Friday, June 13, 2014

Boys Lost To Video Games?

Rounding out the week of E3 news, another writer wants to take a crack at the children that have been "left behind." The ones that play video games to look towards triumph and wins in their lives, versus the academic prowess of the classrooms, courtesy of The Week. And while the article starts out as a bash against all higher-education institutes that are not Harvard and Yale (thank you to Damon Linker for turning that around really fast-not everyone wants to go to a top 10 school, and not everyone wants to be famous-a lot of people want to live day by day and be happy, and there is nothing wrong with that), the focus quickly shifts in the social development of boys. Specifically that by not excelling at school, boys are withdrawing into virtual worlds where accolades are a bit easier to achieve, and social interaction is stunted (so the writer claims).

We are at a point in technology where we depend on it to survive. Without it, most of us wouldn't know how to till soil to grow fruits and vegetables. We have to Google it, or there's an App for that somewhere. We have become so dependent that our socialization rules are starting to change. I'd argue that some of those changes are just a natural part of progression for our culture, but The Week article does not agree.

Linker makes a good stance that video games are more "reward" focused. Complete an action, get a gold coin, or an achievement. He compares them to slot machines that have a higher "win" rate, raising the payouts to higher levels after more difficult tasks are completed while still allowing the player to win on a regular basis. Unlike going out and playing basketball where there is an obvious winner and loser.

What Linker seems to have overlooked is how much our society has changed within the past decade. It's particularly common now in the U.S. that when a child attends an event, everyone wins an award. There are no losers, only winners. This isn't in video games, but track meets, soccer matches, spelling bee's, and math tests. Aspects of life that Linker feels would be more beneficial to children are the areas that started with the "everyone gets a trophy." With video games you can still "lose" when playing online with other gamers. I.E. team matches in Halo. You have obvious winners and losers. Ties are rare, and you don't receive as many points in a tie. You have to win. By comparison to a children's soccer game, everyone gets a trophy! So is it really only video games that harm the social development of a child?

I'd also argue that by "losing" a match, whether in a game or through a football match (the World Cup is here), you can still learn. When you lose, you come to understand those feelings and find ways to push you to try harder next game. You figure out where you did poorly and work to improve yourself, whether if be with your kicking, or your ball handling skills. It's the same way with a video game. I lost this match because I didn't utilize the cover ability. Or, more commonly, you lost because you didn't communicate with your teammates. Aspects that can be easily transferred into the real world. This is where out of the box thinking comes into play, not something you generally see in school curriculums these days, Linker. Say you are playing Call of Duty online, and you are the team leader. You have to communicate effectively to your squad the plan of attack, the rules of engagement, who will handle what tasks, etc. In many ways, a manager or supervisor for a company has to do the same thing every day. They need to delegate tasks to their employees, ensure people stay on target for the report to be submitted on time (think of the timer in a game-you only have so long before the mission fails and you can fail a mission by being late with that damn TPS report). It's very easy to show how playing a "violent" video game can indeed transfer into real world skills. And that's the obvious one!

If it's social concerns Linker has, I would be more focused on WHAT boys and men are saying in these chat rooms while playing video games. Team building can happen, yes. But many boys are being introduced into socializing with others through racial slurs, sexism, and degrading behavior. It's okay in video games to call a woman slut, bitch, or a whore, but not anywhere else in face to face society where there are consequences. And they are taught it's okay by everyone. It's okay to make fun of gays, or someone who is a different ethnicity or religion from your own, because "it's just a game." This should be Linker's concern. Not that boys are playing video games, but how they are talking to others within the game. It's not an aspect that news stations cover. They are more focused on the "violence" in games. I bet Fox News, the entire network, would have a heart attack if they heard a fraction of the things people say while playing games online. Or not. It's Fox News. They don't like women or gays. Maybe CNN?

So it's another article that fails to take in the information from all perspectives, and slaps assumptions onto gamers. Linker seems more focused on the past, the good ol' days, and not on how we are changing now as a society and socializing online is the norm. This is how I'm wrapping up E3 week. Enjoy.


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