The truth is, critics are often ignorant of the moral universe of video games--violent games included. Yes, the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto series, in which the gamer plays a criminal on the make in the big city, is pretty amoral. But most violent games put the player in a familiar hero's role, notes Judge Richard Posner in a 2001 Seventh Circuit appeals-court decision overturning an Indianapolis anti-video-game ordinance. "Self-defense, protection of others, dread of the 'undead,' fighting against overwhelming odds--these are the age-old themes of literature, and ones particularly appealing to the young," Mr. Posner observes.That's nice. My kids are going to play outside and read books.
Nonviolent games like The Sims franchise, an open-ended computer simulation of suburban life likened by visionary creator Will Wright to a "digital dollhouse," teach players bourgeois virtues. Blogger Glenn Reynolds, who devotes a chapter to gaming in his recent book on technology and society, "An Army of Davids," overheard his young daughter chatting with a friend about The Sims (a favorite among female gamers). "You have to have a job to buy food and things, and if you don't go to work, you get fired," she said matter-of-factly. "And if you spend all your money buying stuff, you have to make more." Thanks to The Sims, Mr. Reynolds says, his daughter now knows how to budget and how to read an income statement. In SimWorld, he notes, "narcissism, hedonism and impulsiveness are punished" and "traditional middle-class virtues, like thrift and planning, generally pay off."
Video games can also exercise the brain in remarkable ways. I recently spent (too) many late-night hours working my way through X-Men: Legends II: The Rise of Apocalypse, a game I ostensibly bought for my kids. Figuring out how to deploy a particular grouping of heroes (each of whom has special powers and weaknesses); using trial and error and hunches to learn the game's rules and solve its puzzles; weighing short-term and long-term goals--the experience was mentally exhausting and, when my team finally beat the Apocalypse, exhilarating.
Friday, June 02, 2006
In Defense of Video Games
Brian Anderson points out the positives of much-maligned video games.
Posted by Tom at 9:36 AM