If you aspire to unnaturally prolong virginity, develop Napoleon Dynamite’s social skills, and project a pasty, amoeba-like appearance to the world, video games remain a great way to achieve your goals.
Last week, 40,000 Koreans packed into the same stadium that hosted the World Cup twelve years ago to cheer on the League of Legends World Championship, a video game tournament to determine the best team of gamers on the planet. Like winning an ugly contest, victory in a competition of losers strikes as the opposite of capturing a World Cup. The cheering throngs, certainly more pathetic than the cheered, loudly disagreed.
Korea’s Samsung Galaxy White won the competition in front of the home audience. The fifth-place Americans remain far behind the Koreans and Chinese at prolonging adolescence in their moms’ basements. Fear
not, thousands of unemployed American twentysomethings do their best to wrong this right.
“Video games are a waste of time for men with nothing else to do,” Ray Bradbury, a pre-digital age nerds’ nerd, reflected before his death. “Real brains don’t do that. On occasion? Sure. As relaxation? Great. But not full time—and a lot of people are doing that. And while they’re doing that, I’ll go ahead and write another novel.”
Gamers perhaps play as too easy a target, which partly explains the exuberance with which journalists pursue the backers of GamerGate, a player rebellion against reviewers judging products based on payouts—financial, sexual, and otherwise. The counterrevolt portrays the gamer community as sexist white males resistant to change, Xbox Tea Partiers if you will.
Breitbart London’s Milo Yiannopoulos details the “widespread frustration from players that every blog out there seems more concerned with policing and ‘transphobia’ than reviewing the latest game releases.” Gamers, he says, are “sick of being lectured to and guilt-tripped on a daily basis by hypocrites and liars.”
Hopefully, the politicized attacks encourage gamers to pursue new hobbies. Surely transforming intelligent players into doers, pleasure seekers into creators, would be a beautiful outcome to this ugly controversy.
Transforming a soccer stadium into a video arcade, on the other hand, stands as a sacrilege to athleticism. The American Library Association’s International Games Day appears as a more massive affront to the last remaining refuges of contemplation in a noisy world.
On November 15, libraries across the globe will host a video-game tournament featuring a Hunger Games version of Minecraft. Finding video games the opposite of books, I queried librarians four years ago why they would turn a bibliophile’s paradise into a boardwalk arcade. “Video games have evolved and instead of being endurance tests designed to eat up quarters,” a Newport Beach librarian maintained, “they have become a medium to deliver sophisticated, emotionally charged stories.” The librarians imagined glazed-over players as pursuing a new form of literature and rationalized that youngsters, once coaxed into their institutions, might check out Call of the Wild after checking out Call of Duty. But as the ALA’s website explains, “In the 21st century, libraries are about much more than books.”
Instead of International Games Day, might I suggest International No Games Day?
This adult holiday marks a special 24-hour period when gamers stop living in a pretend world of Azeroth and the Island of Myst and the Floating Air City of Columbia and start facing reality—finding gainful employment, asking a girl out, jogging around the block a few times, washing their sweatpants.
Such scenario would strike some as almost the end of the world, which happens to be the title of a story by that curmudgeonly critic of video games, the late Ray Bradbury. Therein, sunspots knock out broadcast reception. “All that blankness, that empty stuff falling down, falling down inside our television sets, oh, I tell you, it gave everyone the willies,” a barber informs of the moment clear picture turned to black-and-white fuzz. “It was like a good friend who talks to you in your front room and suddenly shuts up and lies there, pale, and you know he’s dead and you begin to turn cold yourself.”
People once attached to screens become reattached to one another. They paint homes, bowl, hold keg parties, play public concerts. Bradbury playfully calls the cataclysmic, television-killing event “the great Oblivion,” which even careless readers realize more accurately refers to life tethered to the Idiot Box than liberated from it.
Bradbury didn’t live to see screaming Koreans cheering on eSports stars. Unfortunately, the man who attended the Los Angeles Public Library for four years instead of paying for college and wrote Fahrenheit 451 on coin-operated typewriters in the basement of UCLA’s library, lived to see the American Library Association sponsor a global video-game tournament. Something wicked this way comes.