Prompt 109: The NES Era
109. The popularity of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the mid to late 80s gave the period the nickname "The Nintendo Era." Do you think the advent of popular video games was positive or negative for society and why? How would you have felt if you were the first person to get a Nintendo on your block and why?
Hmm. Are video games a net positive for humanity? Considering I'm balls-deep in the hobby myself (though the NES came after my first game systems: the Atari 2600 and 5200), I wish I could have a more positive impression of them. I even worked for a video game studio for about 4 years (started off in testing, and then gradually shifted to tech support and then finally the "gopher" assistant producer before the studio closed and was swallowed by its corporate overlord), and that did nothing to endear the business side of things to me.
Video games are a consumable product like any other, and as soon as you accept that you'll understand why and perhaps how decisions about them are made. Not agree with, mind you. But simply understand.
Like any other cultural phenomenon, video games are played-out (pun not intended). I think that since video games are so integrated within my youth, adolescence, and now adulthood, I frequently forget that it's a business just like any other. Sure, it's the business of having fun, but those that produce games and game systems aren't doing it just to have a good time.
One supposed good thing about the video game industry? There's still a tremendous amount of competition out there. Sure, there were the "console wars" in the early 1980s, and I will always miss the Colecovision and Activision game systems - both of which have iconic games and ushered me into pivotal experiences that shaped my impression of the media - but it's not like there's one company that's the be-all and end-all of video game entertainment. There's not one company that makes the rules for the industry as a whole, and as I see it, the bar for entry into video games is now so low that even folks like me - who possess no programming knowledge, but at least a middling amount of curiosity and creativity - can create video games and release them to the international public.
The NES was king for a time, no doubt. Atari was eliminated, Sega has since been eliminated. But gaming is no longer the domain of home consoles only. Anyone able to read this will likely know of someone who plays games on their mobile phone, for example.
In addition, there are plenty of niche genres and fringe forays when it comes to video games. If you consider it just as you would music, or film, or books, this makes sense. No one is "reclaiming" video games from the corporations. They're just tapping into a different segment of the market, tailoring their product to that "indie" crowd.
Which brings me back round to that dusty "net negative or positive for humanity" chestnut. Whenever I find difficulty in answering questions like these, I often realize I need to simply admit my biases and grade it as a net negative. I feel like I'm too close to this topic to be objective in any capacity. But I will mention two things that cannot be denied, and in a sense I cannot argue against:
1. Video games are now integrated almost completely within the Internet, which I consider a net-negative for humanity (about which, I've written here previously).
2. Porn is also integrated into video games - not just in a capacity similar to mainstream film and sexuality as part of storytelling, but in actual terms of, "the objective of this game is to have sex with this lady/these ladies" - and porn is a net negative for humanity.
You can't have video games and leave sex out of it.
I've had to come to terms with the fact that, though I've not watched porn films for over five years now (no, I'm not saying that because I feel like I deserve a medal!), I've still played pornographic video games from time to time. They don't feature actual human beings - in the real world - in the act, but it can't be denied that they are socializing those who play them to consider and treat women a certain way.
I'm ashamed of the fact I lean on these from time to time to get off. I sometimes make myself feel better about the practice by saying to myself, "Well nobody's perfect, and at least it's not real human beings you're ogling and objectifying." But my hard-on is real. My fantasies sometimes shift back and forth between memories of women I've had sex with, ideas of women I imagine having sex with, erotica fiction I've read/written, and memories of the scenes featuring the computer models in these types of games. Until these games came along, I would read a lot of erotica, and the times when I can't stand myself for wanting to play these kinds of games I go back to erotica: either reading that of others, or the relatively few pieces I've written (a lot being based on memories of past relationships).
I feel rather pathetic when I consider this about myself - not to say that anyone who leans on these is worthy of pity. To attempt to defend oneself by saying things like, "Well hey, I've never hit a girl!" or, "I've never had sex with a woman while she was asleep or passed-out!" is a pretty low bar, and doesn't make you a shining example of human potential. To say, "I've stopped watching porn, but..." isn't cause to demand praise.
Can I justify "erotic video games" because I can rationalize it as another "niche audience," one in which I'm actually a member? At what point does a method of escapism/entertainment turn into a tool for propaganda, desensitization, and socialization? When the orgasm - likely the MOST powerful persuasion tool - is used as the trigger? When immersion in the fantasy is emphasized and/or reinforced with the orgasm?
The fact that I'm actually considering this argument is enough of a reason to consider video games themselves as a net negative. Just because you can substitute them for the real world (in this case I mean the -physical- world) does not mean that they prepare you for it. This goes for pretty much anything. An actual, authentic conversation with another human being - an actual, authentic relationship with another human being - cannot be simulated. One would just be engaging with a simulation.
Rather, I think I should phrase it like this: just because you engage with human simulations, and have done so frequently, does not mean you can do just as well engaging with humans. Video games and virtual reality are (still) poor substitutes. The fact that orgasms can be encouraged by video games removes their immunity from critical consideration.