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.”

5 comments:

K said...

What a fantastic essay! You did a great job of making your point without preaching like so many other perspectives I have read.

Keep on writing. We need to hear more from your generation!

Flex said...

What a fantastic essay! You did a great job of making your point without preaching like so many other perspectives I have read.

Thanks a lot, I'm glad you liked it. It was a bit difficult to get all my points across in just five paragraphs, but I think I said most of what I needed to say.

Anonymous said...

This is excellent! I agree with everything you said here! My kids have had the same experiences with learning, problem solving, logic, developing their artistic skills and interests and more! Another thing to think about is that we live in a technologically advancing world. Kids who are very familiar with computers and video games will have a "leg up" in the real world.

Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful game and the music is so expansive! I always felt sad, though, that these gorgeous, flowing creatures had to die! =)

And if you loved Morrowind - PLEASE go play Oblivion! My favorite! I'm having an issue with the music (it stopped playing) but the story, art work, etc. is breathtaking!

We are looking forward to the new Ace Combat 6 - Skies of Liberation. The graphics are incredible and the music...oh the music! =)

Great job!

Donna

Flex said...

This is excellent! I agree with everything you said here! My kids have had the same experiences with learning, problem solving, logic, developing their artistic skills and interests and more!

Thanks, it's nice to see that there are those who agree with my take on games, and that you enjoy the games yourself.

Another thing to think about is that we live in a technologically advancing world. Kids who are very familiar with computers and video games will have a "leg up" in the real world.

That's a good point. I guess I never really thought about that since I spend a good portion of my life using electronics.

Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful game and the music is so expansive! I always felt sad, though, that these gorgeous, flowing creatures had to die! =)

I agree... one moment the dramatic music is swelling and you feel like you're on top of the world, and the next moment the giant beast you were after is tumbling down. Kind of a feeling of regret, almost.

And if you loved Morrowind - PLEASE go play Oblivion! My favorite! I'm having an issue with the music (it stopped playing) but the story, art work, etc. is breathtaking!

I would love to do just that, but I don't play M-rated games, it's just my policy. However, I do own the entire soundtrack for the game, and while not as good as Morrowind's (in my opinion), it's absoultely beautiful, and sure makes me with I had the game.

That's too bad about your copy of Oblivion's music. In case you want to hear the music again, or purchase the soundtrack, head over to directsong.com... it's a website all about Jeremy Soule's music (he did all the Elder Scrolls music).

We are looking forward to the new Ace Combat 6 - Skies of Liberation. The graphics are incredible and the music...oh the music! =)

I own Ace Combat 04, and I too am looking forward to AC 06. The music in 04 was fantastic (some of the best I've heard), and if 06's trailer is any indication, AC fans are in for another musical treat.

Thanks for commenting!

Flex said...

EDIT: I've played Oblivion (I did so a while ago), and it is incredible as I had hoped. Just thought I'd mention that.