Yesterday, Allison showed me this column titled, "Video-game generation may be desensitized to NFL injuries."
I was too busy and frankly, too flabbergasted, to write anything about it. Today, I have some time and am now able to wrap my brain around Bob Molinaro's irresponsible and ludicrous claims that the "video game generation" is desensitized to violence in the NFL, specifically calling to light the spinal cord injury suffered by Buffalo Bills back-up tight end Kevin Everett.
For the record, I have been a Buffalo Bills fan for 30 years (I grew up in upstate NY) and I play video games for a living, so I feel uniquely qualified to deconstruct Mr. Molinaro's assertions.
Let's go through this piece by piece, starting with the title of the column.
This "video-game generation" of which Mr. Molinaro speaks needs to be defined. Does he assume, like many ill-informed non-gamers, that gamers are black trench coat wearing teens holed up in their basements? Perhaps he should do some research instead of just going with the much celebrated and usually incorrect Bush method of the "gut-feeling". In actuality, the average gamer is 33 years old and more women over 18 (30%) than boys under 17 (23%) play games. (source)
The perception of the "gamer" or the "video-game generation" as something different or separate from larger society, a misguided subset of morally deficient young people, is absurd and provides the frame for the rest of his argument.
Mr. Molinaro wonders if the catastrophic, and fortunately less severe than first thought, injury to Kevin Everett makes any impact on those who indulge in the "cartoon violence" of Madden '08 and NFL Blitz, and going further, throws in the "absurd blood-and-guts scenarios [of] other Xbox games," for good measure.
I can answer that. Yes. It does have an impact. It saddened me a great deal and I prayed for him and his family.
When I watch football on TV, believe it or not, I know it's real; that living people are actually playing the game in a city in the USA. When I play a video game I know it is not real; that the little pixels on my screen are not living, breathing humans. Why is this so hard to understand?
Perhaps Mr. Molinaro should be asked if he ever confuses characters in a novel with real life people or if he thinks that the actors who play injured people on Grey's Anatomy are actually injured.
Mr. Molinaro is a good example of someone who, I can only assume, has not had exposure to video games and believes them to be some sort of insipid medium which sucks the vacuously minded gamer in with so much verisimilitude and irresistible sex-laden violence that, lo, this morally deficient person is tainted forever and comes away not knowing the difference between reality and what he sees on the screen.
After his initial query as to if those who play NFL video games have feelings, Mr. Molinaro digresses into a diatribe about the NFL itself and his perception that these poor NFL players don't know the dangers of their chosen profession until it is too late; whether that be "hobbling like tables with one leg shorter than the others" or "suffer[ing] brain damage."
It may sound crazy, but these players are all adults. They are well compensated for their dangerous choice of profession and, yes, it's a choice. They know that they'll have, at best, with few exceptions, a 10 year career where they'll make several million dollars.
It's an interesting comparison, that both gamers and NFL players are the victims of something that they don't understand; be it the insidious and irresistible draw of violent games or owners and fans who think of NFL players as non-human bots there for our entertainment.
I'd also like to address the notion that NFL fans of the "video-game generation" have come to be fans because of the NFL games that they play. Wha?
The NFL has been around for 100 years and has been very popular for the last 50. Unless Mr. Molinaro knows something I don't, NFL video games didn't start until the mid-eighties, and even then it was games like Tecmo Bowl.
Also, how do you explain people like my wife who are fans of the NFL yet have never played a Madden game?
It's columnists like Mr. Molinaro who are the real problem, not the gamers. Their assumptions and misperceptions show a lack of understanding of the most basic level. To say that NFL players aren't real and that we're all desensitized to the violence speaks more to the way that Mr. Molinaro thinks, not to the way that I, as an avid gamer and NFL fan think.
In the end, what's most telling about this entire column is how he begins it, "I imagine." Exactly.