Picture this scenario: A dozen friends and acquaintances are sharing their stories. Kids are running around. People are laughing and enjoying themselves. Still, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a person all by their lonesome, eyes glued to a monitor. Minutes and hours pass, and one year transitions to the next. All the while, this individual remains oblivious, wrapped up in a virtual world while the real one celebrates around them. Sounds sad, doesn’t it? Now imagine if that individual wasn’t even playing a game. Instead, they’re watching someone else play it while 2019 rolls around the corner. That’s essentially what would happen if you do end up watching Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and his New Year’s Eve streaming event.
Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is currently the most popular video game streamer on the planet. His streaming views number in the millions, and he’s earned quite a pretty penny while playing Fortnite. That’s totally fine. As a fellow businessman — and make no mistake, Ninja is a businessman and his name is a brand — I can appreciate his tenacity. As an adult and a parent, I find the whole scenario weird. In fact, I’m happy to say that I’ll avoid watching this event altogether.
Celebrate good times
First off, I’m from the Philippines. I’m not sure how the New Year is celebrated in the western world, but where I’m from, welcoming it kick-starts hours beforehand, when fireworks and firecrackers start popping in the early evening. Thirty minutes before midnight, that’s when the big guns start firing (both literal and figurative, because we do have trigger-happy gun owners shooting at the sky). One after another, libentadors, Judas belts, and Goodbye Philippines powder kegs start booming. So no, most of us don’t have the time to watch a video game while all of this is going on, likely because we can’t even hear anything with all the explosions.
Our celebrations are festive, dynamic, and even dangerous. I can imagine that other countries, though they may have more dazzling-yet-controlled events, have people with similar dispositions. Everyone’s having a great time. The idea of spending those hours by playing a video game (or worse, watching someone else play a video game) seems like an absolute waste.
The real world is more important
It’s true that video games aid people in finding their voice and being able to socialize with others. However, that doesn’t mean games should supersede real-life interactions and responsibilities. The fact that people prefer interactions in a virtual setting over a myriad of possibilities in the real world is mind-boggling.
One example I could cite was back when I avidly played World of Warcraft in the mid-2000s. During the holidays, it’s common for guildmates and randoms to greet one another. What I made a rule for our guild, however, was that if you had something more important to do in real life, don’t let a video game get in the way of that.
Greet virtual friends at random parts of the day? Sure. Spend the entirety of the holidays interacting with avatars of your virtual friends? No thanks.
Our guild considered that particular behavior borderline unhealthy. Given that World of Warcraft remains one of the most addictive games around, we had to make a point of moderating how much screen time our own guildmates had. We even listed down everyone’s time zones and birthdays to ensure that, if it’s your time to be celebrating, you shouldn’t be looking at a screen.
Babysitting and psychology
That brings me to my next point — being a parent. When I was a kid, Christmas and New Year’s Eve meant playing and socializing with kids in the neighborhood until late at night. We were playing “tagu-taguan” (hide-and-seek) or “tapakang anino” (shadow tag), while throwing “watusi” firecrackers. If one of the neighborhood kids stayed inside the house watching TV or playing on their Famicom, we’d promptly tell them to come out and play.
Fast forward to being a parent nowadays, I know there are those who would like to drink champagne and party with friends while the kids have their eyes glued to their mobiles or monitors. As for me, I’d rather raise my three-year-old to interact with people and make friends in real life. Reality comes first before any Twitch chat room and online friendships. Ninja’s New Year streaming event is essentially just a means for a gamer to babysit kids while the grown-ups are all chatting. However, that comes at the cost of meaningful interactions.
Psychological studies have shown that, while video games can help cognitive processes for kids, it can also be a detriment. We know that prolonged screen time is unhealthy for anyone. Likewise, the WHO has also classified “gaming disorder” and the addiction to the virtual world. Now, imagine a 12-hour event that, no doubt, will attract the attention of kids.
Too much gaming and online interactions have shown that they prevent people from learning from social cues (because really, fonts don’t teach you compared to face-to-face conversations). Research has also shown that kids become prone to tantrums and are easily frustrated the more they’re wrapped up in a game. Yes, there are even parents sending kids to “rehab” due to Fortnite addiction. That “rehab” entails just playing sports outside of the house — literally the things we did whenever we’re not too focused on video games. Yes, parents are paying other people to be parents because they have no idea how to make kids play outside.
A holiday video game event tailored for kids and young adults just exacerbates the aforementioned problems. There isn’t even any silver lining since you’d probably watch the same plays and reactions you’ve seen in the past. The only difference is that someone might be wearing a party hat that says “Happy 2019” in colorful lettering.
Face-to-face versus fonts
To be fair, one can’t really blame Ninja. As a streamer and businessman/brand, one will need to look for the means to generate interest and find an audience. New Year’s Eve provides an opportunity to catch people’s attention and gain some moola.
I’d much rather point at the people easily buying into the whole event and those looking forward to it. It basically means eschewing any personal, meaningful, and face-to-face interactions with loved ones and friends – just so you could welcome 2019 watching someone you don’t even know on a personal level play a video game.
Your interactions are replaced with a nonstop cascade of Twitch chatbox one-liners, emojis, and icons that are all hard to follow. This is so you could feel that you’re “talking to someone” in cyberspace even though you have actual people around you whom you can already talk to. I’d even scoff at the idea that you’re hoping against hope, awaiting a reply to your greeting as if it’s some “notice me, senpai” moment.
It’s almost 2019, and esports is getting bigger and better than ever. Meanwhile, human interaction is going down the drain with how impersonal we tend to be on the internet. With a myriad of possibilities in store, choosing to stare at your device as the New Year arrives just might be the silliest thing we can do.
But hey, if you enjoy that stuff, good for you. Might as well attend a concert and watch it on your phone while you’re at it.