January 2007

Hooked On Video Games - Is it a Guy Thing?

Author: Melinda Copp

Football season is winding down; the holidays are over; and it’s cold outside. With little else to do, video games are big right now, especially considering the new Play Station 3 and Nintendo Wii that hit stores just before Thanksgiving. Gaming is especially popular among men of my generation (men in their 20s and 30s), and many can be found flocking to stores and waiting in line for hours to get the newest systems. In 2005, people lined up to buy Xbox 360s. In 2006, they waited for Play Station 3s and Nintendo Wiis. According to my boyfriend, Matt, gamers have done this for years—every time a new system has come out.

I’ve never been interested in video games. However, just about every guy I know grew up playing Nintendo and Sega, and still loves video games today. When we were kids, my parents never let my brother have the original Nintendo. But he would go over to my cousin’s house to play Super Mario Brothers. I usually just sat on the couch and read magazines. I don’t think I ever played a game, but my brother still likes them.

In college, my guy friends played video games constantly. When my roommates and I went to their house to hang out after class, we usually ended up watching them play Bond on the Play Station. None of the girls ever played. We just sat with them and complained that they were being antisocial.

Now that Matt and I are together, I’m beginning to understand how important video games can be to some people. When the Nintendo Wii was released last fall, Matt got up at 3:30 a.m. to go wait in line for a video game system—and he got one. The previous time he waited in line, for the Xbox 360 the year before, he was 13th in line and the store only had 12 systems. Perhaps this seems strange to me because I’ve never waited in line for anything to go on sale, except maybe concert tickets.

That night Matt was playing his new Nintendo and I was working on my Christmas cards. The Wii’s controller is unlike other video games because it connects to your arm and senses your movements. This was the big selling point. So Matt was standing in front of the television, waving his arm in the air. To make things more interesting, our perpetually nervous dog was whining in response to his weird motions.

Matt kept yelling at the dog to be quiet and asking me if I wanted to try it, explaining that I would really like this controller. I kept saying no. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk; I really had no interest in trying it. Then I finally asked, “Why do you want me to try it?”
Referring to a couple from the line earlier that morning, he said, “That guy’s girlfriend was into video games.”

I said, “Why don’t you try some of my hobbies? I know, we can read the same book at the same time and then talk about it.”

“Did you actually hear what you just said?” he asked.

“Yeah. We can buy two copies and read them together. Some couples do that,” I said. He stopped asking me to play his video game after that. The risk of having to actually read a book for entertainment was too great.

All the guys I’ve ever known have loved playing video games. Maybe it’s because I tend to hang around with the same type of people, and guys who don’t play video games are completely off my radar—if they even exist. If so, where are they? And why aren’t girls into video games?

I wouldn’t say that I am against video games, and I wouldn’t say that I hate them. But I don’t like to play them—or even try them—because I can think of a million things I would rather be doing, although some people would probably say the same thing about my hobbies. But I don’t know any girls who are into playing video games. I can’t think of a single one, not even a character on television.

I did find an interview on news.com in which a female game developer, Sheri Graner Ray, described her work toward increasing women’s interest in gaming.

“I enjoy gaming so much, and I’m such a hard-core gamer, that I didn’t understand why other women weren’t,” Ray told the interviewer. She also explained that the industry is getting better at appealing to women and that the number of female gamers is growing. So somewhere out there, girls are playing video games. I just don’t know any of them.

The day before the Play Station 3 was released I talked to some people who were waiting in line to get one at Super Wal-Mart in Hardeeville. At noon, there were probably 12-15 people waiting for the game system to go on sale at midnight. Most of these people were guys, but there were a few women. The second person in line was a girl, but she was there with her boyfriend, who was first in line. They were vacationing on the island and had been waiting since the night before to buy the Play Station 3.

The only other girls in line had been there for about an hour. One of them was there on her boyfriend’s behalf. (I told her she was a better girlfriend than me.) And the other girl was there to keep her company.

I’m not sure what draws guys, or girls, to video games, although it seems linked to my generation. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is 33 years old and has been playing for about 12 years. It makes sense that these guys grew up playing video games and are still into it as adults—although I no longer play with Barbie dolls, which was my favorite childhood pastime. When I watch my boyfriend play video games, I still ask myself the same question:“Why?”

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