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12/2/2007
06:06 PM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Who's The Child Now, Or Wii (Why) Most Adults Don't Play Video Games

I got the heck beat out of me a few months back, when commenters vehemently objected to my characterization of Xbox 360 gaming -- and by implication, PS2, Gameboy, and Wii as well -- as an activity appropriate mainly for children. ("If you're like me -- older than 14 -- you're curious as to what all the fuss is about," was how I put it.) Now, I've got some evidence to back up that opinion, in the form of

I got the heck beat out of me a few months back, when commenters vehemently objected to my characterization of Xbox 360 gaming -- and by implication, PS2, Gameboy, and Wii as well -- as an activity appropriate mainly for children. ("If you're like me -- older than 14 -- you're curious as to what all the fuss is about," was how I put it.) Now, I've got some evidence to back up that opinion, in the form of a survey conducted by AOL Games and the Associated Press.Of course, one need not buttress an opinion with quantitative data -- it's an opinion, after all -- but the comments to my post "Halo 3 Record Launch Seen Through Gamers' Eye" were so single-minded in their attempt to kill the messenger, rather than deal with the implications of a remark with an admittedly less-than-positive spin, that I'm actually kind of glad that the AP poll might revive the discussion (post your comment below).

Back in September, the responses I got were all of the "so's your mother" variety. Stuff like a commenter named Stuart, who wrote: "Ha ha, I'm 37 and have been waiting for this game for ages. I guess the author has no fun in his life." Or an unnamed respondent ("Guest") who vented: "Well that is a stupid thing to say. I'm over 14 and I bought the game. I guess I'm not normal like you."

My favorite was from another anonymous guest, who posted: "I am 38 years old (39 on November 1). I am an attorney, and, for my private life, have diverse and numerous interests. One of them happens to be video games. Others include, but are not limited to, ballroom dance, sports and fitness, reading classic literature and writing poetry."

Methinks this gentleman doth protest too much, but I have to say I'm impressed with his apparent energy level. Me, I can barely manage to work, write a blog post a day, and help my kid with his homework. But I digress. (Yeah, I know, that's the whole point with video games.)

However, it seems from theAOL Games/AP poll that my correspondents are in the minority. The poll found that 62% of adults don't play video games. On the other hand, 81% of youngsters ages four to 17 do engage in game play.

One of the objectives of the survey was to see if kids' game playing enticed their parents to join in. The answer is, not quite half. Specifically, 43% of parents whose children play video games don't participate.

It's interesting that the initial AP story on the survey focused mainly on this parents-and-kids dynamic. Its headline was "Many Parents Avoid Video Games With Kids." The information about adults' game-playing proclivities, which to me is much more interesting, was hidden so deep with the AP story that it didn't even come out until TechDispenser, Gamertell, and Fox News Online did stories off the poll.

I think that's because the AP writers mistakenly thought they had some kind of significant news hook with their "adults don't play, too" finding. No, they didn't; the explanation is obvious. Of course, parents don't join in when their kids are playing video games. First off, they're not welcome.

More important, any kid worth his salt would dispense with one or both parents in short order. I know my nine-year-old son has made video mincemeat out of me in Naruto or Dragon Ball Z or whatever his latest anime dueling game is called. The only games in which I've been able to hold my own are Hockey and Basketball. (We have old copies of NHL 2001 and NBA Live 2004, which I got off the $9 table at GameStop.) I'd do better, but I can't seem to commit the 57 different finger command sequences to memory.

In conclusion, there is one interesting exception to my thesis. This would be Nintendo's Wii, which has carved out a niche as the only console that truly does offer gaming for all ages. Youngsters can play their usual kill, crush, and destroy games. But because Wii offers realistic experiences with golf, bowling, and other games folks of all ages have played in real life, it's turning up in bars and senior-citizen centers as the console for the rest of us.

So if you want to say there are games for adults, I'll agree with you if we're talking about the Wii. If you play the other stuff, that's fine, but don't blame me for pointing out that most video games are, at best, aimed at the inner child in all of us.

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