Video Games Are Good for You

HAILED AS A TOP TECH MAN AND GAME EXPERT by dozens of publications from USA Today to NPR, Scott Steinberg’s covered business, entertainment and consumer trends for 400+ outlets from Parents to Rolling Stone. A frequent on-air analyst for all major TV networks including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CNN, Steinberg also hosts popular video shows Tech Industry Insider and Game Theory.

The Smoking Jacket: Why does gaming get a bad rap?

Scott Steinberg: The media tends to fixate on the more controversial titles: the Grand Theft Autos and Bulletstorms of the world. It’s certainly more exciting to talk about a game where you go on violent rampages on the streets in a seemingly fictionalized everyday city, than it is to focus on every day subjects. But ultimately what people miss is that the vast majority of games are perfectly suited for family-friendly audiences. And more importantly, what a lot of people don’t realize is that video games are not just for kids. The average players are 37 years old. And they’re not playing in solitude, either. The whole stereotype of the pimply, pizza-faced teenage male who’s a loner sitting in their parents’ basement is completely outdated.

TSJ: Are women playing video games?

SS: There are actually more adult women playing video games these days than teenage males. So old stereotypes—tear them up and flush them down the toilet.

TSJ: But are women playing World of Warcraft?

SS: No, they’re not necessarily playing those titles—they’re playing a spectrum of titles, right.

The whole stereotype of the pimply, pizza-faced teenage male who’s a loner sitting in their parent’s basement is completely outdated.

TSJ: Does working out with Wii count as playing video games?

SS: Actually, you’d be surprised. You’ll laugh at this—I call it the ‘word to your mother’ phenomenon. If you look at the social games, like Farmville, Castleville, Ravenwood Fair, Pet Society… Half are games you can play on Facebook. The free-to-play games on Facebook are used by 39-42 percent women. That’s not to say girls don’t play PC or console games, too.

TSJ: Has this always been the case? Have girls been on board since Atari days or what?

SS: There are so many women playing games now, and I’m not just talking hardcore gamers. Perfectly adjusted women play Guitar Hero, and role-playing games. I know a surprising amount of women who are excited for Mass Effect 3. And that’s something that really pisses me off—where the hell were they when I was a teenage boy?

TSJ: I don’t know. Where were the gamer girls when you were a kid, Scott?

SS: Part of the reason the industry got stereotyped is because you have this industry of nerdy white males making games for nerdy white males. In the early 90s, when it started to get into the fighting games—Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter–you didn’t see a lot of women playing, much to my chagrin. But if you think back to the very beginning, in the late 70s, early 80s, when they were making games like Atari, they were actually making games for everyone. They had titles that were actually meant to be played in bars; the original Kong [for example], was meant to be played in social contexts. [The games] focused on subjects everyone understood. Recently what’s happened is you’ve seen a real cultural change. Women are playing, men are playing, entire families are playing together.

TSJ: What games are these shifting demographics of gamers playing?

SS: The Wii is incredibly popular in nursing homes and on cruise ships, so you have a lot of significantly older players playing. And if you look at the stats again, if you look at Facebook games, what are called social games, there’s a breed of social games where 55+ year-old males [make up] the significant audience.

TSJ: So is part of the shift in audience due to the fact that gaming platforms have changed so much? What are we talking about when we’re talking about video games, these days?

SS: People tend to paint all video games with the same brush. When you say video games now, you’re talking about games you play on your mobile phone, Smartphone games, apps, Cloud Games, PC games, are you talking about augmented reality, are you talking about social games… and what people forget is that there are multiple devices out there–a billion+ cell phones in people’s pockets, and more phones selling than ever. Last I checked there were over 90,000 games in the iPhone App Store. There are over a hundred new apps games introduced for IOS every day. All of which can play dowloaodable apps on demand.

TSJ: So are our brains collectively turning to mush? Is it downhill from here? 

SS: Games are the future of learning. To speak to direct benefits: Would [you rather] sit there, staring at a television, watching Jersey Shore slack-jawed? Or be actively interacting with a game? You can sit in a classroom and be lectured to, or you can be actively using your brain power, and be problem solving. Studies have shown that [when learning via] simulation, vs. a 2-hour Power Point presentation, results are several orders of magnitude more positive. People are performing better, they’re taking more away from the learning sessions, and they’re more apt to retain what they’ve picked up as well. Gaming keeps people engaged.

TSJ: And that definitely sounds like what people should practice telling their moms. 

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Scott Steinberg’s book, From Smartphones to Social Networks, New The Modern Parent’s Guide High-Tech Parenting Books Provide Family Safety Tools is available at: ParentsGuideBooks.com.

Photo: Nate Watters.

Related on The Smoking Jacket:
Six Great Moments in Fox News Getting Video Games Completely Wrong
The Colorful History of Video Game Animation

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