Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Video Gamers: Aggressors or Intellectuals?

One of the things that really gets under K's skin is when people automatically assume gamers are violent. In fact, even my own mother freaked out about this very thing when I got engaged. The shaved head and piercings she could kind of handle, but making video games for a living? "We don't know anything about this kind of profession. What if he is a very aggressive man who will beat you every night?" Ahahahaha!!! If I hadn't been fuming at her crazy irrationality at the time, I think I would have peed in my pants laughing.

Bald + Piercings + Video Games = Psychopathic Charlie Brown?

Yes, video games have been painted with red warning flags in recent news, but really, it's a familiar gauntlet that every new form of entertainment (books, film, music) has had to go through. I was actually quite surprised/pleased when I came across an article in The New Yorker titled "Brain Candy" that argues for the intellectual benefits of video games. Here are a couple of nice quotes:

    Most of the people who denounce video games, he says, haven’t actually played them—at least, not recently. Twenty years ago, games like Tetris or Pac-Man were simple exercises in motor coordination and pattern recognition. Today’s games belong to another realm. Johnson points out that one of the “walk-throughs” for “Grand Theft Auto III”—that is, the informal guides that break down the games and help players navigate their complexities—is fifty-three thousand words long, about the length of his book. The contemporary video game involves a fully realized imaginary world, dense with detail and levels of complexity.

    The point is that books and video games represent two very different kinds of learning. When you read a biology textbook, the content of what you read is what matters. Reading is a form of explicit learning. When you play a video game, the value is in how it makes you think. Video games are an example of collateral learning, which is no less important.
- Malcolm Gladwell, "Brain Candy," The New Yorker, 5/16/2005

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