by Louise Perry
Friday, 31
July 2020
Debate
07:00

Is Joe Rogan right about young men and video games?

For some, gaming plugs the gap left by the loss of masculinity
by Louise Perry

Joe Rogan is in trouble with the gaming community. In last week’s episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, one of the most popular podcasts in the world, Rogan drew a comparison between taking up jiu-jitsu as a hobby and taking up gaming. Speaking as an accomplished martial artist and MMA commentator, he suggested that while jiu-jitsu might offer a person physical fitness, excitement, confidence, and new career opportunities, gaming offers nothing but a dead-end:

Video games are a real problem. You know why? Because they’re fucking fun. They’re real exciting, but you don’t get anywhere… you’re going to waste your time.
- Joe Rogan, Joe Rogan Experience #1514

It’s no secret that self-described ‘gamers’ are disproportionately young and male. And looking down the list of last year’s most popular games, it’s striking to see how many provide a vivid simulation of hyper-masculinity, allowing the player to pretend to be a soldiergunslingerwarriorgangster, or heavily armed survivor in a post-apocalyptic hellscape. All fantasy scenarios that provide violence, peril, and (apparently) immense satisfaction for the young male brain.

Which makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective. These kinds of games offer what the evolutionary psychologist Diana Fleischman has called ‘fake fitness’, that is ‘subjective cues of success without real-world ramifications.’ Players immersed in the game feel as though they are living in a world closer to the one in which our early ancestors evolved, a world in which young men who displayed strength, courage, and ingenuity in the face of hardship and danger were more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass on their genes.

But the vast majority of Westerners don’t live in that kind of world anymore. We live in societies that are far safer, richer, and more comfortable than those of the past. Modern men are no longer routinely called upon to hunt for food or wage war against invading enemies, not when we have access to supermarkets and the benefit of a small, professional army. Although violence between young men still blights many communities, in historical terms the rates are very low indeed, so much so that junk food, alcohol, smoking, drugs, and ‘deaths of despair’ now pose a far more lethal threat.

For some young men, gaming plugs a psychological gap left by the loss of a certain kind of masculinity, a loss sometimes blamed on feminists, who are accused of creating a feminised society that leaves no space for men. But in fact, the so-called ‘crisis in masculinity’ is a consequence, not of feminist campaigning, but of societal affluence — a miracle of the modern world, but one that has inadvertently produced a lot of frustrated and aimless young men, now directing their pent up energy towards a hobby that offers fake fitness but which, unfortunately, given the addictive nature of ‘limbic capitalism’, is more likely than other hobbies to become all-consuming, damaging the gamer’s health and repelling potential sexual partners.

Feminists often make the mistake of dismissing this problem, suggesting that we should simply reject masculinity in all its forms, both positive and negative, and offer nothing in its place. But in his comments last week, Rogan offered up one solution, and a far more realistic one, in the form of martial arts — a fake (that is, ritualised) form of violence, but not a fake form of fitness, since the discipline, progress, and sense of purpose offered by this kind of physical challenge is absolutely real.

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    I’m really not sure video games are the only waste of time in our modern society.

  • The “crisis in masculinity” seems to be more a fantasy of feminists than a reality. It actually reveals more about the worldview of a certain kind of feminist than reflecting a “crisis” among young men, especially in light of the research which shows that young women are the ones currently suffering from anxiety and depression more than their male counterparts, mental problems that seem to be growing in parallel with men abandoning their traditional gender roles, eschewing marriage in favour of video games.

    Feminism has always suffered from a dark undercurrent of misandry, fuelled by the resentment some women seem to feel about not being born male. Perhaps that also explains the belief in the “patriarchy”, an invisible, omnipotent presence that has kept women from reaching their full potential throughout history, simultaneously a cultural construct and, inexplicably, a trans-historical phenomena reaching across time and culture to oppress women. Like the devil, the patriarchy is the source of original sin, the perfect scapegoat for female failure.

    What better way to get even than by depicting men as somehow being in “crisis” because some of them like to play video games rather than date women.

  • What is it with this article and the other one about Harry Potter fans? Has Unherd attracted people who have no joy in their life.

    Now I’m not saying all gamers or all Harry Potter fans are well rounded members of society, fully fit and sociable. Of course not, but to imply the opposite that we are all unsociable, unfit, loners stinks of jealosy.

    Nobody is forcing any of you negative souls from enjoying yourself how you see fit so why whine about what other people do? These are activities that cause ZERO harm to anybody except ourselves (different argument there).

    Given the current climate I find it extraordinary that what little joy is left for us is being attacked. Can I remind folks of what you cannot do today what you could do 1 year ago and given the latest announcements nobody will be doing for at least another year possibly 2 or 3 :

    No group sports
    No spectator sports – football, rugby, hocky, tennis etc
    No singing (honesty What the F)
    No pantomimes (Xmas is coming)
    No plays or cinema (well unless you enjoy quarter full soulless halls)
    No Xmas markets
    No Concerts
    No normal pub behaviour, laughing and joking with strangers
    No large meals out (ie birthdays, anniversaries etc)
    NO BREATHING in the park without the mask nazis attacking you

    Now we can’t “escape” in our studies without being commented on.

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