Posted by: ath1 | September 10, 2007

Techno-biography

For most of what I can remember about my childhood, computer game was arguably the central part of it—not the most important one of course, but one which I spent my time on most. In many aspects, it sounds pathetic but for all that I remember, computer game was such an interesting thing that I was addictive to it. I still remember my middle school’s days: sitting in class and waiting for the bell to ring every afternoon; when it finally did, I used to run as fast as I could from my class room to computer camp to play Half-life, or Age of Empire. The camp was always full of gamers. I spent almost every afternoon there for half a year until my study started to fall out. I stopped playing game and decided to switch my attention back to study. And that when I realized how manipulative computer games could be.

In addition, I witness the influence of computer games on human living experience more clearly through the case of my cousin. He spends virtually almost all his school-life on a computer and mostly playing games. He is a shy and secretive person. And because of his isolated personality, his friends are the virtue ones on the screen rather than actual human beings. It pains me that every time I walk into my cousin’s room, I have to talk to his back while his eyes and his attention are merely focusing on the explosion of some helicopters.

I see that games tend to detach players from the real world. Some games even go so far to advertise that they can be a duplication of our society, such as the Sims. Yet, no matter how real games can be, the significance of the advance in gaming is determined by not only how advance technology has become, but also the responsibility it creates for gamers. The inability to comprehend the significance of gaming can result in negative effects, such as it can post a threat to human living experience since our physical interactions can be replaced by the virtual ones. As a result, games have great potential to socially isolate the players from their actual community.

Back to the computer camp, I still remember the shouting, the absorption, and the intensity on each person’s face as if they were betting their actual lives on the matter. When they played, it was to maintain the pretense that they were in control of their own lives, that their daily problems, like schooling, or parental and social restrictions, or even relationship troubles, were soluble and not important enough to worry, that through the computer screen the world would somehow become a happier place. They played because they needed an escape from the social constraint. They looked for a break from the rush of daily activities and consequently, buried themselves in the ecstasy of the unrealness. I am certain of this assertion because I used to be among them and their feelings are as close to my own as my gaming experience to theirs.

Of course, there are many counter-arguments to my assertions. Many would respond that video games help to enhance social interactions because many of them provide multiplayer mode, which arguably has the ability to reinforce human interaction through co-operating or competing. They would even go further to say that games are educational, healthy, relaxing, etc. Well… sure, I even have to agree that games have the potential to develop human communication and possibly help gamers to recognize historical or social facts. But on what level that human communication can actually transcend? Within a game, a character can learn and expand the imaginary world where he or she is in, and may go on and make more visual contact as the game advances. Yet, no matter how broad that contact has grown, it still exists within a game, a world that would end as soon as the game finishes or the player stops playing; and after that, everything from that game is simply void.

Nevertheless, I have to be clear about my assertion: I do not hate computer games. In fact, I love them, though not as much as my cousin does but still, I like them a lot, even till now. However, I do believe that games are merely for entertaining, not primarily for educational or social intrusting purposes. Well, there is certainly no harm if any gamers can pick up some historical information while playing strategy games or practicing their reflexes while playing Half-life. What I am saying here is that no matter how much games support and entertain each of us, or enhance human communication via visual figures, or broader our historical and cultural knowledge, we should not overlook games as a mean of communication. In other words, virtual communication can not be mistaken for physical communication. Otherwise, its negative effect can be hazardous because it is able to isolate us from the world we are living in. The world in games are merely illusions and always temporary, a place where the fantasies of super heroes and amazing gadgets are simply flashes from the computer screen, and all of them would end as soon as the electric plug is pulled out from the socket.

Game is not a communication tool, or a hiding place from the actual world. It is just entertainment, simply fun to play when we are free. That what my gaming experience has taught me.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I agree with your last statement saying that games are entertaining and fun to play in free time, however, I disagree with your statements that they aren’t educational. I’m not saying that ALL computer games are educational, but certainly there are games that fall under the educational category. No, tetris doesn’t teach you history or science, but it does help with hand/eye coordination that is essential in human developement.

    Video games have come a long way. The Nintendo Wii can certainly be considered exercise if you use it the way it is intended to be used. Educational video games that link popular television cartoon characters into the video game realm are teaching children different languages, like Dora the Explorer.

    It all depends on what kinds of video games you are looking at. I agree that there are mindless games out there that can simply be a waste of time. However, I wouldn’t generalize all video games into this category.

  2. Let me preface my post by saying that I see the blog environment as one way that we can engage in meaningful discussions. In that light, I think that some of your observations do have some merit. Like all things that people devote themselves to in such a way that they neglect other important elements of life, videogame playing does have the potential to be “addictive” (a term I use very loosely).

    Having said that, I would like to engage in a discussion regarding one line from this post. You say that games are not communication. Here, I believe you are using a very strict definition of communication and might need to step back and consider how you’re interpreting the word.

    Communication occurs on various levels. It occurs in interpersonal settings, like speaking with a friend. Communication also occurs in mass settings, like watching film or TV show. As we’ve discussed in the past, the lines between these two models are blurring and many videogames actually operate in both senses of the word. Beyond these two models, I’d submit that communication also occurs intrapersonally (i.e. through our own internal monologues or even dialogues–see Mikhail Bakhtin’s work on the Dialogic Imagination). In any event, to view a videogame as non-communicative is–I believe–a mistake.

    From here, I also disagree with the notion that videogames lack serious educational value. Everything possesses meaning and does so on multiple levels. Furthermore, where meaning resides so does educational opportunity. I’d recommend James Paul Gee’s book “What Videogames Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” Reading through this book, summarizing its arguments, and then developing your own response to his work might be a suitable academic project. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on that work.

    In the meantime, why not take a look at Henry Jenkins’ “Eight Myths About Videogames Debunked,” which you can find at http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and I hope others will participate in what could become a lively debate.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: