Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Are Video Games a Waste of Time?

Dad laid down an edict last night about #1 Son and Wolfie playing xbox too much. We'd talked about it before, but I think the pending decision to homeschool has made him more aware of how #1 Son spends his "free" time. I understand how he can get frustrated with the boys--he's not around them all day when they're doing other things, so all he sees is the gaming. In fact, yesterday I told the boys myself that they should be outside "doing something" because it was the nicest weather we'd had in weeks. But #1 Son was tired and Wolfie reminded me he'd been outside planting flowers at the local park all day (5th grade field trip) and Chester really wanted to play a board game, so he and I played out on the deck and the other two played xbox. I called that win-win, until Dad got home.

I did a lot of research into video games a couple months ago, when the issue first came up. There are some great articles on the benefits of video games on Sandra Dodd's unschooling site.

PBS aired a documentary called The Video Game Revolution which "examines the evolution and history of the video game industry, from the 1950s through today, the impact of video games on society and culture, and the future of electronic gaming." On their terrific site, I found especially helpful the essay from Professor Henry Jenkins of MIT debunking 8 myths about video gaming. Many of the myths address the violence that is "caused by" video games as well as their supposed isolating and desentistizing tendencies.

[A great quote by Dick Cavett on Sandra Dodd's TV page: "There's so much comedy on television. Does that cause comedy in the streets?"]

Also worth a look is The Future of Video Gaming, an essay by Michael Dolan, editor of FHM Magazine.

Most compelling, I thought, was Sarah Fitz-Claridge's interview with prize-winning theoretical physicist David Deutsch on the site Taking Children Seriously. Deutsch is very much in favor of video games because of the opportunities for intellectual growth they present and his argument is compelling. Also compelling is the pages of response to the interview by TCS readers.

At my house, Dad said, "I don't know if I'd be so upset if he spent three hours playing chess instead of xbox." So we talked with #1 Son about assumed intrinsic value of various activities. The final decision was "moderation in all things."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We've found that unlimited access is actually better than moderation, because if you say, Wolfie, you can play XBox for 2 hours a day (as an example) then Wolfie WILL play XBox every day for 2 hours.

If you say, Wolfie, you may play unlimited XBox, sure, at first, when a game is new or restrictions have been lifted, Wolfie will play seemingly 24/7, maybe for a week, or a month, or more. But once the game is mastered or whatever, other things then become more interesting and it's not uncommon for the unlimited thing to sit idle for days or weeks or months. Depends on what the child was getting out of it at the moment.

As we speak, my kids have not touched their playstation in 2 weeks (or more). Same with TV, computer games, or whatever else they choose. Once they are free to choose, they can also choose NOT to play.