‘Seen as encouraging anti-social play in violent and morally dubious computer environments and narratives, videogames become everything that threatens an idealised children’s culture’ (Lister 2009)
Taking the above point I would like to expand upon the reasons why theorists such as Lister claim that videogames are the downfall of a child’s culture. Having been raised with only a Gameboy colour, I never understood the ‘magic’ behind videogames. Granted, they are vibrant in colour, with twisted storylines, shooting and killing, but unfortunately they are not my sort of game, I’d rather play snake or solitaire. I always saw videogames as a form of escapism as McLuhan explains ‘games are a sort of artificial paradise like Disneyland, or some Utopian vision by which we interpret and complete the meaning of our daily lives.’ (McLuhan 1967: 238) I am not claiming there is something wrong with that however if we compare playing GTA (Grand theft auto) to playing a board game with your friend such as trivial pursuit then I believe the pro’s of playing trivial pursuit outweigh the pro’s of playing GTA. Trivial pursuit and other such board games allow you to bond with your friends, find out facts about different subjects, which can also be classified as ‘information learning’ and you seem to be active rather than being sat alone in your room.
Furthermore, as Turkle claims ‘computer games are rule-governed rather than open-ended’ (Turkle 1984) so surely living in a society which is already to a great extent governed by rules, why would one want to immerse him/herself into another world in which to get by you have to find cheats online which give you money or unlock a weapon? Caillois explains this point by talking about the extent of corruption evident in these games and how the fact that there is a ‘sharp delineation between fantasy and reality protects the player from alienation from the real world (Caillois 1962: 49) Therefore to a great extent, the fact that these games have been designed in such ways that the player is aware that he is immersing himself into a vessel of entertainment rather than another reality does protect players from getting too involved and falsely believing that they are entering a parallel world. This isn’t the case all the time however, as when acclaimed writer, Tom Bissel became addicted to GTA and was asked what the game offered him he responded by saying,‘What have games given me? Experiences. Not surrogate experiences, but actual experiences, many of which are as important to me as any real memories.’ Depicting how some people’s lives can be distorted through gameplay.
Moving on to the idea of games being the basis of learning for children which was initially proposed by Jean Piaget, I believe the technological advances which have occurred over the years have made his above statement inapplicable to todays children’s games. As is evident in the video where psychologists use games to teach children basic cognitive functions, games in the older days where much simpler and hands-on, allowing children to use their brains to think of solutions.
In today’s technological revolution, I would like to use Stutz’s quote referring to todays ‘‘electronic child’ hemmed in by conflict and fear’’ (Stutz 1995) to explain how and why I believe children aren’t benefiting very much in terms of cognitive evolution through today’s gameplay. In no way am I saying that games such as Mavis Beacon’s typing computer game(see below) didn’t help me in learning how to blind-type on the computer at the age of 13 however I find that the games provided for today’s children are spoon-fed information, not allowing them to learn for themselves.
Agreeing with Andrew MacTavish, ‘the pleasure of computer games therefore is a technological pleasure. It is a pleasure of accessing, witnessing and performing technologically mediated environments.’ It is not aiding children to problem-solve, it is teaching them to be aggressive and find cheats so that their Sims can afford a pool. Therefore when in his blog Henry Jenkins claims that ‘the power of games is in part that they provide such clarity in defining the roles and goals, that they helped us to know what to do and how to do it, and as such, they motivate deeper forms of learning’ I find myself disagreeing. How are children learning through predetermined outcomes of gameplay and through being shown exactly what to do and how to do it through ‘walkthroughs’ of games as is illustrated below?