Thursday, September 13, 2007

Video Game Essay

About a month or two ago, I was instructed to write an essay (the topic of my choosing) for on online writing course I was taking. Naturally, I chose video games as my topic. Since that ties in so nicely with this blog, I'll post it here in case anybody is interested in reading it. It deviates slightly from my usual writing style, as the rules and regulations for writing the essay were more strict than I'm used to. Therefore I really had to try to cram all my information into reasonably short parahraphs, which was fully against my rambling nature. But regardless of all that, here it is:


“Video games are teaching kids to kill!”
The alarming-sounding phrase has been coming from concerned individuals for years. When a parent’s son settles down to try out a new video game, what does the parent see? Glazed over eyes intently staring into the TV screen for hours on end, just for the sake of beating the game's next level. It seems to be a never-ending cycle of pressing buttons, running, and shooting. Rinse and repeat. There must be better things he could be doing. This kind of activity can’t be good for anybody. Well, interestingly enough, nothing could be farther from the truth. Many people believe that video games are shallow, and lead to violence, antisocialism, and addiction, yet ignore other primary issues in the player’s life. Video games actually teach you how to think, allow you to explore rich literary stories, and give you opportunities to learn in many subject areas. In fact, they oftentimes go deeper than textbook-like disciplines, and are truly art as they become deep, creative experiences for the player.

First, the general public’s perception is often that video games cause addiction and aggression. However, a player’s environment, parents, and values not only determine what games the player chooses, but can change the effect of the game itself. For example, all of the gamers I know are not affected in a negative way by video games, as they all lead balanced lives and have strong moral values. Players that experience problems with video games are usually those that have existing troubles in their lives. Doom, a known violent video game, has been a speculated cause for the Columbine shooting. However, the teen shooters had many negative, violent aspects in their lives, including bullying and depression. Brian Rohrbough, whose son, Danny, 15, died at the Columbine shooting, blames school shootings not on video games, but on a society that tolerates, even glorifies, violence. He said,
"We teach students that anything you want to do is up to you and you can decide whether anything is right or wrong."
While Doom might have been a small factor in the tragedy, the actual outcome was not due to the game, but to the people playing it.

Second, an innumerable amount of subject areas in life can be discovered through video games. According to BBC News’ article "Video Games ‘Stimulate Learning’", kids who play video games such as Age of Empires and Sim City 3000 have increased abilities in several subjects. Agreeing with this fact, Pam Laricchia said in her article "Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Video Games" that her son learned multiple skills applicable to real life via gaming. I myself have learned much from video games, including math, geography, history, zoology, tactics, logic, thinking skills, decoding, writing, English, composition, and even cooking.

Third, video games not only educate, but engage the player in something even deeper. Although I was rather creative even before discovering video games, my creativity expanded to great measures afterwards. I found new topics to write about, I became more interested in music, and I even began making my own games. Video games can take your interests and magnify them. They have a power to express real art and music just as much as any other form of media. Shadow of the Colossus, one of the most artistic games of all time, is piercingly beautiful in emotion and in aesthetic design, and plays not like a shooter but like a true adventure. Games such as The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind offer not only beauty, but immeasurable depth. In Morrowind, players can create their own character and can do (almost literally) anything they wish to attempt in the world the game presents. A character-creating system, a fully-functional world to explore, hundreds of books about Morrowind’s lore, realistic yet fictional plant life that can be used for cooking recipes, and thousands of other possibilities exist in just this one game. Explaining even one tenth of Morrowind’s world could take paragraphs upon paragraphs.

If people took the time to research, play, and really understand video games, they might see more than the button-mashing, shoot ‘em up stereotypes, and recognize the real depth and value of gaming. In fact, players are probably learning more with their games than they are in the classroom. As James Paul Gee said in his article High Score Education, “Young gamers today aren’t training to be gun-toting carjackers. They’re learning how to learn.”