I Can’t Feel My Legs

From Hunting Unlimited 2008, now available on Steam. If you like shooting badly-rendered deer in the lungs, you'll love Hunting Unlimted 2008.

Outdoor recreation (in the form of fishing, hiking and visits to national parks) has declined by 18-25% since the 1980s, apparently. TVs and games are, predictably, being blamed. This is entirely unfair – the reason I haven’t left the house in four days is because I’ve been waiting for couriers to turn up with some hard drives I have to review. “Between 8am and 5.30pm,” they say. So why is it always 5.29? I maybe should have run up and down the stairs a few times to stop my legs atrophying, though.

Anyway, while I’m loathe to jump atop any games’r’bad’m’kay bandwagon, I am acutely aware that I do, of late, tend to spend the hours of 9 till 8ish sat in one place, in front of two monitors. I – and others like me – probably should be outdoors playing French Cricket and wrestling mountain goats more often than we do. The study further posits a possible grim future in which we simply care less about the great outdoors, resulting in a decline in conservation efforts. Hmm.

“The replacement of vigorous outdoor activities by sedentary, indoor videophilia has far-reaching consequences for physical and mental health, especially in children,” says Oliver Pergams, one of the chaps behind the US Nature Conservancy’s study. “Videophilia has been shown to be a cause of obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders and poor academic performance.”

Well, “has been shown” means a lot of things, so I’m not too worried about that part. The more damning evidence is that this trend of anti-outdoorsmanship appears to have begun in the 80s and 90s, periods synonymous with the rise of home video and videogaming. Officially “videophilia” rather than specifically gaming or TV is blamed, though I’m sure convenient smoking guns will be found by some commentators. In any case, it’s still hardly a surprise revelation – but is it, in your experience, an accurate one? Does gaming impact your partaking of country air? If it does, do you care?


  1. po says:

    The reason I don’t do any outdoor pursuits is because it has become so expensive, what with all the insurance/litigation stuff involved in doing anything besides sitting on your ass.

    I do fly model gliders though, but the idea of climbing a hill to stand in the wind for hours isn’t appealing at this time of year (and I still need insurance for it).

    “Videophilia has been shown to be a cause of obesity, lack of socialization, attention disorders and poor academic performance.” Well three of those are down to me having Asperger’s syndrome (something else that has been on the increase since the 80s), and the fourth I don’t have a problem with, as I don’t eat MSG+crap based foods.

  2. Cargo Cult says:

    Computer games got me clambering through burnt-out ruined buildings on the outskirts of Warsaw with a camera.

    That’s counted as outdoor recreation, yes?

  3. SteveTheBlack says:

    The reason I don’t do outdoor stuff is because I’m crap at it. All of it.

    My biggest success is getting a P.E. teacher admit that I am universally awful at all sports, and I don’t think that has anything to do with games.

  4. dhex says:

    i don’t think wrestling mountain goats is the answer to anyone’s problem.

    but outdoorsy stuff doesn’t have to be expensive. it can be free! like walking! a lot!

    you can call it “urban hiking” if you want to be cool. (caveat: using the term “urban hiking” is uncool.)

  5. Sören Höglund says:

    I do all my sporty stuff (karate and going to the gym, mainly) indoors. I don’t miss the great outdoors much at all, since this way I don’t have to freeze my bollocks off in the winter.

  6. Hypocee says:

    Funny – I suspect that in the US at least the available land for fishing, hiking and visiting national parks has declined 18-25% since the 1980s…

  7. Yhancik says:

    “Videophilia” ? That feels dirty.

    I’m of the indoor type, and it doesn’t really have to do with videogames. Maybe I do indoor activities because I like being inside. Cocooning is not a crime ! :p
    I mean, why has “staying inside” to be the consequence of a vicious influence that pulled me out of the joys of “being outside”.

    Oh well, maybe we’ll act the same toward the next generations :p
    “I don’t know what’s up with Timy, he doesn’t seem interested in videogames or browsing wikipedia for random facts…”
    “OMFG really ? What does he do then ?”
    “I don’t know.. going outside.. running, walking”
    “Poor Timy, so many experiences he’s missing.”

  8. Ixis says:

    Just like when they invented those accursed novels! Young gents, ladies and children alike would spend time indoors reading and learning instead of outside, trying to catch wood ticks and cavorting about jovially through the forests whereupon they might get mauled by a bear!!

    Good times, et’ wot!

  9. Ben Hazell says:

    Is it not also partly to do with access to the countryside? Urban outdoor activity is usually team sports, and many people feel inadequate to take part in those, but countryside lets people do their own thing.
    I’ve always made sure I live on the edge of countryside so I can get out there a lot, and frankly I get twitchy if I don’t. I’ve even been known to cart a laptop up a mountain and do some work at the top as it clears my head.
    And anyway, these days my spine or wrist protests if I spend to much time at a computer…

  10. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Well, I played video games, whilst living on a farm. Thats a healthy balance right?

  11. J. Prevost says:

    Since the 80s, eh? Hmm.
    “A tree’s a tree. How many more do you need to look at?”
    “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

  12. matte_k says:

    I have to walk 30 mins to work five days a week, not to mention standing up and running back and forth for 8 hours, so I get a good deal of “exercise” and “outdoors”, thank you very much. One of the great things about games is going places you couldn’t usually in real life, and it has more interaction that watching a natural world documentary or suchlike on TV. Also, golf. Good sport to play if you aren’t really a sports fanatic, very casual (unless you’re a professional golfer, in which case, why are you reading this?)

  13. malkav11 says:

    Well…I used to walk, bike, and camp and now I sit in front of the computer all day. On the other hand, I’ve never really liked the outdoors much, so I’m not sure that it’s “videophilia” so much as having more and more control over what I do during the day.

  14. Faust says:

    I play rugby four times a week, take a 15 minute walk a few times a day, and lug shopping back a half an hour trip once a week. Ah, the student life. Somehow I still manage to spend most of my day in front of the computer, and most of my evenings forgetting things, like quite how much alcohol has been consumed.

  15. terry says:

    This looks a pale imitation of the Hunting Unlimited series (aka JFK: Deer Edition). And that is rubbish considering they are a pale imitation of Elite and er… Cyclone.

    edit: Sorry, wrong article/website. Still I think the vitriol is well placed.

  16. Lu-Tze says:

    I admit, “videophilia” has all but completely removed that which I did as a child from my life, now the only time I do it is when i’m on the way to and from work… except of course I mean reading :P

    It’s just much nicer to snuggle up with your wife in front of a film or rock out together on Guitar Hero than it is to sit and read seperate books, mayhaps with the radio on.

    I’ve always been an indoors type, and none of these modern innovations would have changed that, if we didn’t have TV and Video Games, i’d either be reading or down the pub.

  17. Stick says:

    To slightly misquote Pratchett, the history of civilization consists of humans trying to get as far away from nature as possible.

    I’ll go outside when the sun returns and we get this year’s 15 minutes of summer, thank you very much.

  18. Nallen says:

    I’m in front of two moniters for at least 12 hours a day during the week, to be honest. Probably not healthy. On the flip side I walk home from work every day, go training once a week and stay away from home at the weekends (no ‘puter.)

    So my daily intake is way over the top I dare say, but it’s not totally one sided. I probably wouldn’t care if it was totally one sided until I started getting fat.

  19. Geoff says:

    I was never very “outdoorsy” growing up, even as a child. I was in Cub Scouts, and played little league soccer (er – “fUtball”, for you Brits) but this was parentally enforced, not personally volunteered.

    Nowadays, I am definitely a videophiliac, and pretty sedentary I’ll admit (of the scrawny, atrophied, toothpick-arms variety, not the Comic-Book Guy variety) But it’s work, more than games, which is to blame.

    In college, I played more video games than I do now, but I also had to walk uphill to class a few times a day, and had more free time to go indoor rock-climbing (once or twice a week, I enjoyed that). So I was in at least somewhat decent shape, and reasonably active. Now I drive to work, spend the bulk of my day sitting in front of monitors for work, then come home and don’t feel like driving out to a national park somewhere. In my case, I can’t really blame “videophilia”, so much as the fact that I make more money engineering networks than I would as a lumberjack.

  20. suibhne says:

    The study strikes me as pretty darn problematic (and I say this as both an avid gamer and a national-level environmentalist volunteer and leader). For example, there’s plenty of evidence that recreational activities in general go down as the economy tanks, and I see no intelligent tracking of these results with economic trends over the past three decades. One recent study found almost zero correlation in young gamers between gaming time and lack of outdoor activity. (That study included exercise and sports; The Nature Conservancy focuses only on wilderness- or nature-oriented activities, which are more occasional than exercise and sports. Are we to believe, then, that videogaming has basically no adverse impact on daily physical activity but only decreases annual or semi-annual nature-oriented activity?) Even The Nature Conservancy acknowledges that the incidence of some outdoor activities has actually risen. As far as I can tell, the study is potentially interesting as a starting point for exploring 30-year trends, but all but worthless when seeking to ascribe those trends to specific causes or even correlates.

    A more interesting, but much more complex, approach would be to examine the rise of home or personal video-related activities (both electronic gaming and home video) as a social perturbation that may now be regaining equilibrium – restoring sociality (or enabling the creation of new kinds of sociality) rather than eliminating it. I think that’s just as likely as the scenario, suggested in this study, that “videophilia” constitutes a linear degradation of outdoor life.

    Two other points of note:

    1. The term “videophilia” is clearly but subtly implying that video-related activities are sexually perverse, which is…how do we say it online?…oh yes – LOL.

    2. That crucial term basically lumps television viewing and electronic gaming into one category of activity, which is a significant mistake. I’m often frustrated by the approach of lumping all games together anyway, since “gaming” is an incredibly diverse cultural field, but it’s even more ridiculous to suggest that television and other video-related activities belong in the same category.

    Finally: If you’re looking for trends, how about the age-old attitude that “videogames (comic books/rock music/etc.) are ruining our children”? Alas, The Nature Conservancy seems to play right into this when grasping at explanatory straws. The article’s data are vitally important, so it’s a shame that they discredit themselves so thoroughly with ignorant assays on foreign sociological and cultural territories.

  21. dhex says:

    The term “videophilia” is clearly but subtly implying that video-related activities are sexually perverse

    huh? yeah, i don’t see that in the slightest.

    i think they could have gone with “sedentary” instead but that would have been kicking around the obvious. we have a whole generation of little kids inventing all sorts of new forms of diabetes in their chubby little bodies. i think it’s a whole bunch of things (cheaper food larger portions less physical activity the cult of the timmy/safety kid/helicopter parents more indoor amusements) make a better explanation but that probably makes for less awesome headlines.

    also, i may be in the minority here but i’d rather hike an urban landscape than a fucking mountain with bears in it, frankly. (brooklyn is cool at night, really!) i’ll take muggers over bears any day of the week.

  22. davidAlpha says:

    sitting behind a computer too long makes me wanna do things “out there”. I find that I spend longer and more active periods of time outdoors because of this. For example I now have a little 2 person sailboat. If I didn’t have a job sitting behind a pc I never would’ve want to buy one and I wouldn’t have had the money to do so.

  23. Orange says:

    I got an exercise bike to solve this problem, can use it while watching a TV episode or video and less hassle than going to a gym or on a run outside.

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