This morning I read an article from the Wall Street Journal by author Kay Hymowitz entitled “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” Usually, I enjoy a rant against my gender, but reading what Hymowitz wrote made me unbelievably furious. The piece, linked below, is simply an assault on gamers and “nerds,” one that trivializes our medium and uses it to generalize men in a way that is unfair. It ignores an entire generation’s ideals as a whole, while trying to revitalize that the antiquated concept of the nuclear family is the only respectable path to follow for adults.
At the center of the piece is Hymowitz’s disapproval of men’s chosen pastimes. According to Hymowitz, our heroes are Seth Rogen, Luke and Owen Wilson and Will Farrell, “overgrown boy actors” who do nothing but laugh and encourage beer pong, crotch shots and pranks while playing video games and indulging in prodigious porn habits. In her eyes, this expresses our society’s uncertainty about the male role in life. She fondly remembers when a 20 year old man would be settling in to a marriage, fatherhood and a career, which is, according to her, what all women want. Instead women are stuck with boys who would rather play in their bands or fire up the PlayStation with their friends. In the article, Hymowitz cites comedian Julie Klausner’s book “I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters and Other Guys I’ve Dated.” She pays particular attention to this quote, “Guys talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age; a guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his band mates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends…. They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.” This quote forms the anecdote that Hymowitz uses to vilify an entire generation.
Well, Kay, as a 20 something male, I would like to take this chance to retort. I fit perfectly with your “pre-adult” model. I live in an apartment, I play guitar, I have a long term relationship, but I don’t plan on marrying anytime soon. I am working on a degree, and spend my free time playing games and watching movies akin to Star Wars. My bedroom has only a few pictures, but all of them are game related. I have no intention of being a father now, and probably never will be. Yet, despite all this, I hardly think of myself as a failure or a drain on society.
What really happened to all of the “good men” was a generational shift. When my parents were growing up, there were no video games. At 47, you were just missing the Nintendo revolution, and only saw games as something marketed to children. I was six years old when I got my first Nintendo, and as I’ve grown, so have the other gamers I grew up with, and the culture as well. Video games and comic books, two of your vilified hobbies, are now written for adults. We have developed the mediums into a venue for telling stories, for promoting ideas. Major authors, actors and Hollywood directors now use games to tell their stories. While there are certainly a large amount of games geared towards younger people, the majority of major titles are written with me in mind. These games deal with darker and more relevant themes than 2 and ½ Men.
Speaking of such classic forms of entertainment, I would love to see you address why coming home and watching television in my leisure time is more valuable than playing a video game. Personally, I can’t find anything that rivals the story told in Mass Effect on TV. I can’t find anything as intellectually stimulating as a Professor Layton game. When my father came home at night, he sat in front of the television, as do many parents. While I could sit and watch it with him, I found the time spent playing Super Mario Bros. with him far more engaging. At least we were participating in something together instead of mindlessly watching whatever crap happened to be on that night. To my generation, gaming is simply a way to pass the time. Just like generations previous hated TV, movies, rock music and every other “new” form of media, your generation seems to think that gaming is the one that will crumble society. Yet, to the vast majority of the nation, it is simply another form of entertainment.
While games grew with us, so did the economy. As you mention, our economy is far more intellectual and information based than it was even 10 years ago. Being a part of that industry requires us to be immersed in it. Every hobby of mine that you vilify serves to educate me. I learned about music software when I started recording my own music. I learned about computer programming by creating my own levels in Doom. I became familiar with cloud computing through my PlayStation account, OnLive and Google. Most importantly, I learned to rid my computer of viruses by surfing online porn. All of these make me a better employee, not a slacker.
You seem to think you speak for the entire female population, and I understand your attempt to promote their well being, but the most insulting part of your rave is how you exclude women. Perhaps that was intentional since it makes your entire argument null and void, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. It turns out that there are thousands of women in the gaming industry, writing, programming and testing games. Not only that, but millions of women play games on a regular basis, and not just for their boyfriend’s benefit. One of the best weekly gaming podcasts out there is IGN’s Girlfight, which was created to combat ignorance of the industry. Instead of sexualizing men twice their age, as Klausner does in the above quote, they are finding that they have the freedom to join in with traditionally male pastimes and enjoy themselves. We no longer expect them to fit into a narrow stereotype like the one you feel they should be striving for. They can do what they want, be it a mother of four, a single career woman developing world renowned games or simply a casual gamer that spends her time on FarmVille.
The reason we “pre-adults” are becoming more common is because my generation realized that having a house, job and children is not all there is. We can have lives pursuing what makes us happy, which is a far better situation than conforming to the John Wayne concept of what a man should be. Instead of giving up the pursuits we loved as a child, we made them into our careers. There are millions of miles between being child-like and childish.
The most glaring omission from your article on male/female relationships however, is how you ignore the idea of love. You talk about commitment, responsibility and obligation in a relationship, but never about actually loving your partner. You tell us that we aren’t desirable to women because we want to pursue our creativity and indulge in hobbies we love, but you never seem to consider that maybe it’s that exact attitude of obligation and pressure that makes us not care. I don’t want to be with someone I don’t love and respect and, more importantly, I want them to love and respect me. I shouldn’t have to give up my creative outlets because playing in a band isn’t “cool”. At what age should I have to give up finding Star Wars incredible? At what point should I stop wanting to write stories and articles and go work in a factory like my father? After reading over your article for the third time, Kay, I realized that what I was seeing was a waning generation decrying the next generation’s culture and then yelling at us to get off your lawn. Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it will destroy the fabric of America. Now excuse me, but you’ve kept me from my PlayStation for too long. I have some grinding to do.
To read Kay’s article on Wall Street Journal, click here.