Why Video Games Are Not Just Video Games

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During a recent press conference, President Macron blamed video games for the Paris riots, claiming rioters were “acting out the video games that have poisoned their minds.” And more often than not, we read misleading headlines that blatantly classify video games as an addictive disease that poisons the minds of younger generations.  

Fortunately, video game research keeps growing and recognized institutions such as The Royal Society have found no links between video games and aggressive behavior. And while video game addiction exists, it affects only a minority of individuals. In 2020, Brigham Young University published a six-year longitudinal study revealing 90% of gamers do not play in a harmful way

Hi, I’m Azul and I’m from Argentina. I currently work in the video game industry as a game localizer and social media manager. And while I’m just 24 years old now, video games have allowed me to walk all kinds of paths in life. I hope my journey sheds some light on how games are much more than just games.  

Video Games, My First Classroom  

I played my very first video game when I was just two years old. Being a native Spanish speaker, this game about a cute rabbit and his friends was very educational. It taught little kids like me about the marvels of the English language. Soon, I started playing classic Disney games like Aladdin, 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue and Tarzan. These games were not localized into Spanish yet, so little me started to pick up what “play”, “pause”, “resume” and “game-over” meant. I was still a preschooler, and video games had already ignited my passion for languages.  

Towards the end of grade school, I ventured into Neopets, a virtual pet site. It had its own stock market section, where you could buy and sell virtual shares with Neopoints (gathered by playing flash games and selling items at your own store). I also learned the basics of HTML coding to personalize my own online store, which other real players could shop at. The innocent site gave its young players a glimpse into real-world trade, coding and more.  

And how can I forget about Assassins Creed II, which taught me all about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci, the Medici family and the Renaissance?  I’ll be forever grateful to video games because they were my first and most interactive educational tool. 

Screenshot from the game 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue, which reads “Press start button” at the bottom of the screen.

Video Games, a Whole Community   

After recreating the whole family tree of Hannah Montana on The Sims 2, I realized I could create my own universes in the gaming world. Soon, I discovered the world of Minecraft. With my parents’ supervision, I met my first online friends in real life (and I also found out boys gave me tons of free items, just because I was a girl).  

League of Legends became my next hyper fixation and a big part of my personality, to the point where I played the League of Legends song “Get Jinxed” at my quinceañera party. And little by little, games created core memories in my life.  

After countless ranked games, I started streaming League of Legends on Twitch. I formed a community of followers who eagerly awaited my nightly streams, and we would play, laugh and cry together because games help you connect with others. I also had to cope with toxicity and harassment online, again, just because I was a girl. Gaming was no longer about receiving free diamond swords but more about reading long rants sending me to the kitchen to make a sandwich. So I started educating my community about respecting women in games.  

Video Games, a Sport and Source of Income  

In 2020, I became an e-Sports presenter for a minor League of Legends tournament. Many people don’t take e-Sports seriously until they find out that the Fortnite World Cup champion takes home US$3 million or that some e-Sport finals attract more viewers than the Super Bowl. Well, I never became an e-Sports player, but with the donations I received for my streams, I purchased my whole pink gaming set-up (and I was still a teenager).  I had a mere 5K followers, but the top streamers can earn up to $500,000 monthly!   

Picture from a League of Legends World Championship with thousands of viewers around a central stage showcasing the players on a screen.
Pink gaming set-up.

Video Games, an Emotional Adventure  

One day, I came across the Life Is Strange saga, which highlights topics like diversity, mental health and family relationships. I discovered this whole new genre of narrative-driven games that stirred up all my emotions. Games that pull at humanity’s heartstrings and help us overcome our deepest fears. Games like Undertale, Night in The Woods, Firewatch or Hellblade. Because games paint our life with beautiful colors, just like in Gris, my latest discovery. In it, the main character suffers from a traumatic event and falls into a world of darkness until she gradually recovers all the colors, learning valuable lessons along the way.   

Colorful screenshot from the game Gris, where the main character jumps between a statue of two blue hands on a light-blue and reddish watercolor background.

Video Games, Simply Human  

There’s this general idea that only young boys play video games. But guess what? That’s another misconception, because the data tell a different story. Forty-eight percent of gamers worldwide are female. Older gamers, like WoWGrandma78, who celebrated her 80th birthday on Twitch, are joining in the fun. There’s even a whole Swedish senior e-Sports team with an average age of 71! Besides, there is a whole array of streamers, like NoHandsKen, MikeTheQuad and many others, who are transforming the industry for gamers with disabilities.  

Picture of the Silver Snipers playing computer games side by side. Source.

Games represent every facet of humanity. So yes, it only makes sense that there are some violent games, just like there are violent movies, series and books. But viewing games as the root of all evils is to ignore that there’s a whole, wonderful world in them. Video games are way more than just games. They are education. Support networks. Community hubs. Jobs. Diversity. Emotions. Gee, they’re art!  

So let’s stop seeing them as the sole malady behind all crimes, and let’s welcome them into our lives! 

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