DSM: RE: DSM Video games

From: Scott David Gray (sgray@aramis.sudval.org)
Date: Sun May 06 2001 - 23:14:53 EDT

  I've been reading this thread with interest, and growing concern.
People are talking up all the traditional skills that can be learned by
playing arcade games, as though that is the _reason_ why arcade games
should be allowed.

  Maybe I'm just a bit defensive because I happen to love playing all
sorts of games, including arcade games. But I worry a bit when people
look for a "rationale" for playing any sort of game.
  Once in a while, these lines of reasoning might be right -- a person
might either gain a sense of how to master something, or pick up a skill
that is analagous to a skill that the person "really" needs. But frankly,
I don't think that's always the case.

  Most of the elaborate explanations that have been given are effectively
"just so" stories to help convince people who are innately _opposed_ to
game playing that playing games is OK. The argument boils down to
"playing games is _really_ about developing career skills rather than the
game itself, and so the game is good despite your initial reaction."
  I can point to many many hours of my own game play that (as near as I
know) have contributed nothing to any of my particular set of "survival"
or "career" skills, just as I can point to many hours of reading that have
only satisfied curiosity and/or passion on my part but have never been
relevent to any "need." Yet, I would not trade that time for anything
"more effective" -- games and literature and leisue are _reasons_ for
living as far as I am concerned, and that is far more important than being
a _means_ of survival.
  I guess I find play to _be_ a valid end in itself. I don't need to
prove that I can get some long term benefit from any given activity in
order to say "that is an activity that I want to do, and hence is a valid

  This is not to diminish the points that one can learn an awful lot at
play, that most significant learning comes from play, or that some things
can _best_ be learned at play.
  But those arguments scare me a little bit, particularly when delivered
with the intensity that I have heard in this discussion. These arguments
suggest that the person thinks play _needs_ to be justified. As near as I
can tell, play is integral to personal fulfilment -- and I see no need to
prove a material benefit when arguing that there is nothing wrong with
children playing arcade games.

  It seems to me that people have to take the bull by the horns and ask
themselves "what is a good life?" before treating the question of play
(including arcade games) seriously.
  Only then will the value of letting people do what they want truly be
realized. While the educationists think that we are arguing for the exact
same goals as them (an adult with a pre-determined set of "important"
opinions and skills) they will always be able to answer "well, ok we'll
engineer the perfect person by allowing _those_ games for x hours per day
and _those_ games for y." And this, of course, _kills_ the real value of
game play -- freedom to experiment for _no_ reason and with no end in

--Scott David Gray
reply to: sgray@sudval.org
I submit, however, that murder is the most difficult of all
crimes to commit successfully. Therefore, until you're able
to commit a simple act of terror, I strongly advise you to
avoid anything as complex as murder. One must learn to walk
before one can run.

-- Dr. Ludwig Brubaker, The Seven Year Itch


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