I don’t know how many times I’ve had that discussion where the person on the other side of the debate thinks that all video games are about killing space aliens. OK. I do know how many. It’s a lot.
Most of those people – a few of Dylan’s teachers, for example, not to mention many of his friends’ parents – have no idea that games as rich as Age of Empires or Ultima Online or Rome:Total War exist. As a result, when they do let their kids near a video game, they are stuck with rubbish like Super Smash Brothers because their tastes never evolve to anything more sophisticated. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
To be sure, massive and complex games have their own risks as we we discovered when we almost lost Dylan inside Runescape a couple of years ago. Expecting a ten year old to have the social skills to interact with hundreds of other players in an imaginary world or to have the economic skills run a trading business or to have the leadership skills to coordinate a team of adventurers battling a ferocious monster…well, we just expected too much of him. But one day he will have those skills. One day he will run a lead a raiding party in an imaginary world or start a successful business in a virtual economy or devise a strategy to defeat the toughest of dragons. One day – but not yet. He has to prepare for that day.
Many parents are down on video games because they think of them as mostly just mindless button pushing. The opposite is true. The real danger is that the best video games are too sophisticated for an impressionable young mind to handle. Certainly more sophisticated than any TV show their parents ever sat in front of.
So, it’s nice to finally, after thirty-something years, start reading positive articles about video games in the mainstream press. Sure, most of the articles are still about the dangers of seeing someone’s pixelated bottom in Grand Theft Auto but that’s why the rare few positive articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal are such a pleasant change.
One the best articles I have read in a while, though, is this one at Huffinton Post entitled Why Your Kids Should Play More Video Games. Imagine being the mother who tries to prevent her teenage son from learning Shakespeare so that he can get ahead in a baseball game:
Last week my son raced past me on the stairs just as I was coming up to tell him, as usual, to turn off the TV.
“I gotta find out what was Shakespeare’s most popular comedy,” he called out, by way of explanation.
“Is this for homework?”
“No. My player is writing his exams. If he fails he’ll be cut from the team.”
and then tries to forbid him from studying for that exam. If you are smart you will imagine yourself saying, like she did:
His eyes dart to the screen. “Can I just finish writing my exam?”
I check my watch. “Dinner’s going to be a little while. Why don’t you play some more?”