Tom Matlack laments that more men interest themselves in reviews of computer games than accounts of goodness. He also laments that he’s aggravating the problem.
I’ve founded two online companies aimed at boys and men. One I only think about on Monday afternoons when I get a weekly revenue report. The other I obsess about day and night. One is about a product I have never played and barely understand. The other makes me cry tears of pain or joy on a regular basis.
One is extremely profitable and the other is still gutting it out to try and break even. One attracts an astonishing 45 million page views a month and the other is pushing hard to make it to two million. One is named Game Empire Enterprises and the other is The Good Men Project.
I will let you figure out which one is which.
GEE, where my official title is “Emperor,” is the combination of two pre-existing websites that review Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG).
The more successful of the two sites was started by two Turkish brothers in their parents’ New Jersey basement where they lived after dropping out of Rutgers. They moved to Vegas, despite not being old enough to drink, because they were making so much money that state tax became a problem.
My venture capitalist partner and I founded GMP three years ago to spark a national conversation about what it means to be a good father, son, husband, worker, and man. This was before Tiger, before the double dip recession, before “The End of Men.” Contributors have included a former Sing Sing inmate, guys coming home from combat with post traumatic stress disorder, and more than one Hall of Famer.
At one point last year, we put up a map of the world by penis size on our blog as a joke. I really wish we hadn’t. Despite all the stories about stay-at-home dads and how to be a better husband, the penis map is our number one story ever and continues to creep it’s way into the top ten stories of the day, even when up against first person accounts of men confronting racism and losing their wives.
We ran a story by Michael Kamber, the Pulitzer Prize nominated author and photojournalist, about his best friend Tim Hetherington after Tim was killed on assignment Libya. The penis map still gets more views than the story about Tim, who Kamber called, “a giant in the field of journalism, a giant of a human being.” The exclusive video of Kamber interviewing Tim about the bravery of American soldiers just before Tim himself bled to death has as been viewed 2,301 times as of this writing. My Turkish buddy’s video, in which he narrates first impressions on the gameplay of “World of Tanks,” has received 498,545 views.
What makes boys and men so much more interesting in games than goodness?
I am tempted to quote Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan R. Jessep in A Few Good Men. But I’ll refrain since punching guys in the face rarely does much good. I will simply point out that of the two genders, us guys are the ones who are most in need of digging deep when it comes to truth and goodness.
Women have their reality television and buy more than their fair share of People Magazine. But they aren’t showing up on the front cover of the paper every other week for cheating or, worse, going on a national speaking circuit bragging about cheating. They aren’t dropping out of school at all levels. They aren’t the ones losing blue-collar jobs in construction and manufacturing and refusing to get retrained or pursue work in the traditionally female fields of health care and education.
That is not to say that we as a country aren’t missing the point when it comes to the best of the best men. There are guys of courage and character showing up as dads, trying to tell their wives how they feel, and attempting to do the right thing at work, whether in the military or as leaders in industry. But there is a total void when the conversation turns to talking about why these guys are the answer to the broader structural issues that face manhood. Why we as men need to wake up and deal with the stark challenge before us. “Toss me the remote,” is our collective response.
Which gets me back to the games. There’s nothing wrong with diversions, with fantasy, with having fun. Unless the fantasy becomes the reality.
It’s about time we put down childish games, take a look in the mirror, and talk to each other about what we believe it means to be good.
I am enormously proud of the progress we have collectively made as a community at The Good Men Project (and sheepish to admit that I am profiting on the male obsession with games). I continue to be committed to the idea that we are the evangelists who can bring an honest discussion about manhood to the national stage. We have already come an awful long way. But my own little experiment proves we still have a long way to go.