Video Games Reviled as the Rock 'N' Roll of the 21st Century

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), December 28, 2008 | Go to article overview

Video Games Reviled as the Rock 'N' Roll of the 21st Century


Byline: Todd Huffman For The Register-Guard

It undoubtedly will be with great effort that local parents soon will pry their slack-jawed and twitchy-thumbed children away from their newly unwrapped video games and send them back to the live-action world of school and homework, so boring by comparison.

Johnny and Emily are soon returned to the classroom - where teachers will labor tirelessly to repair the brain damage done, in time for the next long weekend or school vacation.

Or so non-gamers believe. But skepticism of new media is a tradition as old as ancient Greece, when Socrates worried that relying on written texts, rather than the oral tradition, would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories."

Criticism of video games is merely the latest example of the tendency of older generations to demonize new and unfamiliar forms of entertainment. Waltz music and waltzing were condemned in the 19th century as "intoxicating" and "depraved."

Novels once were thought to "poison the mind and corrupt the morals of the young, who waste their time on sofas immersed in dangerous fantasy worlds."

Films were denounced in the early 20th century as "an evil pure and simple, destructive of social interchange."

And in the 1950s, rock 'n' roll music was said to turn people into "devil worshippers," and comic books were accused of turning children into drug addicts and criminals.

Today it is hard to see what all the fuss was about.

Every generation of adults sees new forms of media and entertainment - and the social changes they stir - as a threat to the rightful order of things. There is always this pattern.

Old stuff is respected. New stuff is junk. Young people adopt a new form of entertainment, and older people are spooked by its unfamiliarity and condemn it.

Eventually, in every case, the young grow up and the new medium becomes accepted, even pass, at which point another new form of "shocking" entertainment appears and the cycle begins anew.

Despite their widespread popularity - most gamers are adults - video games remain, in the minds of many, brainless or, worse, brain-destroying junk. Rather than harmless fun, many see video games as a digital menace that is sexualizing our children and turning them into bloodthirsty zombies.

While legitimate reasons exist for concern - far too many children are indeed gaming with violent and sexually explicit games intended only for adults - those opposed to video games might be surprised to learn that not one of the 10 best-selling games for the PlayStation and Xbox consoles in 2006 were shoot 'em ups. Most were, in fact, sports titles.

Non-gamers often assume that video games, like so many electronic media, are designed to deliver instant gratification. The opposite is the case.

The best video games are brilliantly designed puzzles. Finishing them requires players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies, learn the rules through trial and error, maintain discipline, juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions.

All much like the ultimate game of life itself.

The usual video game structure teaches players that the best course of action is always to accept the in-game system and to succeed within it. …

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