband strongly believes that electronic games do not relieve male agression, but cause it to build. They are no more a complete outlet for healthy masculinity than watching football games on TV. He maintains that the idea that games serve a healthy function is equivalent to saying that pornography is a useful aid to male sexuality. The virtual experience replaces and perverts the thing itself.

I would like to add that I blame the over-use of electronic entertainment on women. They use electronic games as an easy form of childcare so they can go off and do their own thing. The departure of women from the home has caused the decline in normal outdoor play.

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Boys and Electronic Games, Cont.

August 26, 2009


Ron Purewal replies to my post, Boys and Electronic Games. Ron makes a number of important points. His most interesting argument is that electronic games represent “one of the few places left in our society where boys can still unabashedly be boys”

Mr. Purewal writes:

In that post, you wrote: “Can the outward passivity that is so characteristic of the addicted gamer ever fulfill female romantic longings? Can the addicted gamer acquire the patience and temperament required by marriage and family without a painful and permanent rejection of his habit?”

There will always be a tradeoff between “the patience and temperament required by marriage and family” and “fulfill[ing] female romantic longings”, because most of the qualities of the former are detrimental to the latter, and certainly vice versa. The former can be summed up, roughly, as “stability”, while the latter can be summed up (again, very roughly) as “excitement and danger”.  although there are a handful of personal qualities that can be positive in both contexts – such as confidence – most “female romantic longings” involve impetuous, risky, aggressive, devil-may-care characters who are ill suited for any sort of stability.

Ironically, men who are easily bored, thrill-seeking, and annoyed by the inefficiencies of social interaction are much, much more likely to pique a woman’s romantic interest.  Much more likely. In short, there’s a reason why romance novels stop at the wedding day.

Second, the problem faced by the addicted gamer in adjusting to marriage is negligible compared to the problem faced by the average American woman, who for her entire life has been coddled and convinced that she can do no wrong and should have no shame, in adjusting to the same situation.  Totally negligible.

Third, under older (and, I might add, more feasible) gender roles, the man wasn’t expected to provide social chitchat and discussion of “gray areas”; he was the man of the house.  if he were the extroverted type, then that was of course a bonus, but a woman had girlfriends for a reason. In other words, the “problems” you’re citing would not even have been problems even a few decades ago, because marriage was not seen as a relationship in which the man is responsible for pushing every single one of a woman’s attention-getting (and -keeping) buttons.

The gamer’s temperament is certainly not unlike that of famous scientists and other innovators that have lived in various eras.  until the last few decades, such men have had no trouble finding and keeping wives, because they weren’t unfortunate enough to live in a culture that tells their wives to walk – and incentivizes them financially to do so – if they feel the slightest bit “unfulfilled” or “bored” in their marriage.

In any case, I see the explosion of “gamers” as a result of the hydraulic pressure of male restlessness and natural male qualities. We live in a culture that has done its best to expunge male-friendly aspects such as competition and horseplay from all parts of childhood.  most kids’ sports are now of the “everyone gets the same size trophy” variety, any sort of natural acting-out is punished out of all proportion, and boys are generally punished whenever they fail to act like good girls (even though they aren’t girls).

Our culture also teaches (upper- and upper-middle-class white and Asian) that it’s not ok to fight, to be aggressive, or, in some cases, even to be confident.  these qualities are hydraulic – if they don’t vent in one place, then they’ll vent somewhere else.  hence, the video-game addiction. Electronic games are one of the few places left in our society where boys can still unabashedly be boys. 

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