Friday, April 08, 2011

Video Games vs. Books

I thought I'd comment on Christopher's very thoughtful and well-written post on Video Games vs. Books here.

I agree that games can have educational value, especially when they act as some sort of real-world simulator.  I learned a little bit about Indy racing some years ago from a racing game.  I never realized racing involved things like wheel diameter (different on the inside from outside for the Indy oval), gear ratios, type of rubber, etc.  Even simple things like weight of fuel in the tank.  I don't know if  I would ever have read a book on racing in the Indianapolis 500, but I learned a lot from fooling with this game.

Similarly, I've learned more than a little about flying from flight simulators and even a some basics of city planning from Sim City.

In the past, and still going, has been the same argument about TV:  Can it really be educational?  What about the fact that kids don't read as much, etc.?  At least games require engagement and some problem solving, and sometimes even reading!

As for games causing violence, I firmly believe that, generally, all technology is amoral, neither good nor bad.  Any technology can be used for either.

As a kid, we played army (always WW II), cowboys and Indians, police and bad guys, nearly 100% of the time.  Incidentally, all of my favorite TV shows were about the same things.  Oh yeah, I forgot humans vs. aliens.

Many of the video games out there are great at teaching strategy, planning and related problem solving.  I always enjoyed Starcraft for that reason.

I guess I find the first person shooter games a little disturbing because they train one to move quickly through an enclosed space and shoot as many targets  as possible.  Those targets are living and moving, and usually shooting back.  The nature of games themselves can cause a boy to spend hours and hours on this and, as a result, become quite well trained in that scenario.  The games may not cause a person to turn to violence but if a person does, the result may be a more effective killer, perhaps with a higher sense of confidence.

Here's a wonderful thing about books.  They aren't just pure action, or even strategy and tactics.  They involve thoughtful introspection by the narrator.  You get to see into the mind or minds of characters, how they think and feel, and even how they deal with morality of the issues at hand, at least in the better writing.  Maybe some of the better games have this same property, I'm not sure.

There's something about reading a book that encourages one to pause and think, particularly when the reader is challenged by something there.  Or at least you may have to stop reading and go do something else, and then your mind can continue on reflecting on what you've read.

As amazing as movies and video games are, and there's no slowing down, they still haven't caught up with the experience of a good book.