An Answer to: “Videogames or Life?”

This morning, I stumbled upon the blog of a future educator lambasting gamers:

“Why after all of these years do people depend on videogames?”

“These so called “gamers“, do not have a real social life.”

“The only interaction they get with people is between a headset.”

There’s plenty more, and you can read it for yourself here. I wrote a response that I’d like to share, because the comment I left is awaiting moderation, and likely won’t be approved.

I’ve been playing video games since I was five years old, starting with the Atari 2600. On the weekends, if I was lucky, my parents would rent a video game for me. I would always look through the art in the instruction booklets on the ride home, and it got me started with drawing.

In middle school and high school, I was in art classes. I was considered for several art programs throughout, and I graduated my senior year in an advanced placement course.

When I was in the fifth grade, I was pulled out of class to take a test. The proctor had a flip book of words and a stopwatch. She would turn the page, and I had to read the word aloud as quickly and as accurately as I could. The results of the test indicated that I was reading at the level of a high school junior, despite the fact that my parents always struggled to get me to read anything at all.

In my junior year, I tied for highest score in the school in our statewide writing examination.

I’ve had a tremendous imagination all my life. I can find stories, humor, and adventure in even the most mundane tasks. I’m rarely ever bored, and I find myself constantly dreaming up new worlds, characters and situations.

I have an insatiable hunger for learning. I often look into something that has piqued my interest and find myself in an entirely different subject hours later.

I’ve never been in a romantic relationship that didn’t last at least three years, and the friends I made during my formative years are still the very best I could ever ask for.

Now I’m an Intelligence Specialist in the United States Navy and working at the Pentagon.

You look at video games, and all you can see is noise and guns. What you don’t see is creative problem solving, critical thinking, moral choices, conflict resolution, relationship building, cause and effect, drama, comedy, tragedy, learning opportunities, fantastic stories, the rewards of overcoming adversity, attention to detail, music appreciation, understanding different perspectives, and more concepts and situations that run the gamut of all human experiences.

The fact that video games are played in front of a TV makes them no less impactful than literature, film, or any other medium.

Anything in excess is bad for you, and if you’re not putting these kinds of things into context for your children, then you are an example of bad parenting. That’s true of everything; not just video games.

If you don’t understand “so-called ‘gamers’” or video games in general, that’s fine. But passing judgement on the people who do is completely ignorant and unbecoming of someone looking to make a career of shaping young minds.

If I were in your shoes, I’d educate myself on video games to understand why they’re so appealing and how I could use them to relate to my students and enhance their learning.

But what do I know? I’m just a gamer.

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11 thoughts on “An Answer to: “Videogames or Life?”

  1. I agree.
    Videogames are an…evolution of entertainment and social connection, not a loss of it. I am a half-half gamer and socialist, and I can say with honesty that there’s tons of incredible people in my life that I would never have met if not for our shared passion of a game. And the combination of fun and competitiveness is actually providing better for education that the dull, drab monotony of the so-called “real-life”.

  2. I disagree totally and the fact that you got good grades in school and a job is not because playing games helped you.

    Games are a waste of time. They aren’t art – a play or a piece of music you can appreciate in one viewing. Games are about repetitive action and grinding (especially MMOs) – i.e. time sinks.

    Games aren’t a useful hobby. What skill do you gain from it compared to playing the piano or playing soccer? What does gaming skill mean when the rules can be changed at any time by the developer? When all your built-up skill means nothing after they patch it outl and adjust the game balance, release a new expansion that makes all your accumulated gear worthless or when everyone has moved on to a new game? A soccer player will always be good at soccer.

    Where is the social connection in games? Where are these real-life people you speak of in my single player games? What friendships am I building in CoD or TF2, where I am endlessly shuffled in matches among millions of other players? If anything gaming is anti-social. It promotes griefing and trolling because my actions have no real impact – there will always be new victims in the next auto-matchmaked game. The only social interaction in games is to build up real-life friendships if you both enjoy gaming, and can use games to share time together – e.g. casual dormwide DoTA matches, MMO guilds that gradually build up from an inner circle of actual friends.

    If you only play games for the experience, to try out a new story, explore a new world once in a while or analyze new developments in interactive media that’s ok. But that doesn’t make you a gamer. That just makes you a temporary visitor, a tourist. I have the same pity for gamers as I do for model train enthusiasts. Every night they feel compelled to withdraw from society into their cavernous den, to play with their ultimately pointless toys. I, on the other hand, would rather work towards building a career so I can travel and explore all the myriad wonders the real world has to offer.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Video games really were a significant contributing factor in my education. As I mentioned in my post, my parents had a difficult time getting me to read books when I was young. But they had no idea that the games I was playing at the time, such as Final Fantasy VI and Breath of Fire, required a great deal of it. Not to mention the fact that games exposed me to topics, themes and situations new and complicated that most children at that age likely have no concept of until much later in their schooling. I appreciate that you disagree, but I feel it’s a safe bet to assume I may know a bit more about my upbringing and academic endeavors than you do, anon4cec. Unless I’m being trolled by my mom.

      You believe that video games aren’t art, but The National Endowment for the Arts does, and while they may not have the final say, you have to agree that they may be better qualified to make that kind of call than you are. You claim that video games aren’t like “a play or a piece of music you can appreciate in one viewing”, but many of them are all of that and more. After all, video games have scripts, voice actors and physical actors (via motion capture), art directors, and composers just as plays and movies do.

      Work is “about repetitive action and grinding”. Games are about fun.

      “Hobby” is defined as an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation. By that definition, I’d say that games are actually very useful. “What skill do you gain” from games? Well:

      TLC – “What life skills can video games teach kids?”
      ABC News – “The Benefits of Video Games”
      National Geographic – “Video Games Boost Visual Skills, Study Finds”

      I could keep going, but I think you get the idea; most of the skills probably aren’t so different from the things that piano and soccer teach.

      “Where is the social connection in games?” You have to make those connections. Gamers can be as social or as reclusive as they want to be, but games can’t “make” you anti-social. Sometimes people like to disconnect and do something alone; this isn’t exclusive to video games. Why not ask, “Where is the social connection in books?”

      Your closing statements are ridiculous, self-righteous and completely narrow-minded. You have no right to pity anyone.

      • Great article, and fantastic retort to the self-righteous anonymous poster above (ahh the joy of the internet and hiding behind it). Bronte’s link to your post brought me to your blog, and I look forward to making it a regular read.

      • Very cool of Bronte to feature my post on his blog, and very cool of you to let me know what you thought of it!

        Thanks very much!

    • Your characterisation of gamers is awfully narrow, anon4cec. I consider myself a gamer despite playing most games pretty casually – I’m not even very good at them! But I follow game news, I play a lot of games, I socialise with people who also play games and often share gaming with them.

      “Games aren’t a useful hobby. What skill do you gain from it compared to playing the piano or playing soccer?”
      – what skills does learning the piano give you when there’s not a piano in front of you? Practically, nothing. But when you think about it, you could argue discipline, a kind of language skills from reading music…and probably a lot more. I’m not a pianist, but I do feel that I’ve learned a lot from gaming. The one that comes to mind is learning how to explore and master new systems – figuring out how things work and how to use an environment to your advantage. It’s a way of thinking that’s highly valuable in other contexts, and isn’t nullified when games change – it’s enhanced.

      “The only social interaction in games is to build up real-life friendships if you both enjoy gaming, and can use games to share time together”
      – True, my partner and I really enjoy gaming together, and spend a lot of time discussing games that we don’t play together. But what about the young man I chatted to for an hour in Guild Wars 2 the other day? That only started because I offered to help him find something, since he was new. Yesterday I met a woman because we were arguing about feminism together in on of the virtual cities. It turns out she’s also a grad student, and we share a lot of views about games. So none of that is social at all?

      Landiien, thanks for linking to that original blog – you commented on my blog so I came here, and have now added a comment to hers. It’s great to engage with these issues. I feel like we’ve made a little social connection now, don’t you? 🙂

      • Well-said!

        It’s a topic I’m very passionate about, and it’s always great to find others who support and appreciate games as something more!

    • A bit late on the commenting, but I just had to say…lol. I rarely waste my time replying to anonymous idiots, but I am easily trolled 😉

      If you’d care to share you’re hobbies and passions I’m sure we could ridicule you, or find someone who thinks they’re stupid. In any case, I’ve played games since they were invented (Pong) and yet I’ve managed to travel the world, meet loads of nice (and not so nice) people, and hold down some interesting jobs and though I don’t know you I can safely say you’re a giant douche bag who likely has less of a life than the people you are attempting to pity.

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