I know! I'll talk about video games!

I just listened to a short documentary on video games on the Search Engine podcast. It's by Jesse Brown, the host of the show, and it's a reflection on video games prompted by the recent death of a teen who ran away from home because his parents took away his XBox.

I really like this podcast, and I think Jesse Brown does a great job producing it. This documentary, however, was pretty bad. It was produced for one of CBC Radio's more mainstream shows and I felt that it pandered to the audience's sense of worry and fear about video game culture.

I wrote two comments on the Search Engine blog. Here they are:

Hi Jesse,

I understand that your goals were reasonable, but I feel a little frustrated that your attempt to explore this world was a bit of a pantomime. As someone who is an outsider to the video game culture and as someone who already knows he doesn't enjoy video games, how much surprise was there really going to be? Of course you didn't enjoy yourself. And for the CBC audience, how reaffirming that this strange, alien thing really /is/ strange and alien. Not only strange and alien, but bad. But with the intonations and equivocation words to the effect of "not that there's anything wrong with that".

I'm really heartened by what parents have said in the comments above. That you can connect to your kids and be part of their lives, even when they're teens... I wish that instead of delineating a divide between two disparate worlds, that you had brought forward the message of these parents: that you can be a participant in your children's lives instead of an outsider injecting commandments. Relating to people twenty five years younger than us is going to be hard whether they're our kids or not, I'm guessing. Do we really need to go over that again? Couldn't we work on reminding ourselves that it's still worth trying and that there is a way through? It seems like the surer path to preventing these tragedies.

Hi Jesse,

I'd like to mention my /other/ beef with the documentary. I promise I have no other complaints, and by the way, I really enjoy your podcast. Thank you for hearing (reading?) me out.

This is my concern: that the nastiness in online video game chatter is seen as a by-product of the video game culture itself. I know that in one sense it absolutely is, but I think there's a misplaced blame for greater social problems that comes along with that thought.

XBox Live's chatter might act as a positive feedback loop for gaybashing comments, and as a gay gamer I can tell you it's not my favourite thing, but I think people are letting themselves act as if gaming/Internet culture invented homophobia. The reality is that it came from outside, and that's the only place where it can be fixed.

I think the gamer chat culture is crumby and sort of self-sustaining. It has problems. But people on XBox Live didn't invent the word "fag". Being angry at kids for reflecting the ambient nastiness in our culture isn't doing anyone any good.