I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time now. Looking for the right approach and how to balance pros and cons about the theme. Truth is, at this point, there is no general accepted final answer about video games. They are a relatively new form of entertainment compared to other forms such as television, radio or movies. And the fast track that video games took made them carry the burden for a bunch of contemporary problems in our society.
For example, video games have been blamed for the disaster of Columbine in 1999 and in Helsinki in 2007 . They’ve also been blamed for kids that don’t want to go to school or bad school performance; childhood obesity, and the list keep growing. However, more and more research shows that video games have hardly anything to do with most of them. Kids that suffer from any of those have shown psychological backgrounds that explains better their problems than “video game addiction”.
In fact, I share the opinion that only troubled minds get addicted to video games. In our current society we only praise successful people, stories, and those who became rich and famous. I’m not a psychologist but I like to question the kind of pressure we put in people these days. Advertisement, movies, TV series, cartoons, and, more concerning, in magazines, newspapers, TV news reports everyone has some special powers that make them better than the average man or woman is. And hardly have we seen their failures. And not only kids are affected by that.
I heard once from a Human Resource consultant that “we are supposed to know to dance like Astaire, to choose wine like a professional sommelier, to sing like Sinatra, and to excel in every aspect of life but we are failures if we are learning how to do these things”. Have you ever considered that perspective? And how long does it take to learn all those things? Truth is that in virtual worlds offered by Video Games we accomplish a lot more in less time than in real life. And this reward, in troubled minds, can lead them to focus on virtual worlds rather than the real one. In a way, video game accomplishment offers an alternative to the mediocrity that daily life scrapes on our faces everyday – taking school exams that you have no idea what’s that course for, paying bills, paper work, fixing the door bell, or changing a flat tire. They offer us those special powers and allow us to dance like Astaire, or play guitar like a Guitar Hero (pun intended).
I don’t want to celebrate mediocrity. But I think we might as well value the process and the learning involved in trying – and not turn every mistake into failure. Because if we want to do something different (innovate) we are incurring into a great chance of making mistakes in the process. And if we do not take advantage of those and punish mistakes as we do today, how are we to ask for people to innovate? Video games instead, when you die you get new chances, and you can question what you are doing wrong, go to the internet to find out about it and so on. There is learning after dying – because there is purpose and a clear goal.
There’s a lot to be said about video games and some points are quite controversial. But this is just a first post of a series I’ll try to write discussing their use in many other fields that not only entertainment. Video games offer a far more interesting interface than regular software and some are aware of that power and willing to experiment with them. Here I just want to make the point that video games are not evil or responsible for the collapse of virtues and values in society. Those opinions are just facing a hard time in accepting the new as generations ago had as the following illustrates: “A pastime of illiterate, wretched creatures who are stupefied by their daily jobs, a machine of mindlessness and dissolution”. While this might illustrate the type of attacks that video games suffer today, it was actually said more than 70 years ago about the movies – which today are considered a form of art.
So instead of blaming them, perhaps we should look more carefully into them.
 David Edery and Ethan Mollick (2007) Changing the Game: How Video Games are transforming the Future of Business. FT Press.