Monday, February 24, 2014

32 years ago we asked: "So What's Wrong With Playing Video Games?"

Yes, more than three decades ago. Feeling old?

This is the cover of 1982's So What's Wrong With Playing Video Games? by Joy Wilt Berry...

The book, geared toward young teenagers who might be prone to whiling away their days and quarters at the arcade1, isn't as militantly against video games as you might think it would be. Author Berry, who still specializes in self-help books for kids and has sold more than 85 million copies of those books (according to her website), brings a common-sense approach to examining the effects of video games on your relationships, your personality and your wallet.

We might not agree now with all of these points, but Berry states that arcade games:
  • Can serve as an escape from problems
  • Can provide an escape from responsibility
  • Can take the place of friends
  • Can take time from doing creative things
  • Can cause a person to become dependent
  • Can cause a person to become dishonest
  • Can cause a person to spend too much money
  • Can cause a person to become aggressive and perhaps violent

(And this was years before Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, Doom, Postal, Grand Theft Auto, and some fairly ridiculous Congressional hearings.)

But those 1982 concerns don't lead Berry to argue for banning or giving up video games. She advocates moderation and the individual controlling the machine, not vice versa:
"It is not the video game that is good or bad; it is the way you use the video game that makes it good or bad."

She urges kids to watch their time, watch their wallets and remember all the other things in their lives that they also want to have time for — family, friends, church, sports, hobbies, etc.

Berry suggests that you shouldn't spend more than 25 percent of your free time or 20 percent of your disposable income on video games.

I also like this point: "The purpose of games is to bring fun and fulfillment or rest and relaxation into people's lives. ... [If] you become frustrated, anxious or upset when you play the games, you should stop playing them."

Of course, video games have become more sophisticated since Pac-Man and Space Invaders. And our understanding on their pros and cons has evolved, too. Last year, my wife authored a series on "Video-Game Learning," which you can read on the Unschool Rules website. The topics addressed include:

  • Why “All my kids want to do is play video games!” isn’t such a bad thing
  • Virtual friends, virtual art: Video games for social skills and creativity
  • Digital currency: Video games for math
  • Pixels and punctuation: Video games for writing and spelling
  • Bringing the past to life: Video games for history and geography
  • Our fitness is pretty funny-looking: Video games for physical education

1. I was always pretty terrible at arcade games (which didn't necessarily stop me from playing). I think the ones I've enjoyed the most over the years are:

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