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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Computer Games and Books are about Equal

As a whole, most people are pretty comfortable putting moral virtual on reading, and moral failing on playing computer games. In truth, they are about equal. From a cultural and "useful in development" perspective, the best of each are of comparable worth to a student today. Likewise, each have their terrible and harmful examples.

Computer games overall have the advantage of: being active content, often being group activities, developing skills and new situational awareness, requiring the resolution of frustration and provide an overall better microcosm of learning, and placing the player in the role of the hero. It is also a media "of its time," attracting the current generation of great artists to be considered and evaluated, not just the last generation's ordained artists to be worshiped. (Our generations' Shakespeare or Milton will be a game designer, and will be predictably initially shunned by the current old guard.)

Books have the advantage of: developing empathy through presentations of inner monologues, presenting facts, having a predictable and lengthy body of analysis around them making teaching them pretty easy, not relying so much on violence, exposing people to brilliant writing styles, and representing the oldest accessible art form of our culture.

A lot of people who did not grow up engaging computer games eschew them, preferring to embrace and even take pride in their lack of intellectual curiosity. (And perhaps decades ago, some of our grandparents similarly proudly declared, "Oh no, I NEVER read books.")

Having said that, both computer games and books are still self-referential, a dangerous quality if consumed beyond moderation. Accessing art should never be framed as an inherently worthwhile activity. It is only morally good if it leads to morally good actions.

(Some of computer games "classics" are Civilization, SimCity, The Sims, and Zoo Tycoon.)


  1. I think both my boys reading improved tremendously because of the text on some of their video games.

  2. I hope the praise of "computer games are helpful because they helped the students learn to read books" will be eventually replaced by "computer games are helpful because my students learned things that were really helpful in life that they never could have from just books."

  3. Likewise, improved reading skills does not necessarily mean becoming better at reading books.

    Reading in computer games requires a different approach to content, narrative, perspective, etc than books, there improving reading through computer games IS learning something you couldn't have learned from books.