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Bartle to old guard: "We've already won"


In a wonderful, feel-good-story-of-the-year type of article, Richard Bartle, the father of online gaming, has written a laudable rant in the Guardian, essentially informing the old school haters that they're officially obsolete. You know the ones -- every reporter making a quick buck off of the party line that videogames are dangerous to our psyches; every politician riding the easy ticket of attacking our hobby in the name of protecting the children; every concerned parental activist group calling for the heads of the developers who worked on our chosen pastime -- Bartle has given them notice.

In his delightfully-worded article, Bartle reminds us all that these witch hunts are generational: previously, it was television; before that, the enemy was rock 'n' roll, comic books, even the novel. People fear what they don't understand, and aggression is what they employ to mask that fear. Every previous generation seeks to destroy the entertainment of the new generation, and for our age, it's the videogame that's under fire. Bartle understands this and quite calmly uses this knowledge to signal an end to the previous generation's influence. Yet he doesn't just condemn, he also offers a way out.

"Times change: accept it; embrace it," he says, citing the fact that this generation's parents have grown up playing games themselves, and well understand far better than any previous generation exactly how this chosen form of entertainment works, and how it shapes minds -- after all, it's helped shape theirs. And at the end of it all, these parents aren't afraid for their sons and daughters; in fact, they're right there in the trenches with them, playing games alongside them, daring to -- horror of horrors -- get involved in what their kids do.

Because that's the one element that the old school always manages to ignore in their rage and vitriol: if you don't involve yourself in your children's lives, you don't get to complain when your kids go off the rails. Kids learn by emulation. They are natural mimics. But just because they copy behaviors and speech doesn't mean that they understand them, or their consequences. That's the job of their parents, to explain the way the world works to minds that are trying as best they can, with their limited understanding, to make sense of it all. Despite what Hallmark would have you believe, kids aren't little adults; that implies critical thought quite beyond their experience. One cannot let the television raise one's child and expect that it will instill in them patience, compassion, tolerance, empathy -- in short, all the attributes shown lacking in kids who attack other kids in schools and at home.

But we understand that it's easier to put the fault on anyone other than oneself. Those who lead the charge against videogames do so because it's easier to point fingers at others than to look at their own failings. And it's not difficult to imagine that while they're organizing their attack, their kids are sitting at home amusing themselves, unsupervised, with (hopefully) videogames, or scarier, the Web.

Regardless, Richard Bartle has spoken the minds of so many of us, and in no uncertain terms. The best quote of this rant? "Call them social inadequates if you like, but when they have more friends in World of Warcraft than you have in your entire sad little booze-oriented culture of a real life, the most you'll get from them is pity."

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