Saturday, 28 July 2012

Books, forever and always.

After reading James Gee's article on the merits of video games, I was impressed with his--no. I'm sorry. That's utter balderdash. I was just as skeptical as you'd expect me to be. As for Jane McGonigal's TED Talk: missie, your fictional counterpart would be appalled.


Sure, yes, let's keep open minds. Perhaps there are video games out there with genuine benefits and legitimate claims to educational influence. Perhaps I'm a brackish-tempered curmudgeon. But let's face it: all this championing of gaming is nothing more than an anxious scramble to justify the two generations we have now lost to it. I will never accept that something designed to have no connection to the real world, something that lacks analytical depth or value, something that sucks up hours, days of one's life and leaves one with nothing to show for it, stands any chance as an enrichment tool. Just...no. I refuse.

"But Sas, you're being hypocritical! You spend just as long hidden away with a book as I did hidden away with a game!" my game-devoted younger brother indignantly exclaims. True, I grant you. But I maintain that books give at least as much back as they take in. You learn about yourself, as well as about the world and time during which the book was written. You acquire more vocabulary and improve your writing skills. You can explore other cultures and places. They hone concentration and focus in a way that nothing else does. They sharpen memory. People with higher literacy levels are also three times more likely to be above the poverty level than those who don't read well. They deepen language-learning.

Video games might offer a tiny fraction of a few of those things, but you are removing yourself from the entire world. They are not connected to any reality, not even the author's, because too many people contributed for it to reveal anything about one person. They leech, with very little repayment for your attention.

6 comments:

  1. I don't think the point was to say that we should use video games as a classroom tool. I think the point was that we should try to address the "learning principles that good video games incorporate," as Gee puts it. For example, he says that good video games encourage players to take risks because the consequences of failure aren't very drastic. Failure leads to useful feedback and another chance to succeed. So, maybe students would benefit from a class environment that encourages risk-taking.

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    1. And I agree with that focus. I suppose I'm contesting video games as an accurate model. I think that comparison is fallacious.

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  2. I wonder if you're circling around the idea of TRANSFER. Does what we learn playing video games transfer and have applicability in the non-video game world? Or does it just help us play better video games?

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    1. I'm not sure, because I do agree with the principles Gee emphasizes. I just really don't believe that video games actually teach those principles; quite the opposite. I don't believe that shoddily legitimizing gaming will help education, so I get anxious when we reach toward that.

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  3. I just gotta say, I really commiserate with this post. I guess I must have some sort of natural aversion to gaming in general because I really dislike the idea of championing their educational merits. I am traditional in that I too would much prefer a book rather than to sit down and play a video game. I just really feel like it sucks people into a world that they are never able to fully escape and robs some kids of social interactions that would be ultimately beneficial. I agree with some of what Gee says, but for the most part i agree with what you say more. I don't want to put all my chips in the technological basket, I feel like we still need to have a foundation in texts and reading.

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    1. Thanks, Tine. I am right there with you. :)

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