Confirming what, statistically, about a quarter of your parents have already been telling you, a new Pew Research Center poll shows that 26 percent of Americans consider video games to be a complete waste of time. (This, despite the fine work that millions of their countrymen do every day, assassinating creeds and calling their various duties.) The study (which you can read in full detail here) found that roughly a quarter of respondents said that “most games” were a waste of time, while a larger proportion (33 percent) said it was true for some games but not others, and another 24 percent said it wasn’t true for most games. In a not especially surprising development, those numbers break down pretty cleanly along age lines, with older respondents (50 years old and up) far more likely to denounce these newfangled bleeps and bloops as the infernal stick-and-hoop replacements that they are.
The findings are part of a much wider poll Pew conducted back in July, examining attitudes and identities surrounding gaming, a hobby that has transformed in the last few years into both a billion-dollar entertainment industry and a forest of dry, gasoline-soaked tinder from which daily social-media conflagrations are made. For instance, the study found that equal numbers of men and women play games—whether on a computer, a traditional console like the Playstation 4, or their phone—but that a majority of both men and women believe the skew far more heavily favors males. Roughly 60 percent of respondents, regardless of gender, agreed with the idea that more men play video games than women, even though the study showed that that’s not the case at all. (Interestingly, though, the public perception does bear out if you look only at young adults aged 18 to 29, where men are 20 percent more likely than women to play games, a trend that reverses as respondents grow older. Over 50, women are more likely to game than men.)
The findings became less clear when the questions turned to things like, “Do video games turn you into a well-coordinated, problem-solving, violent psychopath who uses their excellent team-building skills to portray women and minorities in an unflattering light?” (We kind of conflated a couple of different questions there, but you probably get the idea.) For almost all of the questions about the long-term effects of games—both positive and negative—one of the stronger responses was almost always, “We’re not sure,” which might explain all the uncertain side-eye you’ve been getting from everyone watching you walk into your local GameStop at the mall. The one definitive trend that Pew was able to identify with these “attitude” questions was that people who played games (and especially the 10 percent of mostly young males who identify themselves as “gamers”) were far more likely to say that games had a positive effect on their lives.
So there you go: Nobody’s sure if video games make you violent, or smarter. But they definitely can make you think that they’re good for you, which sounds like brainwashing to us. Let’s rev up the Congress and call in the troops; we’re finally gonna get these suckers banned.