May 26, 2006

“It’s just a video game, why don’t you focus on a *real* issue?”

Filed under:News — Lake Desire @ 6:46 am

When critically discussing video games, I often see responses like, “It’s just a video game, why don’t you focus on a real issue?” tekanji has a wonderful new post up on her blog called Debunking the Myth of Frivolty in her new series on understanding pop culture.

She writes:

What I’m trying to say is that when you label an issue as “not real” in an attempt to dismiss the person speaking about it, the word “real” loses all meaning. It becomes shorthand for “things I believe in,” but, guess what? Just because you believe that one thing is more important than another doesn’t invalidate the subject at hand. Novel concept, I’m sure! You don’t think pop culture is important? Great, there’s the back button. Hit it and find a subject that does interest you.

Think studying pop culture, including video games, is a waste of time? Well, we’ve all got different interests. Don’t waste your time by telling us that. Instead, find what you think is a real issue and work on it. No need to come back here and report to us.



  1. A few months ago, Tom Chick wrote a column in CGM that made a similar point, that people often use the “it’s just a game” comment to stifle debate about everything from game design to cheating to social issues in gaming.

    I doubt anyone would say that gaming is more important than Darfur, but using this line to get out from under a debate you don’t want to have is idiocy.

    Comment by Troy Goodfellow (10 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 6:53 am

  2. I’m really loving tekanji’s series.

    This also makes me think of how so many times growing up (well, I guess I still hear it now and then) the old “It’s a just a joke” argument.

    Comment by 100littledolls (46 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 7:41 am

  3. It didn’t hurt any less when I was called a bitch or a slut when I was a teen when the “it’s just a joke” qualifier was added. In fact, I felt worse because I was the one with the problem for getting upset.

    Troy Goodfellow, welcome to NG+. The “it’s just a game” defense really colonizes a discussion by invalidating what’s important to people and doesn’t do any justice to the “real” issues. Do you know if that article is online? I’d love to read it.

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 7:49 am

  4. Thanks for the welcome. I’ve been reading on and off for a while now.

    None of CGM’s content is online, but I can track down the month of the column if you like.

    Comment by Troy Goodfellow (10 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 8:02 am

  5. If it isn’t too out of your way. I’ll try to find a copy at the library.

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 8:25 am

  6. It was longer ago than I remembered…September 2004, back page. And it focuses exclusively on game design. The money paragraphs are as follow:

    “‘It’s just a game’ is an insidious counterpoint in conversations about computer games. It’s a way to shut down complaints about any game, ever. Do you think Halo should have co-op multiplayer? Do you wish the AI wasn’t awful in Command and Conquer: Generals? Did the copy protection in Painkiller make it so you couldn’t play? Are you dismayed that your sidekicks in Daikatana get killed by doors?

    “Well, jeez, it’s just a game. It’s not a cure for cancer. It’s not a turning point in history. It’s not a scandal, or a TV show, or even a soft drink. It’s ‘just a game’, which is a pretty low place on the scale of inconsequential, somewhere in the neighborhood of ‘just a little joke,’ and ‘just a figure of speech.’”

    The article doesn’t mention social issues, but I’m sure that Tom would probably agree that “it’s just a game” has to be the dumbest rebuttal to criticism of racial/gender stereotyping/discrimination/invisibility in games.

    BTW, I highly recommended subscribing to CGM. Last month’s article on the history of sex in games was quite thorough. Of course, I write for them, so I may be a little biased…

    Comment by Troy Goodfellow (10 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 8:44 am

  7. Thank you for posting the quotes. I’ll grab an issue next time I’m at the bookstore. I’m all about biases, really.

    Comment by Lake Desire (208 comments) — May 27, 2006 @ 11:03 am

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