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Ben Richardson is a Content Editor for GamesRadar UK
Goading gamers is a dangerous pastime. Just ask US pop psychologist Cooper Lawrence, who took a digital pounding earlier this year after helping Fox News put the boot into Mass Effect, which it accused of pumping "full digital nudity" into America's living rooms. Moments after her uninformed criticism was screened gamers began flaming Lawrence's book entries on Amazon. There is no fury like a videogamer scorned.
So it'll be no surprise if a similar fate befalls UK newspaper columnist Kate Muir. In an article for The Times Muir says "kiddy consoles" are "toys for very big boys", rating grown ups playing videogames as worse than them being obsessed with train sets, and suggesting that "the man-teen’s retreat into a fantasy world of titans and totty merely reflects his lack of comfort in the real world".
But before you streak over to bash a barely-legible tirade into Muir's comments box, just stop and ask yourself why you're bothering. Because games are toys, and Muir has just about got the whole hobby pinned down. Well, apart from the train sets thing - that's just stupid.
TOYS R US
It's not my aim to piss anyone off, but it's essentially a fact that videogames are toys. Still, referring to videogames as toys shouldn't imply anything negative. Think about kids and footballs. When does a football stop being a 'toy' and start being the tool of an elite athlete in a multi-million pound industry?
A bit of research neatly sidesteps any negative meaning - though one definition of 'toy' according to the Oxford Dictionary is "an object for a child to play with", another equally valid definition in the same dictionary is "a gadget or machine regarded as providing amusement for an adult".
The stigma against the label comes from a feeling that recognising videogames as toys devalues the hobby we're so passionate about. It reduces games to childish and unsophisticated objects, which could influence decisions about how to police, censor or certify them. But this simply isn't the case outside of knee-jerk 'news' shows like Fox or UK newspaper The Daily Mail. It might influence the odd retailer decision, but you have to have faith that organisations like the BBFC will adhere to their own research and certificates. And, from what I've seen, they always do.
Admittedly, someone like Muir who applies the label 'toys' to videogames in a derogatory way is clearly going to drum up interest. But it's not going to affect the thinking of the people who matter, and it shouldn't matter to you, either. Games are toys, literally by definition, but so what?