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.
Game on!


  1. thsoundman - May 7, 2011 12:58 am

    Excel­lent arti­cle Kam and on a good top­ic too. I had this dis­cus­sion with sev­er­al peo­ple and not just with my par­ents. I must actu­al­ly admit that my par­ents were pret­ty accep­tive of my gam­ing when I was a young adult. I would say between the ages of 13 — 21 I played an exces­sive amount of video games. That being said I was work­ing at least 40 hours a week plus I spent time with my friends to boot so it was­n’t like I was neglect­ing my life in place of my video games. I did sev­er­al things out­side of it. Per­haps thats why my par­ents were so accept­ing.
    That being said I’ve had this argru­ment with sev­er­al peo­ple includ­ing my friends whose base argue­ment is “video games are evil” or “video games destroy your mind”. Gen­er­al­ly these state­ments are from a lack of under­stand­ing of the com­plex nature of how team based mul­ti­play­er work. Many games such as EvE online require extreme ded­i­ca­tion to team work and requires users to play close atten­tion to instruc­tions before a giv­en bat­tle. A bat­tle in eve online can be decid­ed sim­ply by hav­ing a good leader. Good atti­tude, prompt­ness and team work save the day and I’ve even seen where hav­ing used these skills in a video game has land­ed some­one a job sim­ply because they could prove they had lead­er­ship abil­i­ty.
    For me per­son­al­ly my entire career in the IT indus­try spawned from me play­ing video games. I got involved in it when I start­ed play­ing Xwing vs Tie Fight­er and got into the mod­ding com­mu­ni­ty. This taught me my base knowl­edge of how com­put­er sys­tems work and even­tu­al­ly led me into the career field I am cur­rent­ly in.
    Hav­ing said all of this there are peo­ple who do waste their lives away play­ing games and do noth­ing but, how­ev­er peo­ple should not be so quick to judge because not all gamers are that way. Just my 2cents.

  2. Oureax - May 7, 2011 6:01 am

    My dad used to ask the same a mil­lion times to me and my broth­er when we play Con­tra. 😛 At that time when­ev­er he comes and asks(after an hour of play), that would be the end of the ses­sion. //he always wins. I know that not all games are like that, but yeah, you real­ly can’t explain when you play some. 🙂
    BTW, Bril­liant post sir. 🙂

  3. ScrotusKilmystr - May 7, 2011 7:01 am

    great arti­cle!
    My gen­er­al thought on gam­ing is if your sim­ple sit­ting watch­ing tv zoned out not think­ing get­ting blast­ed with adverts and radi­a­tion why not sim­ply do some gam­ing as every one has stat­ed it helps with team build­ing skills and prob­lem solv­ing as well
    there always the moth­er of all argu­ments hand/eye coor­di­na­tion
    but my point is I’d rather play a game than veg in front of the tube!

  4. Kamiki - May 7, 2011 11:16 am

    (whis­pers) Oureax, I’m a chick. Its okay, you did­n’t know. =D My dad always wins argu­ments, too. Though, now that I’m an adult, it isn’t more that he wins but that I am tired of argu­ing and have learned to pick my bat­tles. haha.
    And I com­plete­ly agree, Scto­tus! I would MUCH rather do some­thing that requires my full (or most­ly full…) atten­tion than sit and stare at the TV like a lot of gamer-haters do. I find it sad, pathet­ic, and hyp­o­crit­i­cal that a lot of the peo­ple who are down on gam­ing are the sort who veg in front of the tv.

  5. gamecultist - May 7, 2011 3:53 pm

    I had the very same dis­cus­sion with my par­ents, although they don’t seem to be as open to it as your moth­er.
    Fun­ny sto­ry though, my dad was hor­ri­bly addict­ed to a Medal of Hon­or game, and since then he con­sid­ers games the spawn of the dev­il. No con­vinc­ing him!
    Any­way, if you’re inter­est­ed to learn more about the sub­ject you could always read ‘Got Game’ a (busi­ness ori­ent­ed) book that offers some great insights. Or you could just go to which is basi­cal­ly a con­densed ver­sion.
    Anoth­er great arti­cle, keep it up!


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