Penn Jilette calls the obsession of a videogame nerd "beautiful," defends the medium.

If anything can come out of Penn and Teller joining the debate to haughtily call bullshit on politicians’ war on violent videogames, it’s a surprisingly sympathetic defense of the videogame medium in general. In a recent interview with Game Informer, Teller lets down his spiked Libertarian guard for a casual discussion of why you might actually have to finish a game before you can say it’s worthless or culturally toxic. 

You know, when I was 15, 16, 17-years-old, I spent five hours a day juggling, and I probably spent six hours a day seriously listening to music. And if I were 16 now, I would put that time into playing video games. The thing that old people don’t understand is – you know if you’ve never heard Bob Dylan, and someone listened to him for 15 minutes, you’re not going to get it. You are just not going to understand. You have to put in hours and hours to start to understand the form, and the same thing is true for gaming. You’re not going to just look at a first-person shooter where you are killing zombies and understand the nuances. There is this tremendous amount of arrogance and hubris, where somebody can look at something for five minutes and dismiss it. Whether you talk about gaming or 20th century classical music, you can’t do it in five minutes. You can’t listen to The Rite of Spring once and understand what Stravinsky was all about. It seems like you should at least have the grace to say you don’t know, instead of saying that what other people are doing is wrong. The cliché of the nerdy kid who doesn’t go outside and just plays games is completely untrue. And it’s also true for the nerdy kid who studies comic books and turns into this genius, and it is also true for the nerdy kid who listens to every nerdy thing that Led Zeppelin put out. That kind of obsession in a 16-year-old is not ugly. It’s beautiful. That kind of obsession is going to lead to a sophisticated 30-year-old who has a background in that artform. It just seems so simple, and yet I’m constantly in these big arguments with people on the computer who are talking about, “I would never let my kid do this and this in a video game.”

The fact of the matter is that violence existed before video games, so therefore were done. Violence did not bump up after video games. In fact, it’s gone down. Correlation is not causation, so you can’t use that. You have to be very careful not use the same lies that you are accusing other people of. I would never make the case that video games stop violence, but I would certainly make the case that they did not start it. Even if you add in Columbine, violence by teenagers is down. Billy the Kid and Jesse James did more damage at a younger age than anybody in modern times, and they didn’t play video games. There are all kinds studies that show that after someone has played an aggressive, exciting video game they are more aggressive. Those studies are real, but you have to remember that if you have someone go do a lot of push-ups they are going to be more aggressive too. Anything you do to get your blood going makes you more aggressive, so if you play a first-person shooter it has the same kind of effect as if you run around the block. If you’re excited you’re excited.

I get friends who play video games and they tell me about the wonders of getting into that head space, and to be perfectly honest I’ve played a few, but I won’t claim to have played them. I’ve played for an hour, and that’s just not enough. If you listen to Chopin for an hour or Stravinsky for an hour, or Miles Davis for an hour, you don’t know jack s*** about them. It requires time and constant exposure to the culture. You can’t listen to Stravinsky without listening to the other music of that time, and you can’t understand a video game without knowing the antecedents and the peers of that game.

Of course, many obsessions require a combination of work and play. Whether the work is autonomous or the play is slavish is up to the games and their players. This is where you speak up. 

[via Game Informer]