Of course I don't think video games invented short tempers or intolerance, and who knows what kind of person I'd be if I was born into a different era. My belief is only that game mechanics make these traits worse in people who are already susceptible ... which I now believe is a huge fucking chunk of the population.
Look at it like gambling. Some people's brains react strongly to risk-taking, and those people are the ones who get addicted to gambling, which makes them even more addicted to risk-taking. They're only a minority, but we still study the effects and warn people.
For someone like me, who had anger management problems as a kid (and is from a family of males who all have them), games hit me in a different way from the start -- that's why they've always been a soothing retreat. In a game, an enemy that takes two hours to beat is considered brutally difficult. An enemy that takes 20 hours to beat is borderline glitched. Now you turn off the game and step out into the real world, where you can pour your whole being into fighting problems that won't even show a scratch after 50,000 hours. Bad people show up in your life, and 60 years later, they're being obnoxious at your funeral.
My fear, then, is that games and the gamification of social interaction hurt our overall level of tolerance. That as a society, this trains us to be so impatient with problems that instead of seeing them through to a resolution, we are satisfied with solutions that make them merely disappear from our screens.
"Hey, we got the bad guy banned from Twitter! We win! On to the next target."
"But he just switched platforms, and his fans are still brainwashed-"
"On to the next target."
Games are great at giving you novelty to create an artificial sense of progression, showing you something new and different to fight down every hallway. We try to force real life to conform. Here's a new outrage, here's our response, here's the somewhat satisfying resolution (the perpetrator of said outrage has been suitably dragged, maybe some headlines about lost sponsors or something), and then on to the next one. Last year's controversies are boring. Do we still have troops in Afghanistan? Is Flint's water safe to drink? Did the DACA thing get resolved? What happened with all of those refugees that used to be in the news every day?
It doesn't matter. We've moved on to the next level, because many of us aren't doing this to save the world -- we're doing it to keep ourselves entertained. Up-vote the stuff we disagree with, snark at the stuff we don't, watch the Likes accumulate, and convince ourselves we won. It's all game, something to kill time.
Aside from the data linked at the top about how heavy gamers lose impulse control and frustration tolerance, it is likely impossible to test my theory about the wider implications on culture. What I'd like to do is at least talk about it, rather than let the conversation be dominated by confused old men who think video game mass shootings train kids for real ones. We know that's not true. My thing might still be.
David Wong is the Executive Editor at Cracked, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook or on YouTube or on Instagram.
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