chapter  16
11 Pages

Game over: calling time on kidult accounts of masculinity

ByDAVID WEBSTER

Video or computer games2 are often rated as 18+ – for adults only. We don’t blink when we notice that shops selling video games are full of adult men – making purchases for themselves. Extending this type of play into adulthood, most notably for young men, has become rapidly accepted as a cultural norm. While acknowledging that constructions of what it was to be a man in the past also included the idea of certain ‘hobbies’, the penetration of ‘pure play’ as represented by video games might be argued to be qualitatively distinct. Might these games construct a myopic account of masculinity in their in-game milieus?

There’s play and then there’s play. This might sound like a banal commonplace, or a profound response to a Zen koan. Nonetheless, what I mean is that we need to be cautious. Too often those associated with the world of play, playwork and the philosophy around sport and games tend to gaze upon the notion of ‘play’ with, in evaluative or ethical terms, rather a benign and misty eye. While my ultimate concern here is not the ethically variable nature of whatever play is, that must be my first. It should not take too much reflection on the nature of play to establish its ethically variable status. Play can be a means to reconsider the nature and purpose of human existence, it can be fun, and it can lead us to healthier, happier lives. However, play could also exist in a context of bullying, abuse of power and malice. Some play may lead to outcomes we desire and approve, but there is no reason that we might not also see play as potentially leading to a validating of the strong over the weak, the denigration of the losing and the enforcement of pernicious hierarchies. Play is, in a literal sense, what we make of it.