The Dumbening

Over the past decade we’ve seen a lot of changes in the entertainment and news media industry and I for one don’t believe that the changes are positive ones. It seems as if everything is being dumbed down and that the bulk of the public is just fine with that and in fact are eating it up more than ever before.

Over the past decade video games have seen a huge transition away from games that require a certain level of strategic planning and mental involvement towards a style of game play that boils down to mindless repetition. Those kind of games have always been present in the industry but it’s really only been in the last ten years that they have become the biggest sellers. Some good examples are Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The value of video games for stimulating the mind was dubious before, but now it’s even worse. I often waste too much time playing a game called Combat Arms. It’s an online first person shooter that features various modes of play including capture the flag and elimination mode. When I play it, I only play Capture the Flag. It’s fun to try and strategize how best to overcome the other team. But Elimination mode is by far the most popular. The only goal in an elimination game is to kill more players than are killed on your team. There is no strategy it’s just mindless shooting and it’s what most people choose to play.

In the television industry the past decade has seen the rise of reality television. The networks realized that they don’t need to pay writers or actors they can just bring in some random people off the street and have them play a game and people will watch it. There is no attempt at quality programming with these shows and yet it is wildly popular.

Thirty years ago video games didn’t exist and seventy years ago television was just in it’s infancy. People used their free time differently in those days. Sure it wasn’t all reading books and learning but when kids played, they actually did something physically and often times mentally stimulating. If you wanted to play a game, it was a family and/or social thing, not a solitary tapping of buttons or keys on a computer or video game system. I believe that the recent rise in dumb entertainment is a direct result of a generation of video games and a few generations of television watching. People are less physically and mentally active. I’m not trying to blame the entertainment industry for this problem any more than someone who eats at McDonald’s everyday should blame them for their obesity. I believe in personal responsibility and people are responsible for how they choose to use their time.

A couple weeks ago one of our horses ran through a fence late at night. I didn’t have time to fix and so I decided to take care of it after work the next day. When I got home from work that day it was already dark and it was snowing. I had been looking forward to a relaxing evening of watching TV and playing video games. But that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I was out in a dark field with snow falling around me and I was piecing together an electric fence that had broken in multiple locations. About an hour into the work I realized something. I felt alive. I was cold and tired but I felt alive. I was actually doing something. It wasn’t what I would have chosen to do that evening but it was something real and tangible, not just another night of letting my brain turn into useless mush.

As I continued to piece the fence back together I started to feel the electric shocks through my gloves and realized that I had forgotten to unplug the fence. But the shocks were minor and I assumed that the gloves were protecting me a bit. The shocks however continued to grow in intensity as the fence became more intact and as I was tying off a wire at a fence post my wrist came in contact with the metal post just as the wire did and I got a huge shock. It felt like someone had punched me in the wrist and like my thumb was on fire. I then decided to unplug the fence. Feeling alive is one thing, lighting up like a Christmas tree is quite another.

There are millions of people willingly participating in The Dumbening. You can be a part of that tide or you can fight it. Be active, feel alive and do something with your life.