Kids, if you’re ever approached by a mainstream-news outlet to be interviewed on the topic of gaming, run. Far away. In the opposite direction. And ask for an adult.
My first (and arguably last) opportunity to learn this hard lesson came in the form of an ambiguous email last Thursday morning from Marianne Dimain from Global Toronto. The ensuing phone call was the hook: Recent studies show that blah blah blah gaming is bad for relationships blah blah blah. As the former Editor-in-Chief of a site dedicated to couples and gaming, was I available to discuss how gaming can work in relationships despite the fact that I was half asleep and had mere hours to prepare? Hell, indeed.
I called up Gar Wan Toy from A & C Games and asked him if we could score some space; he graciously offered A & C World downstairs for our needs. When I arrived, Gar was being interviewed by Marianne: She asked him how many hours per day he plays video games; he answered that, with work and his current relationship, he really only plays for about an hour per day…
… the first flag was raised when she asked him how many hours per day he played at the peak of his gaming heyday…
… but then they discussed other things, like how he balances gaming with the time he spends with his girlfriend; he said that it’s time to put the controller down when she calls; it’s all about balance. Marianne then asked him if he knew of any couples who have had problems in their relationships because of gaming. Well, doesn’t any gamer who co-owns a multi-level gaming complex?
As they set up for my interview, Gar ran upstairs to grab FFVII for me (because he’s awesome). The second flag was raised when the camera was set up at an upwards angle (I don’t always have a double chin but, when I do…), but I answered each of Marianne’s questions in a way that, I hoped, would clearly express my point of view.
Gaming, I explained, is not the cause; it’s a symptom. You could replace the word “gaming” with “gambling” or “shopping” or “macramé” and it’s the same issue: If a hobby is taking over the quality time you spend with your partner, it translates into a lack of communication. That said, when you have two people who game (or gamble or shop or macramé) together all the time instead of spending “other” time together (yes, like looking at dogs), it’s another issue; a shared addiction is still an addiction. But gaming is not the cause.
Marianne then asked me if my husband and I fell in love because of our shared love of video games. Not at all, I replied. We came together through mutual attraction, witty banter, and a shared sense of humour. In fact, the topic didn’t come up at first and, when it did, it was a pleasant surprise. We’re just two people in a relationship who have other interests and hobbies and who just happen to like video games.
She then thanked us both for our time and I bade Gar adieu before jetting home to agonize over every last detail of the previous hour. But then I forgot about it. And then I saw this:
In retrospect, it might be argued that the answers we gave were not the ones that were expected and, since the story pitch that was approved was geared towards supporting whatever study said that gaming was bad (and scaring the hell out of my parents when the preview for the piece showed my wedding photo with the words “GAME OVER” splashed across it), she had to do what she could to make the footage fit. In fact, my old pal Ryan Creighton from Untold Entertainment came to me this morning with a similar tale of woe. But that still doesn’t make it cool.
Look, news outlets, I don’t care if you know nothing about the demographic that the study you’re reporting is looking to debase; that’s why you interview people. And when you don’t get the answers you’re looking for, here’s a protip: Don’t use the footage! If you want to talk to me about stuff I’m passionate about, ask me and then air it without shaping it to your anti-stuff-I’m-passionate-about agenda.
Taking answers out of context just makes people angry. And you wouldn’t like Toronto gamers when they’re angry.