Congratulations on finding a way in life to make your living, or even fortune. I believe everybody deserves the chance to achieve a dream. I also believe that one should be prepared to work very hard to achieve what they want. What you have accomplished is no small task. It required dedication, focus, time, energy, money, and ambition. It also required a winning business model. You sell informative and hilarious entertainment for gamers. Along with that, you sell a glamorized gamer lifestyle; an idea that the pursuit of entertainment can and should encompass one's entire life. And finally, you sell a dream that if one enjoys games enough, they too might be able to get money and attention for playing games. But one crucial detail remains: you need an audience.
Children are facing a set of challenges that is unprecedented in human history. They have to negotiate a wrecked economic landscape, and an increasingly untenable political paradigm. The odds are stacked against them, and yet they must strive to become healthy, strong, educated, competitive, and hopefully prosperous adults. Yet even in the face of all this, they are saddled with a massive drag on their potential: the temptation to become video game addicts.
Entertainment is more all-consuming than ever. A rising number of people make binge consumption of screen time their main hobby. Among the available vices, the game industry is exploding as the master of capturing the undivided, perpetual attention of all who partake. From casual Facebook timesinks, to hyperkinetic shooters, to massive role playing worlds where one can build an entire fantasy life, the next generation will be the first to live with the option to plug in, and never want to unplug.
The old question arises then, is habitual gaming healthy, or even safe? We've been wondering about it since video games made their appearance decades ago. Various articles on the subject came and faded, and we seemed to stop asking when it looked like games were not only here to stay, but destined to become integral to people's very lives. Unfortunately, we have the answer now and it's the one we always feared: video games are extremely dangerous.
The data is devastatingly clear on this. At the core, games function just like hard drugs, tapping into our brains' chemical reward systems. However, I would like to call cocaine, marijuana, and heroin "dumb drugs," in the sense that they don't give us a meaningful motivation to come back all day and every day. For that, you need a sense of accomplishment. Games (maybe we should call them "smart drugs") have illegal substances beat on this level: they don't just give us a massive dose of dopamine and endorphins, they make us work for it, giving us tasks that simulate idealized real-life achievement. Getting hits of reward chemicals from our brains as a result of our purposeful actions is completely in line with our evolution. In short, videogames simulate the fulfillment of some very important human desires. Furthermore, unlike the simple act of using a substance and going about your productive day in an altered state, games powerfully urge us to surrender that entire day, effectively flushing all that potential down the toilet.
Games have been found to have a more potent effect than morphine. They feel as good as sex. Study after study confirms this. Hospitals and the military are using video games as better pain-killers. And when combined with wildcards like bad parenting, or unlucky genetics, exposure to video games has been repeatedly proven to turn young people violent. Let's not take that aspect lightly: their violence encompasses everything from attacking those who would threaten their gaming habit, all the way to mass shootings we hear about on the news all too often. The young are especially susceptible to having their brains actually rewired to function optimally in game worlds. This leaves them open to the catastrophic consequence of retarding or even removing their functionality in the real world. Their frontal cortexes have been negatively affected by exposure to an addictive substance, which means they can't say no. Their white matter levels are below normal, which means their brains are atrophied, underdeveloped, and inefficient, like a feral child. The effects have even been likened to dementia for children.
Furthermore, the counter studies and propaganda floating around from gaming apologists have all been debunked. The projected $118 billion industry has a lot to lose here. They don't want you to suspect that videogames are a serious drug. They want you to think the only risk is confined to a few crazies with addictive personalities. We have a great desire to defend our pleasures and we don't want to lose our babysitters, but at this juncture, the viewpoint that games are innocuous should be considered negligent. It's an extremely painful truth to swallow: videogames are hard drugs, and we've been giving virtually-induced brain orgasms to our children like candy for a very long time now.
We aren't just talking about the sub-group of extreme-cases who have died from or received treatment for game-addiction. The almost comical image of a person holed-up in a Korean internet booth living off microwave noodles and Redbull comes to mind. This is a problem that affects the average gamer, too—we simply manage the addiction better. We may go to work, all the while dreaming of coming home to sink a good 10-14 hours into our current obsession. Or we might be a jobless, skilless "adult" living with our parents with minimal responsibilities, maximizing gamer time and screaming for more food. Or we might be a kid, losing a mental battle of whether we should do our homework, or grab some achievements on the latest trendy game.
Now please look at the obliterated landscape of gamers young and old. An alarming number of reports show people's activity levels have plummeted, which means people's bodies are wasting away and/or becoming obese. Birthrates are tanking below replacement levels because people are choosing games over romantic relationships. Social skills are deteriorating because people are not learning the coping and negotiating abilities that come from participating in tangible tasks with others. People are looking for a sense of purpose, and they are finding it in a fantasy world so enticing, they never want to leave.
But if we care about the human race, we want them to start leaving.
This is where Youtube gamers come in. You have become our children's role models. They passionately imitate you. You are the new sports and movie superstars. You have our children’s collective ear, and you are paid richly for it. Your voice could possibly turn this doomed titanic around before it crashes. You could take a stand, and start telling kids these hard truths, and encourage them to go outside the virtual world. You could tell them that real success is in the real world. You could tell them that they are wasting their time. You could tell them that their achievements and experiences in gameworlds are essentially worthless in reality. You could tell them to have a better life than you. You could them they will statistically NEVER be like you. You could tell them that constant entertainment isn't actually a cool lifestyle. You could tell them that boredom is OK sometimes. You could tell them to get clean before it's too late.
We need you to do this because our children are beginning to resent us for suggesting that games might be a problem. If all their friends are doing it, and all of these fun and successful people on Youtube are loving it too, then what chance do parents have, really? When games are evolving exponentially into an all-powerful addiction machine, and the real world looks like a boring, screwed up mess, how foolish must parents look meekly whispering that maybe our kids should take a little break and maybe do some homework or climb a tree? Real life can be incredibly rewarding, but it will never be able to compete with digital drugs designed with the sole purpose of fulfilling our desires for achievement, nor should it have to.
I’ll give you Tubers the benefit of the doubt; maybe you just didn't realize these things. After all, you grew up in the same world where all these truths are well-hidden. Maybe after reading this you won’t be willing to put a little profit over the health of your watchers. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if you're going to be spending this much time with our children, maybe some responsibility is falling on you to dedicate a considerable portion of your programming helping with some of the parenting duties too.
Portions of this letter lean heavily on the book "Glow Kids" by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D. I encourage any outraged by my words to start their research there.
Signed from the trenches,
April 3, 2017