Saturday, April 04, 2009

Oh Xbox! My Xbox!

In case you didn’t understand the title of this blog, it’s a paraphrase of Walt Whitman’s famous poem “Oh Captain! My Captain!” The first question that comes to my mind when our boss asked us to blog about gaming is, “Why?”

Wouldn’t you think that video games would be the natural enemy to reading; a predator, or competitor, in the bush waiting to pounce upon a teen headed for the den with a good novel? I mean, how can white pages and black ink compete with high resolution, near 3-D graphics with action, “sound and fury?”

The simple answer, in my opinion, is: they can’t. It’s human nature to go for the visual, to opt for the interactive. But let me offer this: if your only choice every time is gaming then the sound and fury really do signify nothing (lines from Macbeth, BTW).

If your parents are like me, one of the few times I pray publicly is when my son is engrossed in a mad game of Grand Theft Auto, and I grumble loudly, “Jesus! Can’t we watch something on television?! I’d even be willing to sit through an episode of SpongeBob. Anything but this.”

If you want them off your back, explain the plot of the game to them. Yes, somewhere in a meeting room in Los Angeles of the Silicon Valley where little geeky people with horn-rimmed glasses devise the games, someone realize that video games, LIKE BOOKS, must have a plot, some conflict, and a resolution.

Think about it. What keeps you addicted to the game? It’s the fact that you don’t reach a resolution—you don’t save the victim, you don’t capture whatever you’re after, you don’t steal the car, kill the bad guy, whatever. And if you do reach a resolution, the game moves you to a different level. In a book, that’s called a subplot.

Explain this to mom and dad, and perhaps rather than making you turn off the game, they’ll simply ask you to turn down the sound a bit. But you can’t explain this unless you know this, and you can’t know this unless you READ.

Experts have conducted studies on video gaming for years. Did you know that young people in the military are better at our modern weapons systems because the systems have buttons and joysticks, and you guys are more used to that than, say, a 35 year old? Studies also show that because of gaming and texting, our entire population has gained strength and dexterity in their index fingers and thumbs—the fingers we use most to text or play games.

What else do we use those fingers for most? Turning pages in a book. Think about it.

1 comment:

Martin Bartloff said...

Grand Theft Auto Grrrr I do like the fact that I can wreck cars there without getting a ticket :-)