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So I am hanging in Toronto this weekend to visit a friend. She is one of my closest friends—we have known each other for over a decade. Oddly, we met over the Internet. She’s an actor; I visited her fan website for a school assignment and in time, a friendship grew out of our cyber-interaction.

I met quite a few people from this same online community and we have all become very close friends. Not only have we continued our friendships online throughout the years but we have also met offline in several forms, one gathering during a weekend of debauchery in Vegas.

It’s been exciting having these relationships, as we are all so different. While several of us are from the states, there is a woman from South America, one from Australia and quite a few Europeans.

I like that the Internet has helped encourage such diversity by way of relationships. I don’t know that I would have had the opportunity to do some of the things I have done and I certainly would not have met some of the fantastic people I have met if it weren’t for online opportunities.

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We tend to have an image in our minds of people that interact online are all gamers, mostly male, hiding in their basement amongst bags of cheetos and cans of Dr. Pepper.

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(This certainly does not define me; I am not a gamer, nor do I even like Dr. Pepper. Though I have had a cheeto or several in my lifetime.)

Where might this stereotype come from? At what point in our collective ideology was the Internet user constructed as anti-social?

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I open this post with an anecdote about the relationships I have formed to offer an example of how I believe cyberspace actually helps encourage social interaction among people, not limit it. It opens our world to a much bigger space and often helps us understand diversity with the vast access to people different from us, outside our geophysical neighborhoods.

So what do you think? Do you think the Internet has made us socially awkward, as many scholars will argue? Have you met people and formed relationships online with people that you have never met in “real life”? What might the implication be to limit our space to only physical interactions?

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I am not a gamer. I respect the genre and I think it is cool that people do play video games but the fact is, I have neither the coordination, nor the patience. I think it takes a certain kind of person to have the stamina to play a video game repeatedly with an attempt at moving to the next level, achieve the highest score—so not me. Knowing that something will explode, crash, disengage or otherwise crap out under the pressure of a timer pretty much freaks me out.

So I am not in on the gaming culture that exists around competition. But I do know how much games such as WoW and Halo are a part of today’s popular culture. Halo fascinates me—the graphics are amazing.

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When I first saw the game being played, all I could think is that this is a long way from the Pac-Man of my generation.

PacMan

What really baffles me, however, is how completely emotional people get over video games.

I am trying to think of anything that would make me freak out this much. I admit, when a download from iTunes is hitting my computer so slow I can make a sandwich in the time it takes to hit my hard drive, I am not happy. But these meltdowns are nowhere near my level of frustration.

Admittedly, gossip has it that the videos I posted here are fake; I post them anyway, because they model a behavior that is indeed found in relation to gaming. Headlines such as this are getting to be familiar:

“Man Dies of Heart Failure Playing Video Games; played 50 hours non-stop”

What is it about gaming that brings out the worst in people?