[Discuss-sudbury-model] Meeting minds in video games

From: Jason Jay <jason_at_jasonjay.com>
Date: Sat Mar 1 18:27:01 2003

>Yeah, I know Tswift isn't real life...but when my boy is reading, his
>is doing something that is SO higher order. *So Cerebral* I just can't
>believe that the brain work involved in playing a computer game is the
>quality as the brain work involved in reading. At least in reading,
>having to imagine the characters' looks all by yourself. Your own
>making it up. And I'd say, it's more than just having to think up what
>character looks like. I think there's a touching of minds, when you're

And video games come from... people without minds? I actually think
that playing a game can be an exquisite meeting of the game creator's
mind. In a puzzle game, meeting the intricacy of a challenge highlights
the genius behind its conception and puzzles can be an intense and
"higher order" cerebral experience. And more narrative or exploratory
games are also becoming quite complex and sophisticated. Play Myst or
Riven and tell me you aren't in contact with some exquisitely artistic
and thoughtful minds on the other side of the code. I actually think
there can be an even more profound meeting of an "author's" mind in a
game because you really do get to construct your own experience in the
game world, engaging in a kind of dialogue. As intelligent game engines
become more sophisticated, those authors will have the ability to set up
even more rich environments.

Sure, there are a lot of games that don't have much artistic or
narrative depth and rely on cheap violence and sex to stimulate
interest. The same is true of novels, however, as any supermarket aisle
walk will show. Overall, the balance is different, and there are a lot
fewer great games than great novels. But I think this is precisely due
to the youth of the medium. There just hasn't been time for a real
culture of artistry to emerge around games, and the technical difficulty
of game creation exacerbates the problem by confining game design to
programmers who may not be master storytellers. When the novel first
emerged in the 19th century, people felt the same way they do now about
video games. It was seen as "pop" "low art." These reactions were in
part because of novelty and discomfort (which I think is David's point)
but also because it takes time for the idioms and artistry to emerge.
This is happening now with games rather quickly in my mind, particularly
with new figures coming showing just how lucrative game titles can be.

Having said all that, I must also get on a soapbox and make the point
that with any medium the great educational experiences emerge from a
combination of "reading" and "writing." The trouble with novels,
magazines, television, and video games is that kids spend all their time
with other people's stories, news, shows, movies, and games and rarely
get the opportunity to create their own. So I would say that rather
than arguing about how much television children should watch, hand them
a video camera. In the video game sphere, give them games like The
Incredible Machine that let them build puzzles and scenarios for their
friends, or programming environments like Squeak or MicroWorlds that let
them build games from scratch. Would you consider someone literate if
they didn't know how to write? In the process of creating for
themselves, kids really get the opportunity to think through how images,
films, and games are constructed; this can help them develop the
critical thinking ability necessary for survival in a world saturated by
the corporate media.

So I'm all for TV's in school, but sometimes they should be there to
show the kids' creations.

Out of curiosity, are any folks on this list involved in schools that do
have media production activities going on? This is a key research
interest of mine and I'd be interested in getting involved (visiting
schools, viewing films and games, dialogue and mentoring with kids,


"Fighting with another makes war, but
     struggling with one's self brings peace."
                 -Hazrat Inayat Khan

Received on Sat Mar 01 2003 - 18:26:03 EST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0 : Mon Jun 04 2007 - 00:03:05 EDT