October 20, 2006

Why Fear Video Games

As someone who used to play a fair amount of violent video games, and watch a fair amount of violent movies, and is nowadays one of the most violence-averse people around, you'd think I'd have an opinion on whether shoot-'em-ups and other violent media have bad effects on kids. Well, I guess I don't think they do, but I'm also a bit bored with this line of inquiry. So it's nice to see that Chris Suellentrop has some more offbeat thoughts on video games:
[T]he authors of Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever suggest that gamers do come out ahead in the world of business. John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade surveyed 2,500 Americans, mostly business professionals, and came to the provocative conclusion that having played video games as a teenager explains the entire generation gap between those under 34 years of age and those older (the book was published in 2004, so presumably the benchmark is now 36).

Beck and Wade argue that the gamers somehow intuitively acquired traits that many more-senior managers took years to develop and that their nongaming contemporaries still lack. According to their survey, video game players are more likely than nongamers to consider themselves knowledgeable, even expert, in their fields. They are more likely to want pay for performance in the workplace rather than a flat scale. They are more likely to describe themselves as sociable. They’re mildly bossy. Among these traits, perhaps the most important is that gamers, who are well acquainted with the reset button, understand that repeated failure is the road to success.
I guess that's possible. But there's a flip side. On some level, Suellentrop points out, the whole point of video games is to figure out the rules of the game and work within them—to become a good worker bee, to innovate only within limits. "So don't worry that video games are teaching us to be killers. Worry instead that they're teaching us to salute."

Maybe. But video game players very often try to find loopholes in games, unlock secret codes, figure out ways around the rules. I don't know if that counts as actual creativity (what does I guess), but I doubt the diehard video-game geeks are the ones who become the Organization Kids that David Brooks once described. Of course, we're presumably talking about only a tiny subset of all video game players, so maybe Suellentrop has a point...
-- Brad Plumer 12:47 AM || ||