Thanks to the combination of increasing popularity, particularly in the mobile sector, the release of a new generation of consoles, and the incentive of audiences looking to find social connections at safe distances, the video gaming industry is booming for 2021 and beyond.

However, tarred as an unhealthy subculture, gaming and video games often incite a number of stereotypical images. Popular mainstream media depict gaming as an activity for socially inept nerds who are desensitized to the world around them.

Courtesy: Think with Google

As a result of this media portrayal, people are fretting about their or their children’s attraction to gaming, imagining that they might grow up devoid of social skills and harbouring warped senses of reality.

Looking back at the things we believed as we toiled away bringing Bowser to heel, slaying the devil, and even getting Roadhog to snatch that pesky Pharah out of the sky, we have been fooled again and again regarding the gaming industry. Here are the 10 most popular stereotypes about video game that’s been spit out to mislead us as we rescued countless princesses, laid dragons low, and won WWII seven hundred thousand times in every possible way.

1. The availability of video games has led to an epidemic of youth violence

This is probably the most popular misconception about video games. Despite its notoriety, no study has been able to prove the causation between playing video games and exhibiting violent or aggressive behaviour.

Researchers have instead found that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It’s true that young offenders who have committed violent acts have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers and the overwhelming majority of kids who play do not commit antisocial acts.

video games make people violent
Courtesy: Financial Times

The moral panic over violent video games is doubly harmful. In reality, video games can provide cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social benefits. Playing video games can enhance a child’s problem-solving and spatial skills, and in one study, it was suggested that “shooter game players allocate their attentional resources more efficiently and filter out irrelevant information more effectively”.

It is also important to be aware of what you are playing and to discuss your achievements after you play. These conversations can be a great opportunity to discuss morals, set goals, and further engage with the activity you love.

2. Scientific evidence links violent game play with youth aggression

Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent one relatively narrow school of research, “media effects”. This research includes some 300 studies of media violence. But most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds.

video games and violence
Courtesy: The New York Times

In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context. Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand. Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played.

Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. That’s why the vague term “links” is used here.

If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor – when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences — which can contribute to anti-social behaviour. But no research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.

3. Children are the primary market for video games

While most kids do play video games, the centre of the video game market has shifted to older as the first generation of gamers continues to play into adulthood. Already 62 percent of the console market and 66 percent of the PC market is age 18 or older. The game industry caters to adult tastes more than that of children.

There seems to be a huge contradiction between the view of the child gamer and the gaming industry itself. With more and more games coming out with 18+ ratings, we can argue that in reality, at least in part, the ideal gamers are adults.

adults play video game
Courtesy: Milton Marketing

This is not to say kids don’t play games, or that they aren’t a major part of the market, or even that they aren’t playing games that they may be too young for, but if developers are creating games with adult content, then it stands to reason that they are aimed at adults.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, many people ignore game launches and ratings because they assume that games are for kids. One quarter of children aged 11 to 16 identify an M-Rated (Mature Content) game as among their favourites. Clearly, more should be done to restrict advertising and marketing that targets young consumers with mature content, and to educate parents about the media choices they are facing.

4. Almost no girls play computer games

Contrary to popular belief, video games aren’t dominated by 12-year-old boys. Video gaming is clearly not merely a child’s pastime and definitely not relegated to a boy’s club.

Historically, the video game market has been predominantly male. However, the percentage of women playing games has steadily increased over the past decade. Women now slightly outnumber men playing web-based games.

Spurred by the belief that games were an important gateway into other kinds of digital literacy, efforts were made in the mid-90s to build games that appealed to girls. More recent games such as The Sims were huge crossover successes that attracted many women who had never played games before.

women in gaming

Given the historic imbalance in the game market and among people working inside the game industry, the presence of sexist stereotyping in games is hardly surprising. Yet it’s also important to note that female game characters are often portrayed as powerful and independent.

Excluding half the population from the gaming conversation prevents girls from reaping the benefits listed at the beginning of this post. It discourages them from pursuing tech hobbies and then careers, which in turn limits the variety of games being produced, and thus perpetuates the cycle.

In his book Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones argues that young girls often build upon these representations of strong women warriors as a means of building up their self confidence in confronting challenges in their everyday lives.

5. Gaming is socially isolating

Like most stereotypes, what people believe about a particular group is totally detached from the truth and partly based on representations in movies and popular culture. Not all French people wear berets and eat croissants every day; likewise, not all gamers are weird-o loners.

Many people, in fact, enjoy gaming as a shared activity. Studies show that 54 percent of frequent gamers feel their hobby helps them to connect with friends, and 45 percent use gaming as a way to spend time with their family.

interactive gaming
Courtesy: The Conversation

Even games designed for single players are often played socially, with one person giving advice to another holding a joystick. A growing number of games are designed for multiple players — for either cooperative play in the same space or online play with distributed players.

Gamers interacting with one another aren’t unusual. Specific hobbies have their own dedicated social networks. In the same way as sports enthusiasts like to keep up with news about their favourite sports stars, but might not be comfortable sharing this on normal social media, gamers prefer dedicated channels to share gaming content such as in-game achievements, game stats and other relevant news and media.

Scientists and sociologists observed online communities interact with and react to violent video games. In this way, there are really two games taking place simultaneously – one, the explicit conflict and combat on the screen; the other, the implicit cooperation and comradeship between the players. Two players may be fighting to death on screen and growing closer as friends off screen. Social expectations are reaffirmed through the social contract governing play, even as they are symbolically cast aside within the transgressive fantasies represented onscreen.

6. Video game play is desensitizing

Classic studies of play behaviour among primates suggest that apes make basic distinctions between play fighting and actual combat. In some circumstances, they seem to take pleasure wrestling and tousling with each other. In others, they might rip each other apart in mortal combat.

Many play theorists describe the ways we understand play as distinctive from reality as entering the “magic circle.” The same action, say, sweeping a floor  may take on different meanings in play, as in playing house,  than in reality in the form of housework.

gaming myths
Courtesy: Business Insider

Gaming allows kids to express feelings and impulses that have to be carefully held in check in their real-world interactions. Media reformers argue that playing violent video games can cause a lack of empathy for real-world victims. Yet, a child who responds to a video game the same way he or she responds to a real-world tragedy could be showing symptoms of being severely emotionally disturbed.

Here’s where the media effects research, which often uses punching rubber dolls as a marker of real-world aggression, becomes problematic. The kid who is punching a toy designed for this purpose is still within the “magic circle” of play and understands her actions on those terms. Such research shows us only that violent play leads to more violent play.

7. Video games are not a meaningful form of expression

Video games have become an unexpected form of culture because people are looking to create games that are not just fun to play, but send a message to the player as well.

In the early days of games, they could only trigger simple emotions. They weren’t sophisticated enough to provoke more than primitive responses, like fear, adrenaline, or the simple release of dopamine. It was much harder to provoke anything more complex than that. Many early games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved.

games is a form of expression
Courtesy: Minecraft Forum

But there’s been an evolution in games in the last few years. Not only did game developers themselves age, but we’re also targeting different demographics now. People who grew up playing games, became adults, and wanted to play something else. Today’s games allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences.

Games have started to inspire new forms of interaction, and new gameplay paradigms. Games like Final Fantasy VII, Ico, Heavy Rain, Okami, The Unfinished Swan, and Journey offer new types of experiences that put forward a totally new approach to what games could be, and the types of audiences it could attract.

The Sims designer Will Wright argues that games are perhaps the only medium that allows us to experience guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. But in playing a game, we choose what happens to the characters. In the right circumstances, we can also be encouraged to examine our own values by seeing how we behave within virtual space.

8. Video games are addictive

In the summer of 2018, the World Health Organization formally included “gaming disorder” in its diagnostic manual, the International Classification of Diseases, for the first time. It was a decision that ignited a furious debate in the academic community.

One group of scholars argued that such a diagnostic label will provide greater access to treatment and financial help for those experiencing genuine harm from playing video games. Others argued that the decision was premature; that the scientific evidence for gaming addiction simply wasn’t accurate or meaningful enough.

video game addiction
Courtesy: Video Game Addiction

The major part of the problem lies in the checklists used to determine whether a disorder exists or not. Historically, the criteria for gaming addiction were derived from those used for other sorts of addiction. While that might be a reasonable place to start, it might not tell us the whole story about what the unique aspects of gaming addiction look like.

For example, one of the standard criteria is that people become preoccupied with games, or start playing them exclusively, instead of engaging in other hobbies. However, these don’t sit very well as a benchmark for what you might consider to be “harmful” engagement, because games themselves, unlike abused drugs, are not inherently harmful.

Also, using this as a criterion has the potential to inflate the prevalence of addiction. While there will be people out there for whom gaming can become problematic, the chances are that this is a small group. Moreover, some research suggests that gaming addiction is fairly short-lived. Data looking at players over a six-month period has shown that of those who initially exhibited the diagnostic criteria for addiction, none met the threshold at the end of the study.

This is not to say there isn’t anything about games to be worried about. Increasingly, and particularly in the case of mobile games, gambling-like mechanisms in the form of in-app purchases and loot boxes are being used as sources of income.

Here, some emerging research suggests a correlation between people who spend money purchasing loot boxes to acquire new in-game items and scores on measures of problematic gambling. While the cause of this relationship is yet to be identified, it surely points to the fact that there are some aspects of games marketing and monetisation that we need to be wary of.

9. Gaming is a meaningless waste of time

Games are a waste of time. Some games are even specifically designed to be a waste of time. But gaming isn’t any more wasteful than reading a book is, for instance, or watching a movie. It’s also no less, either.

The real trouble is video games have spent so many years lying beyond the realm of acceptability – scorned and derided and steeped in unhelpful stereotypes that we’ve collapsed under the weight of trying to get our hobby taken as seriously as other forms of entertainment. We frantically push for games to be accepted as a valid and celebrated art form because they very much can be a valid and celebrated art form.

gaming is not time wasting
Courtesy: The Conversation

However, this doesn’t mean they can’t also be a waste of time. Like any other hobby anywhere on the face of the planet, there are good points and bad points, and there are positives and negatives. Some movies and books and songs might change your life. Some won’t. The same can be said for just about any hobby, including video games.

Gaming being considered harmfully addictive comes from a misunderstanding about the creative power that games possess. They provide us with an opportunity to experience our world and other fantastical places in a way no other form of media comes close to.

English game writer and novelist Naomi Alderman once said, “While all art forms can elicit powerful emotions, only games can make their audience feel the emotion of agency. A novel can make you feel sad, but only a game can make you feel guilty for your actions”.

Video games place you at the centre of the story – you are an active participant, instead of a passive observer. They offer us a safe place to interrogate and test the emotional consequences of our actions. Far from being a meaningless waste of time, then, games help us explore what it means to be human, to explore notions of love and loss, and to allow us to travel to far-off incredible places, to become incredible people – all from the comfort of our own home.

10. Gaming is an unstable career path

India is a country where people spend a lot in a month to watch movies with friends and family. But what about gaming? Both movies and games are for entertainment but the difference is gaming is just a bit better. There is no point in denying the fact because games need interaction, participation.

In a game, the player himself is the Hero, but in movies, it’s not the case. That interaction is what calls people back to gaming again and again. There is a limit to the imagination in movies, but gaming is beyond limits.

career options in gaming
Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

For years, gaming was seen as a futile hobby, but times are changing now. It is becoming a billion dollar market, where developers and even gamers are earning more than a regular employee can ever imagine. Esports is becoming extremely popular and people from all over the world are participating in Esports competitions wherever they held across the Globe.

Any entertainment system needs fans and followers to become successful and gaming has millions of them. Many gamers are now streaming their gameplay through the internet and millions of gaming fans are watching them. Sites like Twitch, YouTube and many are providing a platform for gamers to stream their content.

Gaming is a highly competitive sector, but you can still wear the crown if there is a good balance of creativity, fun and technology.