Gamers take a lot of heat from society. Even though gaming has become a huge industry and entered into the mainstream in many ways, it is still stereotyped as a kid’s pastime with no redeeming qualities. I would like to dispel this image by comparing gaming with a much more accepted pastime: following sports. These two past times have some surprising similarities, but more than that I think gaming is a more worth while pastime when you compare the activities that are involved and the state of each industry.
Before we go any further, here are some of the surprising similarities between gamers and sports fans. It’s almost as if gamers and sports fans are distantly related, or at least inbred cousins.
- Both are known for their love of junk food and high fructose corn syrup (and their portly comrades).
- Fantasy Football might as well be called Final Fantasy Football VII.
- Gamers live vicariously through a game and its characters and fans live vicariously through their favorite sports league, teams, and players.
- Both groups engage in cosplay (costume play). Some gamers dress up as their favorite character from a game and some fans wear their favorite player’s or team’s jersey. Both groups are fond of face paint and big props.
Ok, lets compare the activities that gamers and sports fans engage in. Gaming is often accused of having no redeeming value. I don’t think that is the case. There have been a number of studies that show gaming improves your hand eye coordination and decision making skills. This makes sense because most games reward accurate hand eye coordination and incorporate puzzles and problem solving into the gameplay. In fact, those two elements are the most important parts of most any game. While the story and plot devices of modern gaming can be very high quality, a game can easily neglect those in favor of game play mechanics and still be highly successful.
PC gamers are in a special position to acquire new skills as a byproduct of gaming. Many PC gamers build their own computers. This is largely driven by the fact that game developers are constantly pushing the boundaries of PC computing and graphical capabilities. The need to periodically update system components to keep up with the latest releases gives PC gamers an incentive to study and keep up with the latest technologies and computing standards. This year I transitioned from console gaming to PC and I used that opportunity to build my own computer. It was a big learning experience for me and I plan on continuing the process in order to maintain the gaming experience that I want. These skills and knowledge will become more and more valuable as technology continues to develop and integrate into all areas of modern life.
On the other hand, what opportunities for learning and skill development are available to a sports fan? I struggle to think of any. The sports fan can devote their time to memorizing stats and team rosters, but there is no useful application for that information. They don’t become better athletes or gain any useable knowledge in their pursuit. In my view, following sports is the useless pastime.
I think it is also worth talking a little bit about the violence and destruction of property associated with sporting events. We are all familiar with the riots that, on occasion, occur after a sporting event. The strange part is that it doesn’t seem to matter much who won the game. It is possible for the fans from either the winning or losing team to engage in destruction of property and violence post-game. There was a riot after this year’s Super Bowl after the Seattle Seahawks won. Europe is well know for its soccer hooligans. While the vast majority of sports fans do not participate in this type of destructive action, there are a significant number of douchebag sports fans that are willing to. This is not an issue in the gaming community. If fact, there is reason to believe that gaming has reduced youth crime. It is less likely for the youth to get into trouble when they are at home gaming.
I think these points by themselves are enough to argue for the superiority of gaming, but I think that it is also important to look how each industry operates as well. To be honest, I think this part is the most important comparison to be made.
Professional sports leagues (including collegiate) take huge amounts of tax dollars. You wouldn’t think that an industry that generates huge amounts of money would need to petition that government with its pockets out-turned for tax exempt status and taxpayer funded stadiums. The popularity of professional sports and faulty economic thinking has allowed team owners and the leagues as a whole to suck out huge amounts of money from taxpayers.
State and city governments have picked up the nasty habit of building stadiums for rich team owners. All sorts of justifications like “the stadium will create jobs” and “surrounding businesses will generate more sales from increased traffic” have been used. This smells a lot like the “trickle down economics” that liberals attack mercilessly, but then have no problem with when subsidizing a stadium. The only thing that really happens is money is shoveled from one part of the economy to another. There is no net gain. Some businesses might get more traffic, thats true, but what about the businesses that aren’t near the stadium? They are taxed, but do not get the “higher traffic” generated by the stadium. All the while wealthy team owners get to rack in huge amounts of money from a stadium they didn’t have to pay for. The whole arrangement is just theft of the many to the benefit of a few, mostly the team owners. It’s an arrangement rivaling the cronyism of Wall Street. The NFL is possibly the biggest abuser of this government/business cronyism.
This is not to say that professional sports leagues could not survive without government handouts. They most definitely could, which makes the situation even more ridiculous. The gaming industry has no such issue. Like the rest of the tech industry, it lives and dies by its ability to meet the needs and preferences of consumers. The gaming industry is one of the freest markets in the United States. That alone is a huge reason to support it. The ability for small studios and independent game developers to make and distribute their games is a truly impressive feature of the industry as well.
Gaming is a pastime that can benefit you with its focus on hand eye coordination and problem solving. It can even lead you to the knowledge and skills that are part of the larger tech industry. Most importantly it operates in a virtual free market with voluntary interactions and accountability to consumers. Following sports does not offer any peripheral benefits like gaming does. My biggest complaint about the sports industry is the incestuous relationship with the state and how it profits off of the government’s monopoly of violence and ability to tax. The virtues of gaming outshine those of watching sports, all day and every day.
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