Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 1, 2013

The value in video gaming

Carrie Stambaugh
For The Independent

ASHLAND — Video games are to millennials what pickup backyard baseball games were to our parents.  They’ve been mainstream since we were children and almost everyone in my age group has a preferred gaming system.

Almost everyone, that is, except me.  

I don’t play them. Never have and never intend to.

I have made many attempts over my three decades to begin playing but none have been successful. I remain as inept at mastering the video game controller as I was when “Super Mario Brothers” was all the rage.

I’ve been forced into playing from time to time, but my success comes only from being a first-class button clacker. However, this only really works in games like “Mortal Kombat,” and even then, luck has more to do with my success.

I even tried the Wii, but, after barely missing a television with an escaped controller during a heated bowling match, I quickly abandoned it, too.

Gaming just wasn’t something that was part of my youth. For starters, my family could never afford a system and my parents were much too old school to allow us to park it in front of the TV for any extended length of time.

As a teen, my lack of electronic gaming skills and apathy toward them wasn’t a big deal. When friends insisted on spending time playing them, I attempted in good faith.  Normally. they realized quite quickly I was terrible and we moved on to doing something else.

As I grew into an adult, my continued failure to master the controller at times caused irreparable rifts in relationships. My first college boyfriend would consistently pick playing “Halo” with his buddies over going out to parties on the weekend. After a few weeks of my social life consisting only of sitting on the couch watching him roam around in a Humvee and shoot at things, I decided I was better off single.

This scenario repeated itself a few more times into my early 20s. A few attempted to teach me, but again, their ever-increasing complexity and my ambivalence toward them always spelled disaster.

I simply thought the boys would grow out of them as we grew older. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My husband couldn’t be more perfect for me, but he is an accomplished gamer. A Generation X-er, he has truly been playing them since they were starting to be invented and mastered them all along. He also has absolutely no intention of stopping his play.

Through him, though, I’ve come to see the value in the fantasy world of video games. To start, gaming is a tremendous stress reliever for him. There is no better way to blow off a little steam built up from the demands of the real world then “blowing #*&@ up” in a fictional one, he says.

But there is even more value in them than that.

Over the last decade, through his love of “shooting people” via the Battlefield series, he has forged many lasting international friendships. Technology and a common goal have brought together these individuals.

They spend hours collaborating and talking to one another, joking and laughing via headsets.  The game has even helped him to maintain and strengthen a friendship of more than 30 years, which otherwise would have very little common ground left.

That is something I understand and value.

So this week, when the new version of Battlefield finally launched, I was happy to spend my work week writing to a soundtrack of rattling rifle fire that emanated from the desk a few feet away.