« Invidious Comparison | Main | But is it Pr0n? »

Jan 26, 2006



Cory, I think the reason that everyday tasks like parenting seem like a quest game and leveling up and beating the bosses...is because game patterns were obviously taken from RL. That is, I realize this might take some argumentation, but RL *came first*. THEN the video games.

That is, RL was supposed to prepare you to play the games...not the other way around...Something seems off here...Gosh, you wonder how the human race managed to survive before there were video games to prepare them... Prok


I guess what he's saying though, is that today video gaming comes well before child rearing. And during that time of video gaming you pick up the organizational skills. I would worry if thats where you are picking up those skills, one would think schooling should be providing that basic ability required by day to day life. Come to think of it, I would worry if that skill had to be taught at all. It seems kind of fundamental.


The Everquest Guide to Child Rearing by Noobkiller McKikaZZ. No thanks, I'll pass.


I'm a lot less sure. I remember organizing my thoughts and processes around RPGs a lot sooner than the "real-world" demanded it. I was playing Bard's Tale and the like in around the 5th-6th grade. At that point, growing up, I never really organized much of anything on a conscious level, because everything was organized for me. (go here, do this, do that, these are the steps to follow, etc.) I don't really have recollection of much before that that felt as self-modifiable or as self-planned. I would *definately* argue that you don't pick up self-organization in school until much, much later. At least that was my experience, but I'm sure everyone has some unique way of doing it.


From its inception in Prussia, the state purpose of public schools has always been to create "good citizens" - obedient subjects to a government. They were never supposed to teach anyone anything about life - that was the job of families and society in general. Perhaps it's a sad reflection on the state of family and society that skills once taught by parents and grandparents are now learned in virtual worlds - but it beats them being "taught" by government bureaucrats.


You must pack a toddler bag (in game terms a SACK) with a series of pre-selected items of various use (in game terms an INVENTORY) such as a spoon, fork, collection of toys, bottles, cheerios, etc. You must take special care to include items that help shield you from the worst of the toddler fits (in game terms a SHIELD) such as a BLANKET.

I don't know. When I first read the quoted, my first thought was actually...


You know... deciding which clubs to bring with you on a course. =P


I think it's interesting that gamers seem to have to "legitimize" their gaming, every now and then, as something much more "worthwhile". Why can't it just be entertainment? Why do we have to be curing cancer in video-games? Are we that ashamed of our hobby? I'm not suggesting that's what Andy Phelps is talking about here, but the article and comments here got me thinking of how often I see the video-game hobby being "rationalized" so seriously. Certainly, there's a lot of potential for the technology and creative thinking of designers to develop something that does have a benefit outside of entertaining us. We can already see some of the benefits (as well as problems) of bringing masses of people together in an anonymous medium. So I'm not suggesting that gaming doesn't have any redeemable qualities -- there are, in fact, quite a few. Why try to turn it into something "more" than it is (if we're strictly talking about the gaming aspect of VW's here)?



It is difficult to reply to your question, since you don't cite specific examples of the tendency that you are criticizing. There are many strong works that demonstrate the educational potential of some video games (e.g. Gee's What Videogames Have to Teach us about Language and Literacy), and such works certainly don't seem to be inspired by feelings of shame.

Games are entertaining, but they are also ideologically-inflected cultural texts that influence and reflect patterns of human cognition. It's possible to have fun with games while also considering their more serious implications. That seems to be the underlying objective of sites such as Terra Nova.


I agree with you, there is a tendency here to take the gaming thing a little too seriously. From an outsider's viewpoint is undoubtedly a bit ludicrous. It's like watching a documentary on Star Wars fans and having some guy dressed up in full Jedi regalia give a discourse on how living by the Jedi code has taught him everything in life. But this is a site about gaming, and people here are passionate, so it's understandable. Lots of things are only as important as you make them after all.


Why try to turn it into something "more" than it is (if we're strictly talking about the gaming aspect of VW's here)?

Because it's not something more. It's what we should have, but don't. It's like saying "Why turn Lord of the Rings (the book) into something more than it is?" Just because you don't know about the publishing, the psychology of the author, the historical context, his personal love of language, the nature of his religion, etc. doesn't make it "more than it is". It's just something you don't know about.

I can't speak for Andy; maybe he's trying to rationalize that which brings him pleasure. Like OMIGOD we have to justify sex! But that's certainly not what's going on (at least here) generally. Instead of "Oh, no, my obsession is trivial! I have to come up with reasons why it's not," it's "Oh, wow, my obsession has useful consequences? How amazing and cool and let's tell everyone about it so they know, too!"

Kind of like... hey, everyone, I have this new thing called calculus and I can use it to predict the motions of the planets!


Well, to elaborate on this, I think it used to work this way, for, oh, hundreds of years. There were these "bosses" and "NPCs" with names like "Grandma" and "Aunt Tillie" and "Mrs. Brady, My Sixth Grade Teacher" or "Joe the Candy Store Owner". They were part of a loose network of characters you'd encounter on your game who would instill concepts in you like like "you asked for this, I respond with that" or "no, you can't have that before dinner" or "go clean your room" or "you can advance to the next level because you did X and Y."

But all those NPCs are gone now from the young player's life. They either live in another state or country due to the velocity of change of residence and jobs in the modern world. Or they no long exist due to huge malls or the Internet replacing little villages and their little stores. Or they don't take on the task of reprimanding a child in a school setting due to the new "child-centric" theories of "fuzzy math" and even fuzzier spelling, etc. And the most important NPC of all, Mom, is usually at work, and too tired to cope, and Dad is either MIA or with a new family or whatever the story is, maybe also at work, too.

So the emergent human being, deprived of all the bosses and wizards and NPCs of the old human programming and gaming system, now has to make do with video games. So, sure...um...I hope they are instilling some good life practices like "pack what you need, pack out garbage" or "don't think you can get that for free, do X, Y, Z tasks first" or whatever it is that questing instills other than vicarious thrills.

Then there's Second Life, where on the teen grid, kids can learn a lot of positive things about community interactions and making clubs and businesses, but can also learn about negative things like bullying, Lindens who give insider tips to certain land barons about land releases, and kids with the title Teen Mentor who bully others to try to get them to sell valuable land -- and the complete edition of Lord of the Flies 2.0 I won't even get into a discussion about the adult grid, you can read my blog for that.

Yes society and civilization has broken down in places, especially in the modern industrialized states, and sure, in its place we have the Internet and video games and online worlds taking the place of civics...we get what we get.


I think perhaps you're viewing it the wrong way around. What if Mr. Phelps isn't trying to justify his games by claiming they prepared him for real life but is instead trying to view real life through the lens of a game in order to add an additional element of play to the everyday? I realize the end of his article tends heavily and explicitly towards the justification of gaming, but the middle bits - talking about turning a day with his child into a QUEST - smacks of fun and playfulness, not shame or the creaky machinary of self-justification. Rather than try to assure us (and thus himself) that it's okay to play RPGs, I think he's trying to reclassify the "everyday-isms," as he calls them, as part of a larger game to give them additional meaning and make them more enticing.

After all, we all probably know someone for whom parenthood (or home ownership, or education, or their profession, or whatever) are viewed as nothing but dreary burdens to be avoided whenever possible. Rather than succumb to that sort of cynicism, Phelps is able to leap out of bed to the cries of his child and devote his day to the mall and the grocery store and dealing with an impending tantrum with an added vigor because he can see it all as part of a game to be played rather than a chore to be done with no more enthusiasm than is absolutely necessary.



The comments to this entry are closed.