Games vs Reading in an Alternate Reality

A new book came out, the current headlines are “Watching TV makes you smarter” but I guess, according to the author of the book, the book focuses more on games rather than TV. It’s just that more people watch TV so making a issue out of that he hopes will get more people interested in the book.

As small excerpt:

“Imagine an alternate world identical to ours save one techno-historical change: videogames were invented and popularized before books. In this parallel universe, kids have been playing games for centuries—and then these page-bound texts come along and suddenly they’re all the rage. What would the teachers, and the parents, and the cultural authorities have to say about this frenzy of reading? I suspect it would sound something like this:

Reading books chronically under-stimulates the senses. Unlike the longstanding tradition of gameplaying—which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical soundscapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page. Only a small portion of the brain devoted to processing written language is activated during reading, while games engage the full range of the sensory and motor cortices…

Read the rest on his blog and the New York Times for a better description of the book. Basically I think he is arguing that the judgement of whether or not a certain entertainment is good or bad for you is normally about if the material is “smart” (Frasier vs Full House) but that instead it should be about how much it makes you use your brain (Frasier vs 24 vs games). To follow 24 requires you to concentrate, to think. To follow Frasier, even if it’s about smart characters really requires you just to sit back and enjoy and not use your brain. Games usually take that even further. It’s an interesting idea.

  • good books

    Ya, so many good books…

    This one has been mentioned a few places and I intend to pick it up.

    Interestingly, it seems that the “pro game” (or rather not anti-game) side is doing really well on the book front, compared to the game/media/culture haters. But, we’re sorely losing the general press front…

    Jason Della Rocca, IGDA

  • anonnanana
    Funny thing is…

    …I actually encourage my daughters to play video games (especially when the choice is video games vs. TV). (As a caveat, I play WITH them when they play).

    For example, my oldest daughter is encouraged to read when playing, for the simple fact that she wants to find out what she should do next.

    Also, the games I tend to play with my daughters tend to have a lot of puzzle solving, so they exercise their puzzle solving abilities by playing.

    Another reason is that I don’t want my girls to fall behind the boys in the whole hand-eye-coordination/visual-spatial-movement department.

    And lastly, I think that a lot of games give instant feedback on the value of ‘practice’. When playing with my daughters, I’ve been emphasizing with them the times when they haven’t been able to complete an objective the first time, but through practice, eventually complete the mission and get rewarded.

    I can even think of a couple of more principals they are learning (and that I am emphasizing) while we play: teamwork (for both multiplayer AND single player games), delayed gratification (“if I don’t spend my “shiny objects” here, I can use them later for an even better prize”).

    – anonnanana