Your Angry Birds addiction is … good for you?
There is the longstanding stigma that videogames are, at best, an escape from reality. Painted in less favorable light, the games are regarded as corruptive and dangerous. However, a recent Wall Street Journal article claims that they are fulfilling and beneficial to users. Videogames bleed more and more into our daily lives. They come with us everywhere now, hanging out in phones, not just in people’s dorm rooms. Their ubiquity hasn’t convinced everyone of their good, though.
There is evidence for each side to cite: kids who play video games are better able to reason spatially; or a murderer who attributed his facileness with the crime to his videogame usage. While I think a lot of myths propel both sides, for the sake of this post, I think we should take basic point the WSJ article is making: “games consistently provide us with the four ingredients that make for a happy and meaningful life: satisfying work, real hope for success, strong social connections and the chance to become a part of something bigger than ourselves.” So, people desperately seek social connection and a meaningful life; what are the implications of allowing people to satisfy these needs in a virtual setting?
To answer that question, let’s keep several things in mind. First, videogames take place in virtual reality. Even with computer graphics nearly mirroring real life, games have a restart option, a degree of anonymity, and the ultimate escape, turning the game off. Moreover, some of the messages or themes of games can be rather absurd (Angry Birds, anyone?). On balance, none of these things seems terribly good for people.
Yet, as a society, shouldn’t we be thrilled that massive numbers of people are participating in a collective effort? Could banding together in a Halo community be to our generation what WWII was to our grandparents’ generation? However, what real world experiences and achievements do these individuals forgo? It’s important to acknowledge the potential benefits of videogames. However, are we in position to accept them as an unobjectionable good yet? Reading these two articles, one from the WSJ and the other from Slate.com, might help one come to their own conclusion.
As for me, while I’m not on the PTA mom videogames-are-the-root-of-all-evil kick, I find the thought of quenching my desires for “satisfying work” and “being a part of something bigger than [myself]” through a videogame slightly pathetic. Playing Brickbreaker on the bus to West is acceptable; citing your videogame success as your social and career accomplishments, is not.