Skip

2 hours of Playstation vs. 2 hours with a good Book
March 19, 2002 6:18 AM   Subscribe

2 hours of Playstation vs. 2 hours with a good Book If true, (big if given source) life as a parent just got more complicted. Maybe our children's toys really do need to be "smart" .
posted by Voyageman (43 comments total)

 
I asked a teenager about this and you know what he said to me?
"Osama Yo Mama!"

Seriously, do you think the results might have been different if the students had not been playing "Sim"-type games? Do first person shooters make kids smarter, too?

(BTW, can you actually get "Railroad Tycoon" or "Sims" games for the Xbox or Playstation 2? Someone didn't do their homework, and it ain't the kids!)
posted by ColdChef at 6:41 AM on March 19, 2002


In SimCity, where players build cities and create societies, the game is said to encourage children to develop logical thinking and to "recognize that life is not simple."

So basically, video games equate reality, and books equate fantasy....gotcha. Alright, I'm gonna head out and kill myself now, but don't worry, I have a saved game slot.
posted by Mach3avelli at 6:45 AM on March 19, 2002


This makes sense, I think, although Playing with an XBox or Playstation 2 may significantly help youngsters develop their thinking skills should read Playing any well crafted, logical and multi-layered game may significantly help youngsters develop their thinking skills.
posted by GriffX at 6:53 AM on March 19, 2002


Actually, I hear that playing Quake works wonders for the development of interpersonal, problem-solving, and conflict-resolution skills…
posted by mkultra at 7:08 AM on March 19, 2002


ColdChef, You can not get the Sims or Tycoon series for anything other than PC. X-Box(due to hard drive, memory cards just can't cut it) is probably the only system it might come out for, but I doub it.

I'm gonna head out and kill myself now, but don't worry, I have a saved game slot

That's funny in a twisted way.

As far as these games showing life is not simple, I think people are looking way to deep into these Sim games. Games, no matter what genre, do not fully educate a child. Books do a much better job at that, but they aren't even the all purpose teacher. I feel the best teacher is obviously going to school and the childs parents. Both games and books help contribute to couch potato syndrom if you ask me. That's unless you don't try to over do it. Moderation is the key. Yeah, that's it.

(Note: Proud owner of every game system from NES/SEGA Master System on, other than PS2. Speaking from experience.)
posted by JakeEXTREME at 7:10 AM on March 19, 2002


Those exact titles aren't available, but you can get essentially the same thing.

And SIMS is supposedly coming to Playstation 2, by the way.
posted by glenwood at 7:22 AM on March 19, 2002


This is an odd and badly written article. It begins by asserting that "playing with an XBox or Playstation 2 may significantly help youngsters develop their thinking skills." The next sentence would lead one to believe that the XBox and the PS2 are games themselves, indicating that "educators […] found that the games offer several educational benefits." What games? Does the author mean the game consoles he just mentioned? Or are there specific games that bring about these benefits? After many vague references to the wonder-games that help children think, he mentions that the researchers included the games Roller Coaster Tycoon and Sim City in their study. It's unclear from the conclusions he gives whether the researchers studied mostly the games themselves or their effects on the children playing them. But most baffling of all is the fact that neither game is available for the XBox or PS2. And they were both popular quite awhile ago (actually, Roller Coaster Tycoon was never quite a phenomenon).

Also, to be nitpicky, there's no given comparison between the benefits of reading and the benefits of playing these games, although there is one randomly placed and uncited statistic within the article noting that some survey somewhere found that 15-year-old boys spend less than two hours a week reading for pleasure.

I completely believe that the right types of video games can have tremendous educational benefits for kids. My introduction to video games was in the genre of text adventures for the Commodore 64, my favorite being Wishbringer (anyone remember this?). Of course, those are a lot different from most games today, but there are definitely elements of the text adventure in several games today. There are historical simulations that I think have a great deal of educational potential. You can use video games to stimulate genuine interest in fields as varied as economics and art.

But. (there's a rather big 'but' attached to all this. I feel it deserves a period) I'd love for educators to study the games that are really popular, and actually being manufactured for play on the XBox and PS2, like Gran Turismo 3, Grand Theft Auto 3, Tekken Tag, etc. I wonder how many redeemable values they'll find in those?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:24 AM on March 19, 2002


I was unsuccesfull finding out more about the actual study by "Teachers Investigating Educational Multimedia" referenced in the poorly constructed article.
posted by Voyageman at 7:48 AM on March 19, 2002


my favorite being Wishbringer (anyone remember this?)

Oh, yeah. It was the only one I ever actually got all the way through.

This doesn't even really qualify as an article, it's one of those vaguely written summaries of somebody else's press release that the reporter or editor tarts up for better prominence by throwing in some hot-button buzzwords. This subject is far too complex to cover in a couple hundred words; indeed, it's probably too complex to adequately address in the study being cited.

Can somebody find a link to the actual study? That might be more worthwhile for discussion than this blurb.
posted by briank at 7:57 AM on March 19, 2002


This is not the first time that I have seen the New York Post quoted on MeFi as if it were a real paper. It is not a real paper. It is a ridiculous wad of pap. Often, people outside New York do not know this -- it has a title like a real paper, but it is not.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:00 AM on March 19, 2002


Bad article. Bad study. Probably funded by a game maker.

Some thoughts on the subject: There is no doubt in my mind that video games are the best consequence-free method out there to teach a certain subset of skills like hand-eye coordination, real-time decision making in a dynamic environment, resource management (for sim games), and the like. However, games are simplified models with easy goals and frequent rewards and map very poorly onto real-world situations. Therefore, a person still has to learn how to negotiate the real-world version, eventually. This is where the conflict comes in I think: The game version is entertaining (some would say addictive) while the real-life version is complex, hard, and often lacks immediate reinforcement of the 'right' decision. So given a choice, many people get precious little experience in the real-world and way more experience than they need in the gameing world.

My wife is a high school teacher. It is sad to know (through her experience) that there are teenagers who are obviously intelligent and can tell you all about whatever the latest video game release is but are functionally illiterate and cannot pass even the simplest tests in school. No matter how 'skilled' they are at gameing, these kids are woefully underprepared for the real world. One such kid told my wife this year that he plans to be a video game designer (he can't even spell video game designer). I think this kid is trying too hard to map the easy video game world onto his real world. It is very very sad.
posted by plaino at 8:13 AM on March 19, 2002


Jenny: I read it every morning, for $.25 you don't feel bad leaving it on the bus half finished ( plus they sometimes have the London Times Cryptic Crossword ). At 7:30am, it's a reporting style that fits nicely with my pre-caffeine commute.

Then again, I might read the NYT every morning if it wasn't for all those video games I played as a kid.
posted by remlapm at 8:21 AM on March 19, 2002


Plaino - Let me know, I'll ship you my 1k+ page C/C++ function reference, and she can plunk it down on his desk... that's the beginning of what he'd have to know to be a game designer.

I think that our culture might form back into an educated/uneducated caste system if something isn't done about the education system. There's too many theories and the only really -good- education that I see is now being done by semiprivate magnet schools or by private schools themselves. The public school system (at least in Oregon) is overadministered and it is increasingly heading in the wrong direction - tests, tests, paperwork, and more tests.
I'd love to see less testing and measuring and the reduction of overhead. (My high school had a principal and five vice principals and all of their staffs... for 1400 students...) Is it this way in other school systems?
posted by SpecialK at 8:27 AM on March 19, 2002


When I was a kid I persuaded my parents to buy me a home computer because my dad could use it for his business (he couldn't) and the games would improve my 'Hand-eye co-ordination'. Quite what use an improved hand-eye co-ordination would be and whether computer games actually improved it anyway were not addressed, but it got me a computer.
I suspect this kind of study will be used for the same purposes.
posted by Markb at 9:00 AM on March 19, 2002


"I'll ship you my 1k+ page C/C++ function reference, and she can plunk it down on his desk... that's the beginning of what he'd have to know to be a game designer."

Strictly speaking, you are correct. But nobody designs games on a large scale by themselves anymore, they work in teams. If the kid wanted to know how to design levels, he/she wouldn't need to know C++, although it would help to know what it would do, there are plenty of people working in the industry who don't. They just don't do the coding side of things. They learn Lightwave and Maya and/or Studio Max. They learn how to write games, and how plots are driven, similar to the way you would write a book or a play. They learn how to make textures and model and contruct 3D worlds.

I think books and Computer/console games are just different mediums. As are books and movies. They can be used well, or used badly. I'm not sure that if kids didn't have them, that they would be reading more books. They might be watching more tv, though.
posted by lucien at 9:08 AM on March 19, 2002


Markb:

Hand-eye coordination is desperately important -- absolutely crucial. If your child is not spending at least five hours a day developing his/her hand-eye coordination, she's essentially inutile by age 12.

Oh, and, if she reads books, she'll come to believe the world is "simple."
posted by argybarg at 9:12 AM on March 19, 2002


I think books and Computer/console games are just different mediums ... they can be used well, or used badly.

No. This sounds very reasonable, but no. Not all things are equal, including media.

There are bad books and good games but, for the most part, if I raise children, I would vastly prefer that they do almost anything rather than play videogames for any extended period. This includes reading, rollerskating, playing games, drawing, hunting bugs in the backyard, taking care of animals, listening to music or even just dorking around out of sheer boredom. All of them, and nearly anything else, are better than videogames.
posted by argybarg at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2002


The worst part of the study (as it's presented here) is that it seems to be trying view game playing and reading as equivalent activities. The skills learned by playing computer games are largely unavailable from books, and what you can gain from books isn't available in games. Add to that the simple fact that anyone who reads less than two hours a week for pleasure probably isn't reading anything of much value, and simply isn't going to get as much out of reading anything as someone who reads on a regular basis.
posted by gordian knot at 9:25 AM on March 19, 2002


JakeEXTREME:
You can not get the Sims or Tycoon series for anything other than PC.

You're kidding right? Right off the top of my head I can tell you that the original SimCity was redone for the SNES, Railroad Tycoon II was released for the Playstation (and can be played on the PS2), and Civ II (ok, not a sim or tycoon) was also released for the Playstation.
posted by ODiV at 9:39 AM on March 19, 2002


When I was a kid, I played a hella lot of video games, and I read books just as voraciously. Come to think of it, I still do. The games were on my Apple ][C. About half of them were brainless arcade fare, and the other half were text adventures such as Wishbringer and Hitchhiker's Guide. These games got me interested in a) Programming, b) Writing, and c) Learning how to tell a story non-linearly. I learned simple Basic programming because I wanted to make my own text adventures, which led to graphics programming on the pixel level, which led (years later) to web design and 3D work which I now do for a living. If I hadn't grown up as enthralled with computer games as I was, I would probably be a lawyer now.
posted by GriffX at 9:40 AM on March 19, 2002


I learned to drive using a computer. I thought I was wasting lotsa money in those game centers learning how to drive at 200 mph but when it came time to actually do it for real I was already at the intermediate level.

I also learned how to play the drums with Drummania (no high hat foot pedal though, damn).
posted by dydecker at 9:52 AM on March 19, 2002


I learned to drive using a computer. I thought I was wasting lotsa money in those game centers learning how to drive at 200 mph but when it came time to actually do it for real I was already at the intermediate level.

I also learned how to play the drums with Drummania (no high hat foot pedal though, damn).
posted by dydecker at 9:52 AM on March 19, 2002


This article is trash, but you don't have to wear a tin hat to think that games can have educational value. (See: the Games to Teach program at MIT.)

argybarg: why? What is it about games, in general, that makes them so useless? Different media are good for different things, of course, yet I don't see how it's possible to make a value judgment about a whole medium. Or would eight hours a week of reading celebrity autobios be better than playing SimCity and Civilization?
posted by D at 10:14 AM on March 19, 2002


my favorite being Wishbringer (anyone remember this?)

"Through strange, savage zones, your way will be shown, by the magical stone called Wishbringer."

I did that without looking it up. Pathetic, huh?

I may still have the little glow-in-the-dark stone around somewhere.
posted by ebarker at 10:24 AM on March 19, 2002


i learned more about driving through arcade racing games than those practice runs with my uncle... i also learned about teamwork through x-com, and not soccer practice. i learned budgeting my money not through pbs, but by saving up to buy a mithril sword in gemstone 3. i doubt i would be so adept at my computer usage were it not for all the games i played as a kid. i definitely learned a lot from reading ("There really is such a thing as a tesseract!"), but dismissing the merits of playing video games reeks of closeminded-ness.
posted by lotsofno at 10:52 AM on March 19, 2002


I think a lot of kids had the same experiences as Griffix. Most my friends and I were slightly (read:very) geeky, and we read and played video games extensively. I remember marathon sessions of Legend of Zelda. We also read lots of books, mainly fantasy, sci-fi, and comics.

I think what is disturbing here is the lack of balance. Kids should balance the things that they do. There is nothing wrong with video games. Just like there is nothing wrong with eating a twinkie. But if I eat 100 day, I might have a problem.

(on a sidenote...googling "twinkie" or "ding-dong" is not a good idea)
posted by patrickje at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2002


Plaino - Let me know, I'll ship you my 1k+ page C/C++ function reference, and she can plunk it down on his desk... that's the beginning of what he'd have to know to be a game designer

You couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a games programmer at SCEA, and of the nine designers working at our studio, maybe one knows any C at all, and that's only down to the way one of our earlier scripting systems worked. (Oh, and he's a she in this case ;) ((which I only mention because she's the exception to the male norm)).

The best way to become a game designer at the moment, would be to play a lot of games. Especially those with level editors (to get some idea of how games actually work). Then try and get an in-house testing job. Junior designers usually start off as testers due to the general lack of an academic route into the industry (although this is changing, slowly).

The work is hard, and the hours are long, but the rewards are the pretty good. Actually being able to see your work on the shelf in EB is pretty cool.

Plus you get to play games at work, and call it research!
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:59 AM on March 19, 2002


What's right/wrong with games? That's a hugely open question, especially in the context of an article that led with a statement that games may make your child smarter. Heck, video games may make your child grow an extra arm or two. Beyond my ridicule, the value in games from an educational point of view is in the realm of exploration and understanding rules. Humans are model builders and exploration games (and I don't just mean adventure games) aid in learning how to do that process.

To that extent, there are a great deal of activities that also help that end. I see the same mental skills used by kids playing Pokemon or Magic that I used in collecting/raising butterflies. The main difference is that I also picked up an appreciation for wildflowers, meadows, and woods--real things in a real world.

Oddly enough, I teach a technology class to 7th graders and 9th graders and most of those classes do nearly everything totally hands-on and away from computers. I could've given the 9th graders digital camera and play with Photoshop for the unit on photography, but instead I had them build cameras from cardboard that took pictures on 35mm film (and some were in firm denial up until the point that the camera was loaded that it was, in fact, a camera).

Ramble, ramble, ramble.
posted by plinth at 11:03 AM on March 19, 2002


When I was a kid my parents bought me an Atari to play games on, but instead I learned BASIC and wrote my own (admittedly awful) text adventure games. Later, from exorbitantly long Zelda type games I learned to apply myself methodically towards long term goals such as rescuing the princess and so forth. Quake taught me real-time stretegic thinking and not to walk so near the walls all the time. Warcraft taught me that obsessive micro-managing can only get you so far in life. I don't see what's so bad about video games as part of a well-balanced sensory-input diet.
posted by donkeymon at 11:04 AM on March 19, 2002


D:

Well, like I said, you can compare the worst book to the best game, as you have done, but if you're looking for bigger judgements, then why do so?

Why, exactly, is it "[im]possible to make a value judgement about an entire medium?" Value judgements, for all that they're spoken of as accursed, are simply part of cognition. Media are not neutral, either; what would make them so? Their scope? (And just in general, if the cost of being "open-minded" is that I can't make any judgements, I'll just reek of closeminded-ness, thanks.)

For the most part, video games demand the use of an extraordinarily narrow set of skills, and they favor repitition-reward-repetition-reward ad infinitum. They overexercise that subreptilian brain that simply jerks a set of muscles over and over and over in return for predictable rewards. Purely physical, reactive activities are fine, but video games set up a reward/punishment cycle that's carefully engineered to be addictive -- to make you passive and mechanical.

The simple act of reading involves so many correlated activities -- aside from just learning about tesseracts, etc., you're understanding concepts by parsing the text, holding ideas in your memory, making comparisons, gaining vocabulary and grammar, etc. It's a trap to belive that books are only about their subject -- reading is a rich activity that warms up the brain in many places. It's no less physically passive than playing video games, but it involves the full width of your mind and not specialized pleasure centers.

(And by the way -- what exactly did you learn about "budgeting" by playing gemstone 3? That you need to save money to buy things?)
posted by argybarg at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2002


My boyfriend made me a five-course meal on valentine's day. He then told me that I could no longer give him any crap about playing Civ III, because that game taught him the organizational skills necessary to tackle such a meal.
posted by jennyjenny at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2002


The best, most fun educational tool I ever experienced was a novel class taught in my high school called The Big Game.

A class divided itself into groups and each threw a dart on a big blue rectangular paper on the wall. Where your dart hit was where your nation started.

The basic premise was to advance your civilization from the Neolithic up to Modern Times (and if there was time, to the Near Future and Far Future). Advancement required learning skills or technologies set by the two teachers (who were to be called Daddy Tech and Mother Nature, lest you fear getting fined for breach of game reality).

For instance, moving from Neolithic to Ancient Times required knowledge of herbal medicine, simple crop farming (each group had a garden plot out in the school yard to represent this and the overall food stock of the culture... I hated radishes but they were easy), and the basic technological advances such as the wheel, the lever and fulcrum, etc.

Ancient Times to the Age of Exploration required attending a session with Daddy Tech on the basics of boatbuilding, sailing, and navigation. It also meant the need to define an alphabet and spoken language which you were required to communicate with another group/nation in the class. Once communication was established, you could talk to that nation in the classroom at will.

And so on and so forth... though when war broke out because my nation a) sold arms to a smaller state to fight our rival nation, b) they retaliated by invading and burning much of our agricultural base, the teachers were very much compelled to fail all of us. Especially when we invaded with our howitzer carrying wooden galleons and our dropping of a dirty nuclear bomb on the enemy's capital (technological research was often skewed based on a student's interests, and a kid in my nation liked stuff that went boom).

From that class I learned the basic principles of a carburetor; build a basic electric motor, grow corn, radish, and tomatoes; the rudimentary process of iron smelting; the concept of water displacement, sailing, and navigating through doldrums and seasonal storms; the elements of gunpowder; coal mining; a controlled nuclear power reactor; etc.

It was so enjoyable we petitioned for a Big Game II, and an Advanced Big Game after that. It satisified cheesy high school requirements like history and social studies, it got us outdoors, it got us interested in whatever ridiculous notion we had for benefitting the group.

And by the results of that game that ended in war you can tell it taught us how easy it was to have our own Iran Contra scandal and the inevitable breakdown of communication ending in war.

I took this class in 1987.

I wish everyone had that kind of class in junior high and high school for the simple reason that it teaches you how far we've come, how far we have left to go, and how "unsimple" our world can be.
posted by linux at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2002


My first reaction to this is: okay maybe that's true for the first two hours, maybe... but reading for 150 hours will trump gaming for 150 hours, easily.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on March 19, 2002


Oh man, organisational skills from games. This one isn't your average fair for kids but I learnt a lot about effective note taking from playing this game. It's a turn-based World War II battlefield RTS game. I usually have four or five sides of A4 / Letter paper full of notes before I start the first turn. It's the only computer game I ever owned which involves trips to the library. WWII tank tactics don't come naturally to me and it models real physics, thus tactics, pretty well.
posted by vbfg at 12:52 PM on March 19, 2002


For the most part, video games demand the use of an extraordinarily narrow set of skills, and they favor repitition-reward-repetition-reward ad infinitum. They overexercise that subreptilian brain that simply jerks a set of muscles over and over and over in return for predictable rewards.

And this differs from what constitutes life for an overwhelming majority of people how, exactly?

I play a lot of games, I read a lot of books. I got online on Metafilter today after a rousing session of Quake 3, prefaced by an hour reading Titus Andronicus, of all things. Not being snotty, I'm just saying you can do both.

I would rather read. I would rather my kids read. They do. They also play games. Some of my best bonding moments with my son have been over books, writing, and videogames. I would rather them play games than watch television. Frankly, I would rather them play doctor with the other kids in the neighborhood than watch television. Or play organized sports.

I understand well-rounded people of academic bent taking umbrage at videogames. What galls me is people who immerse their children in organized sports raising loud alarums on the topic. How many one-dimensional sports-obsessed kids are there? But that's acceptable. Can you resolve life conflicts with a referee? Or by shoving your woes out-of-bounds? Ah, but it's the teamwork aspect that's important.

Bullshit. Better to have them play Diplomacy, if that's the lesson to learn.

er...[/off-topic rant]

Sorry.
posted by umberto at 1:05 PM on March 19, 2002


Couldn't find a way to disagree with you much, umberto. I play a few video games now and then myself. I just wish I could have back some of the 2,400 hours I spent on them in other times.
posted by argybarg at 1:08 PM on March 19, 2002


Well, I'm a little late to the thread, but I read a much-better written BBC article about this the other day. The BBC article specifically lists the games, and it's really not the typical Xbox or Playstation2 fare. The games are almost all PC strategy games, so it's no surprise that they help educational development.
posted by stopgap at 1:34 PM on March 19, 2002


umberto,

I think the common thread linking the "one-dimensional sports-obsessed kids" with the video game kids and the TV-kids is that all of these entertainment modes serve up obvious conflict between easily distinguished sides that is resolved decisively in a short period (sometimes defined in advance) of time and the distribution of rewards matches the outcome of the conflict (ie. to the victor go the spoils...). And, it's all in a relatively low risk environment.

For some reason people innately gravitate towards preplanned, predigested conflict with easy resolution. It's addictive I guess because it is so easy to get a sense of accomplishment without ever accomplishing anything.
posted by plaino at 3:39 PM on March 19, 2002


a much-better written BBC article about this the other day. The BBC article specifically lists the games, and it's really not the typical Xbox or Playstation2 fare. The games are almost all PC strategy games ...

No doubt the author of the article linked in the original post was unable to sustain his level of concentration and read through the entire research report....
posted by mattpfeff at 3:57 PM on March 19, 2002


plaino-

Exactly, which is why I grow indignant when athletic mouth-breathers fulminate at videogame thumb-twitchers.

I ought not to have brought it up, since -although I like to think of myself as more well-rounded- as you point out, there is a certain amount of pot/kettle hue non-differentiation here on my part. Ah, well...
posted by umberto at 4:53 PM on March 19, 2002


Linux: "The Big Game" sounds waaay cool. You were lucky to have teachers creative enough to pull that off. It also sounds a lot like the plotline of the Civilization series. Which makes me wonder if anyone else has managed to port a computer game to a group of HS students :)
posted by swell at 5:56 PM on March 19, 2002


Probably funded by a game maker. --Plaino

Close. Anne Sparrowhawk's company specializes in multimedia for education. Doesn't necessarily invalidate the study, but Sparrowhawk is not a disinterested researcher.
posted by MRYeatts at 5:21 AM on March 20, 2002


Swell: I'd say they ported it from Civ, but considering it was 1987, I'll have to give kudos to my teachers for some original thinking.
posted by linux at 10:00 AM on March 20, 2002


« Older Robbers escape with $3m   |   Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post