May 6, 2011
Explaining Gaming to Those Who Don’t Understand
I suppose as a former almost-educator, I should touch on the educational aspects of gaming. I have had to defend my playing World of Warcraft, Halo, even Mario Cart and Super Smash Bro’s on my old N64 to my mother, a firm believer in activities that develop mental clarity and knowledge. So, while this topic may not be about the newest game or an exciting review, it has to potential to be helpful to the younger readers that find themselves trying to defend themselves to the parental figures in their lives. Now, I want to make something clear so I don’t have hate mail. I am not going to make a clear cut list of what is educational about each game. Instead, I am going attempt to help you learn to discern what parts you share with that nosy parent and what you don’t.
The idea that gaming can actually teach kids valuable skills for their future is most assuredly not mine. I have heard a couple of wonderful talks from TED that support video and computer games that involve leadership skills, listening skills, the ability to work together as a team to complete the objective, using the feeling of euphoria you get from saving the virtual world and channeling that feeling to save the real world, and many others. The games range from PC games with MMO’s such as WoW, Guild Wars, Aion, EQ and LotR online to the obnoxious Facebook games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars, and between the console games such as Guitar Hero and Halo to phone games like Angry Birds.
In explaining the “violent games” such as Super Smash Bro’s, all my brother and I had to do was say “hey, at least we aren’t trying to kill each other in real life.” We managed to convince our parents that smashing each other off the platform with the KO bat or the singing, smashing hammer was healthier than attempting to push the other down the stairs or throwing real hammers at each other because playing SSB gave us an outlet for our frustrations with each other. As adults, we still play our N64. However we’ve graduated to sniping each other in Halo and cursing the other’s skills good naturedly when the urge to throw the other off a roof gets too strong. And no, I haven’t yet discovered an argument for FPS games that satisfies my mom’s passive nature.
Whenever I am home for a visit, I get (cue intense music) “The Lecture”. You know what I’m talking about. And it always begins like this:
Mom: Why are you wasting your time with that game?
Me: It isn’t a waste.
Mom: Prove it.
The last time we had this discussion, I had my proof ready. I began to describe how the raid is run, how we have a raid leader who calls out who has what task, where ranged is supposed to stack, and so on. The remaining 9 (or 24, depending on the size raid) have an important job as well: listening to our instructions. We have to work together to defeat the raid bosses and the mechanics are different for each boss. You are also required to show up for raid on time, a concept that a few members of the raid I’m in have a hard time understanding. I explained that we all realize that yes, this is indeed a game. But when you make a commitment, be it in real life or in the game for a raid, it is important to be prompt and be ready by the time 6:30 (our set raid time) rolls around. My mom was surprised.
Mom: So it isn’t just staring at a screen and killing things?
Me: Sometimes it is. But in order to be successful at World of Warcraft, you have to be willing to work as a team and to be on time, otherwise you are going to be stuck running random raids with people who are nasty, mean, and self-serving – and you’re going to be the one who gets the short stick every time. Patience is also very important, because unless everyone in the group understands the boss mechanics, you will wipe. And if you’re like me and a grammar nazi, resisting the urge to correct every other sentence becomes easier every night.
Mom: Maybe I’ll watch part of your raid tonight.
And she did.
And while she still holds to the idea that I play too much WoW (which I do, haha) she now understands that there are important things that games can teach us, without us even realizing it sometimes. I hope I haven’t sucked the fun out of the games, because that most definitely wasn’t my intention.