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I’ve been playing video games for over two decades. When I was very young, it was a way to bond with my mom. We used to spend hours playing together. Well, I played. She watched. It was just a way for us to spend time together.

When I got stuck in a particular game, she would offer “The Wisdom of the Mama” and point me toward something I generally hadn’t already noticed. That bond cemented a love of video games that would ultimately shape the rest of my life.

The way video games are portrayed in the media has been a topic of much frustration for me lately. Every time there’s a shooting in this country, the media turns to violence in video games. It turns out, the perpetrators of such senseless acts of hate and brutality have often never played anything more violent than “Sonic the
Hedgehog.”

Every time this happens, there’s a reoccurring joke within the gaming community of the violent video game argument being “remastered” but still lacking any real content.

Logic doesn’t stop the media at large from demonizing an entire genre of artistic expression, and I use “artistic expression” here purposefully.

For over 26 years, American lawmakers have tried to justify censorship with a supposed desire to protect youth from the corrupting influence of video games. For over 26 years, the game industry has been proactively self-regulatory, and the American courts have deemed the industry’s efforts more than sufficient.

Over two decades worth of litigation have shown that stricter attempts at legislation would lead to a chilling effect on the artistic expression of the men and women creating video games.

Why then, are video games so vilified in the media? Honestly, because it’s easier to target a technology like video games than to look at the actual problems facing our country. Whether you support stricter or looser gun control, it’s clear by the number of shootings that something needs to change.

America’s mental healthcare system, which is woefully inadequate, could use a bit more consideration. You need only Google “America mental health” to see hundreds of articles, citing dozens of professionals, saying America is facing a “mental health crisis.” But healthcare is a historically difficult issue to resolve. I don’t pretend to have the answers, but again, something needs to change. Regardless, video games aren’t the problem.

The reason I’ve tried so diligently to espouse the value of video games is because I’ve seen the good they can do. I’ve watched week-long streams of people donating their time to speed-run video games for Games Done Quick. GDQ is a twice-yearly marathon that has raised over $16 million dollars combined for Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Video games have the capacity to be a powerfully positive influence.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, over 150 million Americans play video games. Sixty-four percent of American homes have at least one person who plays video games three or more hours per week, and 60 percent of Americans play daily.

The average gamer is 34 years old, 72 percent are 18 or older and, in fact, there are more women over 18 playing video games than boys under 18. On top of that, over 70 percent of parents say video games are a positive outlet for their children, 67 percent play with their children and 94 percent make sure they’re always aware of the games their children play.

This is to say nothing of the positive influence games have been for me. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety all my life. Video games have been a lifelong companion; they’ve been a means of escape from a world seemingly intent on the obliteration of any semblance of happiness I manage to scrape together.

Before I met my wife, they were the only solace in a world that felt lifeless and empty. My parents were long divorced, all but one of my friends had abandoned me, my love-life was laughably non-existent and I was stuck in a job that often made me miserable.

In a game, I can be a powerful ruler — an arbiter of justice to the subjects of my kingdom. I can be a superhero: swinging, flying, gliding or running through a city desperate for salvation. I can be a ranger in the darkness of Middle-earth, a ruthless outlaw in the American West, a commander of an intergalactic army or just a man trying to safely deliver humanity’s last hope of curing a deadly fungal infection.

I can be anything.

Who among us has never had dreams of being anything we wanted?

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