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Video Gamers Looking For Meaning, Order and Certainty

The numbers for the $100 billion video game industry are astonishing:

  • 155 million Americans play video games.
  • 40% play a minimum of 3 hours per week.
  • At least 34 million play about 22 hours per week.
  • Five million surpass 40 hours weekly.
  • The revenues collected by the industry rivals that of professional sports, motion pictures, and television.

Why the obsession? Cultural critic Frank Guan examines the gaming craze and offers some possibilities for the mania and passion.

First, "games make sense." The rules are clear to all. According to Guan, "The purpose of a game, within it, unlike in society, is directly recognized and never discounted." Second, you are always the protagonist. "Unlike with film and television, where one has to watch the acts of others, in games, one is an agent within it." And, third, they are utterly convenient. The gamer never has "to leave the house to compete, explore, commune, exercise agency, or be happy, and the game possesses the potential to let one do all of these at once." Fourth, the game might be challenging, "but in another sense it is literally designed for a player to succeed."

No wonder Guan concludes by stressing the escapist nature of video games:

"[Video games] solve the question of meaning in a world where transcendent values have vanished … We turn to games when real life fails us—not merely in touristic fashion but closer to the case of emigrants, fleeing a home that has no place for them … . Life is terrifying; why not, then, live through what you already know?"

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