By PHIL SPIZZICA
For virtually as long as I can remember, video games and gaming culture have had a profound impact on my life. In fact, I am certain that the person I am today is directly related to my incessant, habitual video game playing from the time I was young. It’s interesting how something like that can have such an effect, and nowadays most people just seem totally incapable of understanding. It’s a tragedy, really; even though gaming quickly became a universal phenomenon and is undeniably becoming the most popular and dynamic variety of entertainment media out there, it still scarcely receives the respect that it deserves. Instead, gaming is treated to blind oppression.
If a video game includes violence, it serves no purpose other than to corrupt and devastate the minds of today’s youths, right? Well, I’d say that’s an incredibly ignorant, narrow-minded approach to the issue. Unfortunately, this opinion is all too common in our society today. A video game is, first and foremost, a popular form of escapism, of which many can customarily include and embrace mature themes; I’m not going to try and dispute that. However, this doesn’t mean that no constructive experience can be garnered from playing a video game, and it certainly does not mean that real learning can’t result from playing one, as it so frequently does.
Try and look at it this way: novels are also, first and foremost, a form of entertainment, and they often contain themes and subject matter very similar to those of video games. But unlike playing games, we are actually again and again encouraged to read novels. Why is this? Well, because it is generally accepted that reading books is conducive to greater intelligence and a more curious, explorative mind, just as it has been for hundreds of years. I surely have no problem with that statement, and I agree with it to a great extent. I just don’t see why video games must be crucified merely for attempting to convey similar ideas, though through a contradistinctive format. Reading books can certainly benefit your vocabulary and your abilities to reason and comprehend, but the oftentimes far more complex experience of a good video game can enhance several other facets of your mental dexterity at once. I personally consider myself to be evidence of this. I’ve learned far, far more from video games than I had ever cared to learn from my high school teachers, and that’s the truth. The information they teach in schools is usually taught far out of context of actual use, and it rarely has anything to do with an individual’s personal goals other than just passing a test. This can render a lot of the stuff taught at school pretty hard to swallow. Video games are sort of the antithesis of this. A good game will give you exactly the information you have to know for an objective you need and want to accomplish at precisely the right time, all the while enabling you to build upon that information on your own for future application and supplying plenty of motivation for you to keep it up. Things just play out so much better in the interactive context of a game.
The point of all this is not to suggest video games should replace high school or novels or textbooks or anything ridiculous like that. I happen to be a big fan of reading, and I love that America forces all of its inhabitants to attend school, because I strongly believe that our society would be nothing without that. I’m simply saying that people need to look on games with a more open mind, and realize that they aren’t so bad. They are educational. They entertain and bring people together in a way nothing else can. And they are a positive force on today’s society. I’m sick and tired of people forever persecuting video games for wholly contrived reasons. In a world as belligerent and unforgiving as ours, I guess people constantly need somewhere to cast blame in order to feel better about themselves, but video games have been the scapegoat long enough.