Don’t let the title fool you loyal readers. Video Games are not this writer’s sole source of education, but I will be damned if I said they didn’t help. For years I have had to endure the shameful glares that met me whenever I informed a non-gamer that I would be spending the next few hours feverishly playing any particularly addicting game. These ignorant glares from parents, girlfriends, the elderly, the Amish, or any other person are bred from the idea that Video Games have no particular value other then to entertain.
In the past, I had always rebutted the aforementioned glares and pointless lectures on the basis that a video game held artistic value: a combination of music, art, and theater. How could anyone dispute that? (I mean after all art is subjective, so how could any one subject be excluded from its dominion.)
Well dispute they did.
Because Video Games have such a large demographic, that is to say that a wide variety of people who play them, there are a large number of negative events or occurrences that can be focused on by naysayers that blame the games themselves. Have I lost you?…probably..but for those of you still with me, I shall elaborate. If I asked you to picture a typical gamer I could probably presume what you would envision: an adolescent, who in all likelihood is male, who lacks social skills and generally fails at life (i.e. 20 something “Kilgor the night elf” living in his arthritic, aging mother’s basement). I don’t blame you for such prejudice, even as a gamer myself, I am subject to these stereotypes. Now there are undoubtedly many reasons behind this “all gamers are nerds” illusion, but that’s not what I wish to discuss.
Recently, while pondering what game I would buy after I had scraped enough money together (ATTENTION READERS: FEEL FREE TO DONATE MONEY), it occurred to me that games don’t just hold value as an art form, they hold value as educational material. The more I explored this idea, the more I realized just how much gaming taught me. In fact, there was hardly a situation I could think of that I couldn’t relate at least one of the skills needed to succeed to my tenure as a joystick jocky. That’s impressive, I can’t say the same thing for calculus (they lie children, you don’t need it!)(( Disclaimer: maybe you do)). I intend to list all the skills I can that video gaming has given me and break it down, and, for the sake of not having to explain later, I ask you the reader to realize I am not talking about games DESIGNED to be educational (such as math munchers, deserves a remake!).
It’s easy to overlook just how much rhythm and timing effect our daily lives. Switching lanes on the highway, actually playing a rhythm, or just making your schedule work are just a few examples where timing/rhythm is crucial. My generation had the pleasure of having home game consoles available in our childhood. I spent many days after school sitting with my brother playing the essential games of the time: Mario, Sonic, and Mortal Kombat (I hope you know I played more than these 3 games). Two of those named classics belong to the game genre of platformer. These platformers boil down to nothing more then knowing when to do what. When to make Mario jump so he could clear the gap and land on King Koopa’s back, or picking the perfect moment to let down Sub Zero’s gaurd and nail Scorpion with an uppercut (with any luck…can I get a …WHOOOOOPSIE!) are just two examples of how games helped hone my timing in real life. As I switch lanes cruising down I-77 I can almost see the little green frog moving right along side me doing his best to avoid cars as well. (FROGGER)
Examples: Guitarhero, Mario (pretty much all of them, save when he went Kerouak on everyone, quit plumbin and got his PHD.((Dr. Mario? have my references fallen on deaf ears or none at all?))), Sonic, Frogger, Dance Dance Revolution, and oh so so many more.
Morality is a tough thing to teach to children (or anyone for that matter), it’s abstractedness makes it hard to grasp except for in simple terms and excerpts. For years, young kids have been reading fairy tales and are taught tales of Good vs. Evil in order to entertain but more specifically to begin indoctrinating them into our moral standards. The tale of Rapunzel is a beloved fairy tale that has been around for a long while. It is a model of morality, a man fighting for his love against an evil source. Now what if I replaced the word “man“ with ”plumber“ and ”evil source“ with ”evil turtle king?“ Sounds kind of familiar eh? I hate to be repetitive be once again but Mario is a perfect example of games that teach morals. I would wager that, even with the morally absent games such as Grand Theft Auto (which by the way is still pretty educational if you ever want to pick up a hooker. Just park perfectly in your non-wrecked whip and she will walk around the car a few times and if your lucky you’ll get that sweet virtual ass) flooding the market, the amount of the games that have a positive message outweighs those with a negative one.
Examples: Zelda, Medal of Honor (taught me more about honor than “All Quiet on the Western Front”), Fallout, and other games where your decisions have consequences.
Really? Do I have to Explain? You try playing Tetris for a few hours and tell me you didn’t solve a damn puzzle.
Examples: Dr. Mario (HA! you thought I would say Tetris….or regular Mario)!
Do I have enough health to defeat my next obstacle? Should I sit in a building and snipe or go rifling through the streets ACR’s ablazing? Games don’t just help your analytical skills, they are constantly bombarding them with choices and decisions to process forcing you to become better. Maybe you disagree, but lets look at a simple yet effective example: Pokemon. Ok, proffesor Oak has finally shut his old trap and made with the pokeballs but who to pick? Charmander does evolve into the powerful Charizard but he will have a strong challenge against that first gym leader (curse you BROCK!), Squirtle would have the advantage there but so would Bulbasaur, which is more effective in the long run?! Because of games when I enter into a new situation I have been trained to asses my surrounding and all available data to make an informed yet quick decision.
Examples: all of the Pokemons (red, blue, crystal, gold, silver, emerald, ruby, sapphire, burnt sienna …except yellow. Damn Pikachu! You get pwned by Brock even harder then Charmander!)
You play Farmville? For the sake of your soul, I pray that you do not, but if you do you know exactly what I mean. In games like Farmville, actions are limited by time. This translates into ”I have this much time how do I spend it?“ Do I throw all my plasma grenades now or save them for that bunker up there that is sure to be filled with brutes? Allocation of resources is an integral part of gaming and can be seen in almost any game currently on the shelves.
Examples: Call of Duty (got to decide how to spend your upgrades), any RPG (or Role Playing Game), Starcraft, and so on and such.
Human Cooperation & Interaction
When I was six I was stuck playing Maximum Carnage on the Sega gensis with my brother in my living room (whenever he would give up the sticks!). Now I can play Assassin’s Creed with people in Africa, fighting other people in New Zealand. Games, since their inception, have encouraged us to work together to win. In old single player games it didn’t matter that only one of us could play at a time, me and whoever braved playing with me at the time were partners in the journey to best the cartridge, disc, mind control device, whatever. Now that we have systems that 4 people can play locally (as in people that are on the same couch as you), countless can play linked, and even more can play online games. This function is similar to sports. Sports are obviously more physical, but ultimately they give us a chance to cooperate with others towards a common goal in a competitive atmosphere. Games are the same (perhaps that is why they also call them games..). I urge you to try and play non cooperatively in any current military simulation game. Unless you are the Highlander or Chuck Norris, the lack of a team would guarantee your loss. We have all experienced the situation were we haplessly bargain our partners over items, power ups, and on some occasions…PIZZA.
Example: Mario Party, Double Dragon, Ninja Turtles Shell Shock (“I swear to God if you steal my pizza….”), Call of Duty, and one other game..
There is: music, visual design, story, vision, drama, suspense, personal relevance…..I don’t think I should have to explain this one.
Example: MARIO PAINT! (for those of you that missed out, I have never enjoyed swatting flies with a disembodied white glove before)
Most parents buy their kids a dog to teach them that there are “responsibilities” associated with privileges and more specifically in taking care of another living thing. Want to save hundreds of dollars on dog food and new socks? Buy the kid a Tamagotchi, it’s practically the same thing except it’s quiet, doesn’t need fed (real food), and fits snuggly inside your sons pocket.
These are just but a few lessons I picked up from gaming, but I hope they have shown you two things:
- Games have lessons to be taught and can help you learn, and can also be about mindless violence which is also righteous.
- EVERYTHING is an educational tool, especially you! (I said it, you’re a damn tool.) It is up to us to learn, and derive value and merit from the things with which we are presented. While certain materials have been generally accepted as a standard of education, it is not at the exclusion of all other materials.
So keep learning any way that you can, as long as you want to, it is a possibility. Read a book, study something that interests you, or go tear through Nazi Zombies for 2 hours. The next time your mom or girlfriend (note: either way it’s a nagging female) begins to lecture you about the time you are wasting leveling up your paladin, (I am talking Diablo II, not World of Warcraft….I think WoW may actually be more of a cult then a game…) look at them patiently in the eyes and say “FUCK OFF, IM LEARNING.”