I can very clearly remember the Fox News segment about Mass Effect back in 2008, and the sheer stupidity of it all. In fact, I think the game is still banned in Singapore, but I digress. It seems like we've never been able to get rid of the stigma attached to video games in our society. It doesn't matter how mainstream it gets, how well integrated into our daily lives, it always seems to be brought back up in a negative light. Perhaps the most common being the whole song and dance about how first person shooter games make you more violent and aggressive, more likely to commit a mass murder. And just when it seemed like these accusations were starting to fade away (at least in my mind) it all comes rushing back to the surface but not in the way you'd expect.
It's been a long growing concern in some circles that young men seem to be checking out of society. A growing number are not working, not going to college, and rejecting the real world and turning instead to the instant gratification of pornography and video games. The Sexodus seems to be the most popular term for this trend taking hold of most industrialized societies.
Driven in part by economic woes and a general shift in focus away from men and more towards getting more and more women into higher education, these young men have opted towards a more escapist and leisurely lifestyle.
One young man (22 years old to be exact) who was questioned as apart of a Princeton study on economics stated that 'When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded. With a job, it's always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.' Simply that most young men no longer see the need to go out and work when they've got the latest Halo game, which offers infinitely greater amounts of entertainment and pleasure than a 9-5 job at Ben and Jerry's scooping ice cream. That's not to say its the mans fault at all, or the video games for that matter. But when society in general offers young men either a $60 video game, or a series of jobs and schools designed to prepare you and equip you with the education and money you need to buy a house, start a family, and generally transition into an adult and a (steadily) growing number are choosing the former, you know you have a problem.
No, I don't have a solution. As a young man who can see a great many of the pros to choosing the $60 dollar video game and sympathize with the Princeton interviewee I'm hardly the most unbiased and informed voice out there. But while I am loathe to do so, it seems that those voices claiming that video games are having an adverse effect on young men in America might in fact be onto something.
I loved the Xbox 360 for the wrong reasons. Not for the games, the exclusives or the Free with Gold games. Don't get me wrong, it's a quality system where a lot of my more important moments in gaming took place. New Vegas, Mass Effect 2, the (at least) hundred hours I put into the custom games of Halo Reach with my friends, they're all things I distinctly remember, and look back on fondly whenever I think about playing a game. With my friends. Now those are the key words here.
To backtrack a moment, my first real gaming experience was on the Xbox. All of my friends had one, everyone in my circle of friends had an Xbox. There were no PS3's or PC's. I can remember in the 6th grade when I got my first Xbox I came home from school the following day with a list of fifty gamertags. Everyone from the school bullies who dealt pot behind the Health classroom window behind school to the kids already prepping for Harvard had one. I think among young men the Xbox 360 was more popular a method of communication than Facebook or even Cellphones, I can remember a conversation with a friend of mine recently who graduated a year or two ahead of me who told me that after school he would fill an entire Modern Warfare 2 lobby with his friends and they would pick teams like in gym class.
Now let me be blunt, the games on the PC are better. Having spent time off and on the 360 and the PC and now the Xbox 1 I can tell you that PC gaming is where it's at in terms of content and game quality. But the one area that the PC would consistently flunk out on was the social aspect, the PC multiplayer experience has always been the embodiment of its worst stereotypes whenever I've gotten on the mic or in-game chat in a lobby whereas on the Xbox the worst thing you've got to deal with is the occasional middle schooler who'll rage on you. On the PC I can distinctly recall several times when I was threatened to have my computer hacked and a virus loaded onto it, once someone threatened to track my IP and murder my family, and generally things that run along that vein. The Xbox 360 (or the One) has its fair share of ragers and squeakers, but it doesn't have any of those issues I've found. Sure it'll be a bit harder to find a group of players but it's certainly a much more casual and relaxed experience whereas the most relaxed gaming PC experiences I've had have been in single player.
Now it should be obvious that this isn't a biased article, I'm a biased man and time and time and time again the PC has been proven to provide the superior gaming experience. But when I think of gaming, when I sit down to play a video game I don't really think about how I can replace the dragons in Skyrim with Thomas the train, or how many frames per second. I ask myself, am I having fun? And while the answer is yes, yes I am having fun, I am not having as much fun as I used to playing on the Xbox as we all laughed and tried to speed run whatever game we were playing that week on max difficulty.
The one field that the PC looses out on that I believe to be critical to the modern gaming experience is that its just not as fun as the Xbox multiplayer is. And while that's entirely a subjective opinion and I welcome different thoughts and disagreement, let me leave you with one final question. If the PC was truly superior in every single way (and remember, cheap yet sturdy gaming PC's go for about as much as a Xbox One now) then why do people even buy Xbox's or Wii's or Play Stations?