That’s the assertion made by Dr. Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan in their book, The Demise of Guys.
Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?
Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.
The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.
Granted, any pursuit or consumption taken to excess can have negative (up to and including deleterious) effects on the person engaging therein. And yes, pursuits or consumption repeated often over a span of time can become habitual. And yes, habits can morph into addictions, which in turn can have all manner of negative consequences for both the person engaging in the activity in question and the people around him (or, for that matter, her).
But what evidence do Dr. Zimbardo (love that name!) and Ms. Duncan offer in support of their alarmist “end of men” screed?
Stories about this degeneration are rampant: In 2005, Seungseob Lee, a South Korean man, went into cardiac arrest after playing “StarCraft” for nearly 50 continuous hours. In 2009, MTV’s “True Life” highlighted the story of a man named Adam whose wife kicked him out of their home — they have four kids together — because he couldn’t stop watching porn.
…Norwegian mass murder suspect Anders Behring Breivik reported during his trial that he prepared his mind and body for his marksman-focused shooting of 77 people by playing “World of Warcraft” for a year and then “Call of Duty” for 16 hours a day.
Rampancy is three extreme examples?
In programming, we call these sorts of things “edge cases”: situations that occur only at the boundaries of a sitauation. They are extreme cases, rather than the norm, within the normal operation of a program.
So too here. Yes, it’s awful that people become so obsessed with games that they would choose to play them rather than eat, and subsequently starve. Yes, it’s horrible that people become so obsessed with porn that it causes marital breakup. And yes, it’s terrible to contemplate that a violent-minded racist would use a video game to condition himself for a murderous rampage.
But are these extreme examples the profile of the typical “plugged in” adult male? Is it fair to paint all men as “out of sync” because a subset of men get carried away?
Let’s turn the situation around for a moment: would it be fair to label all women as being unrealistic in their romantic expectations because some women are all but addicted to romance novels and (amazingly!) can’t find a suitor who stacks up to the men they read about in the torrid pages of said books? Would it be fair to label all women as “out of sync” stimulation junkies because some women play Facebook games every waking hour of every day, to the detriment of their children and pets? Would it be fair to label all wives who have gamer husbands as brooding psychopaths just waiting for a chance to explode into violence because it’s possible to find examples of wives who have beaten their gamer husbands?
Of course not. None of those generalizations is even remotely fair. And not all women are like that.
So too men who game. Not all of them are like Mr. Brevik, or Mr. Lee, or the surname-free Adam cited above.
…brains are also totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting.
The traditional school model is broken anyway. It was fine back when society was primarily agrarian, but society and technology have evolved since then, and the education system has a lot of catch-up to play.
My eldest child, at just 3 years of age, is whip-smart, substantially more articulate than her same-aged peers (and even some older children), able to recite the alphabet and identify most letters by sound and name, and able count to at least 20. She’s also no slouch when it comes to a few iPhone games that my wife and I have picked up over the course of the last year. Is she going to be bored when she starts kindergarten? Probably, yes. Will that be the fault of the games we let her play? Heck no.
Not that some people wouldn’t try and lay the blame with games, the same way they would have done with television two decades ago. Which is, ultimately, my point: games are the scapegoat du jour.
Guys are also totally out of sync in romantic relationships, which tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until “the time is right.”
Ugh…don’t get me started.
I think Dave Thier at Forbes said it best: “It isn’t really worth talking about the ways in which the article fails to understand any of the nuance of the gaming world or the ways in which people interact with it – the lines are drawn here, and those who prefer to look at the world like it was in the 1950s aren’t reading gaming blogs.”