4/19/10 Reading: Thoughts

The first few paragraphs of this reading immediately made me start thinking about something my parents used to say when I’d ask them if they could buy me an N64 as a kid (and later on, if I could buy a Gamecube/PS2 with my own money) — “We don’t approve of you playing video games because it’s just as mindless as watching television.”

I used to always think of this retort as somewhat misinformed, but at that age, I simply couldn’t articulate why exactly it was misinformed. I think this article shed a little light on the matter when it said that video games are “actions,” and without interaction, they’re pretty much nothing. And that’s what separated them from the “mindless” activity of watching television — wherein the viewer has no ability to affect what goes on in the television, much less interact with it.

I think, considering this, it can easily be proven that playing video games takes more mental capacity and intellectual interaction than watching television. Perhaps this level will never surpass, for example, the amount of mental capacity it takes to do a calculus problem or write an essay, but on the same note, that’s not a role video games are trying to fill. I feel like they’re trying to fill an entertainment role, but at the same time require more than just passive watching — they take something more than just watching television.

By this logic, I think it’d’ve made more sense for my parents to ban me from watching cable television and grant me the right to play video games. I always thought it was a bizarre double standard that I was allowed to park in front of the tube for hours every Saturday morning to watch Pokemon and whatnot, but not have an N64 or a Genesis at the time.

And, at the same time, I think my ability to finally articulate this argument was what led me to get my (beloved) Xbox 360.

What do you guys think? How do video games intellectually rank up with watching movies, or perhaps even reading books? Does it count for something that the latter two require less interaction with the medium to be able to enjoy it as intended by its creator, or does that not matter?

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