Sunday, May 23, 2010

Video Games: Beyond the Blood and Gore

Those people who know me know that at one point I was an avid gamer. My games of choice growing up: Street Fighter (strategy without blood and gore), Tetris Attack (it triggers the same spatial brainpower that a Rubik’s Cube does), Final Fantasy (A lot of reading and fantasy-based historical references), and Castlevania (This one was more just for fun, as it does have blood and gore, but not excessive. Nobody’s heads get torn up and the sprites are rather too small to notice). Through gaming, I have found that many people stereotype games for being bloody and gory, ala Grand Theft Auto, Doom, Mortal Kombat, etc. and fail to see significant uses that gaming could have on a young person.
I’m going to analyze and comment on some of the common arguments against gaming and invite you to give me feedback, especially if you are a person against gaming.
1. Video games remove creativity in a child’s ability to create their own games.
While that argument does stand true, as a parent, you must learn to accept two things: 1. You’re the one buying your 10-year old their Playstation and 2. They’re going to play games at their friends houses if they don’t have one at home.
Now by accepting this, you must also take on the responsibility of getting to know what it is that your child is playing. While a game like Pac Man (that everybody knows – especially thanks to Google’s recent homepage!) has little room for creativity, not every game is on that level or is that simple. Let’s take the Nintendo DS for example with a game called Scribblenauts. This game requires the player to THINK and write in words for items to appear that their on-screen character can use to solve problems. A simple example of this would be the character needs to get up a tree to grab the “star,” so the player would write in “rope” to help them climb the tree or possibly “boomerang” to fetch the star for them. Unlike our Pac Man example, this DOES require creativity. The puzzles get more complex and you will need to stack levels of items and use them in conjunction with each other to achieve your goals.
Key: Involvement!
2. Video games teach children nothing but violence and misbehavior.
While there are cases that this holds truth, parents MUST know that they are the ones buying a 10-year old Grand Theft Auto. Understanding ESRB ratings does help but you should be playing the games with your child, at least when you first get it to make the judgment as to whether or not they should be exposed to it. If you look at a game like Tetris and derive violent acts then you can teach me quite a few things about reality, as I have not been living in it.
Key: Involvement!
3. Children do not get the social aspect of interacting with other children through video games.
Welcome to 2010. We have high-speed internet and a lot of players on MMOs.
MMO – Massively Multiplayer Online. It’s a category of gaming that according to various resources on the internet, close to 10k people play in the United States alone. There are several types of MMO games, one of the most popular being World of Warcraft, which has Fantasy Violence.
Through high speed internet, we have found a replacement to video game arcades. We do interact and discuss the games through gaming communities.
Locally, with newer gaming consoles, it’s even easier to interact as controllers are no longer wired, "Party-games” are becoming more popular (e.g.Rockband or Wii Sports), and we can connect portable systems wirelessly to each other (like the Nintendo DS)
Key: Play Wii Sports with your co-workers and I guarantee you’ll be hooked. It’s the only way to play golf in the rain! – Really – Involvement!
4. Video games will make my kids fat.
Simple answer: No, sending them to school with bologna sandwiches, potato chips and a soda, an allowance that will let them buy chicken fingers and french fries, and letting them stay inside during nice weather will.
Key: Stop being a lazy parent (aka Involvement!)
5. Video games will make my kids dumb.
The last time I’ll repeat this, you NEED TO BE INVOLVED in which games your children play. Not every game is mindless blood and gore. Growing up, after playing Mario my mom would make me draw a picture from the game or tell her what I think the story is about. At this point I was 6 or 7 years old. She didn’t need to know anything about the game other than watch me play a few times. As long as I was able to construct something at the end.
In the end, I don’t need to repeat the fifth time, you need to as a parent be involved in what your children are playing.
Psychologically, this involvement will show them that you care more about something they’re interested in and motivation will be higher. If you can spare an hour a weekend to play some games with them, you will learn about what they’re playing and you’ll be actively involved and as a result will improve relationships with your children. Who knows, you might also find a new pastime.
Some additional comments:
There are online communities of gaming for education. I remember a project that students rebuilt an acoustically sound building through Second Life. DimensionU is something similar to that ( but geared towards younger students. Their description is:
Welcome to DimensionU, a prestigious game-based training facility for K-12 students. In DimensionU, you can access multiplayer educational video games that help you hone your skills, connect with friends, climb the ranks and have a blast.
Another recent development is Namco Bandai, the same company once responsible for Pac Man is working on an RPG textbook. Remember earlier I was mentioning Final Fantasy as a game that requires a lot of reading? That falls into a genre called Role Playing Games, or abbreviated to RPG. The news on the RPG textbook, dated May 24, 2010 can be found here - Thank you @Tallgamer for sharing this with me.
My unprofessional advice:
  • Take some time to read up about the games your children play and spend some time playing with them. Remember, Vygotsky emphasized social learning.
  • Don’t keep their gaming systems in their rooms, but instead in the living room. This way if they want to play while you’re watching TV, they cannot and will HAVE TO find something else to do.
  • Know what games your kids are playing and know what to not let them play. If you have the attitude that they’ll play the violent games at their friends’ houses, you need to be more active and talk with their parents. If that’s not the case, then allow it and accept it, but your house, your rules. Don’t forget who the boss is.
  • Allowance will let your kid trust your and discipline will let them respect you.
  • Don’t let them sit around and play when it’s nice out. There are studies that show first period physical education improves overall achievement. Know that and emphasize your children to go play outside during nice weather.
  • Some good games for younger children are typically found on the Nintendo systems, both Wii and Nintendo DS. Make sure you’re buying educational / problem solving (Brain Age, Professor Layton, Scribblenauts) or activity games (Wii Fit / Sports, Dance Dance Revolution) or games that promote other abilities (RPGs like Final Fantasy require a lot of reading – yes Pokemon does a good job at this for younger children or Rock Band activating some aural stimulation) I plan on writing another blog on games that promote education. It will be more professional and include citations from educational psychology studies.
Who am I to give this advice? I have a Master’s of Education (Well, short on my internship, but everything else is done) in educational technology. I’ve been a gamer for 20 years. I’m well-read, a musician, and I have a 4.0 in graduate school. I still play video games, averaging 1-2 hours per day.
Please, I would LOVE to know your opinions and suggestions about this article. Contact me directly, – Thank you!

No comments:

Post a Comment