I swear, in some of my classes, I am the stupid one. You have to realize, that I teach Advanced Placement classes, along with two in the International Baccalaureate Program. When these kids come into my class room, I am in awe of both their intelligence and their intellectual understandings.
But, I was reminded today that we all have avenues of escape when one girl, who is up for the single most prestigious scholarship that the state of Colorado offers, well, she had a few minutes before class, and there in her hands was the latest issue of Seventeen Magazine. To my horror, I found out that not just her, but many of the girls in the class subscribe to that magazine.
As many of you already know, I am a critic of our culture and reality. As such, I see that, while broken, reality can be fixed. Are games the only solution to fixing reality’s ills? Hardly. But, I believe games are more effective than watching television. I am also left asking which is better: watching television or reading Seventeen Magazine? In my mind, the answer is simple, in both cases, television harms us more than it helps.
I just finished reading “Television: The Plug-in Drug” by Marie Winn, as did my students. If you haven’t read it, you should. Winn provides wonderful evidence on the impact that television has had on American families since its inception. While gaming is not the best alternative, I wrote a while back, that as family time, it is much better than sitting idly, watching the flashing images on the screen.
What strikes my mind as the drastic difference between the two modes of entertainment is the inactivity the television offers. Moreover, while not all games offer the player an option to interact with others, they are certainly more active than sitting idly on the couch, alone, even with other people next to you, letting the screen do all of the thinking and imagining for the viewer.
What sets World of Warcraft and other MMO’s apart is the interaction these games offer. I know I have written about these issues frequently, but they warrant repeating. Far too many of us hide in front of the television, and why not? With it, we don’t have to think, we don’t have to create, we don’t have to interact. All we need to do is simply stare and let the pre-recorded entertainment do the work. There is no empowerment from television. There is no creativity. There is no thinking, imagining, nor acting. There is only sitting.
Games, even video games, conversely, provide us with the opportunities that television takes away. While I don’t have the time to play as I do during the summer, I still make sure I get on and feel that sense of excitement and urgency. Games have shown that they can give us that sense of urgent optimism which follows us in real life. Does television give a powerful sense of optimism? No, it only drains it from us.
Sure, we can watch an exciting show on television, feel that rush of suspense, but it fades so quickly. Or, we can watch an inspirational show, feel the sense of inspiration, but that often fades. Let’s face it, there is a dramatic difference between watching a fight and engaging in a battle ground (for those of you wondering, no, my death knight is still getting geared up for arenas); there is a difference between watching others solve problems versus solving problems ourselves and seeing that immediate impact. These feelings — both positive and negative — carry over to reality in both mediums.
In a battle ground, for example, the player is engaged in the activity and interaction with a large group for a singular purpose, not simply a passive observer. This, again, is where an MMO stands apart from its console counter-parts: once you have figured out an NPC’s strategy, it is easy to fight them. However, a player forces the opponent to be quick with thought and action. Right now, studies are showing the benefits of using motion sensor technology, like Kinect, PlayStation Move, and the Wii, to help the elderly and others in weakened conditions to gain their independence. Moreover, studies have shown that learning new technologies and playing video games help to keep the brain going.
Let’s take a closer look at a quick fight in WoW. When I am attacked, I have to think quickly, do I freeze my opponent in place and move within striking distance? Or, do I turn around and throw out some instant attacks? These two thoughts and actions must happen in a split second but I have a lot of information to process, such as what class is attacking me. For example, if it is a hunter, then I have to use my life grip and pull the player to me. But, as happened the other night, what if he resists the pull (goodness, I hate well geared opponents)? What is my next course of action? Once decided, there is no turning back from the course of action. Again, in a fight, there is no time for thinking, only reacting. A test, if you will, that fires the brain in many ways that television does not.
When I sat down with this group of girls and was in shock over their love of teen culture, for which I thought them too smart and intellectual, I mocked them. Of course, they threw it in my face that I am a 42 year old man who spends his time playing a video game. What matters, I realized, is the brain activity. As far as I know, neither of them watch much television. They relax in order to recharge, instead, with Seventeen Magazine, which is not much more stimulating intellectually than playing World of Warcraft. So, as these girls settle down to read about the latest teen heart-throb, I will finish this article and hop on Sedagive and work on her gear in some PVP. Of course, neither of these actions directly benefit our culture, but both keep our minds active to prepare for another day – in order to provide a potential benefit to our culture.
What do you do to recharge for the next day? Do you find television to be too mind numbing at times?
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