Video games have been a topic of debate ever since their invention. On one side, you have the, “Don’t touch them. They’ll fry your brains!” and on the other side you have the, “There’s nothing wrong with them at all. Play all you want!” But is either side truly right? This question is the subject of the essay “Games” by Steven Johnson. In this dissertation, the author’s main focus is to deter people from playing video games, and spend more time reading. He probably takes this side because he personally prefers books over video games. In some parts, he has very logical arguments but in others, he couldn’t be more wrong.
First off, he states that, “Reading requires effort, concentration, and attention. In exchange, it offers the stimulus to and the fruit of thought and feeling. Unlike most amusements, reading is an activity, requiring active participation …” This brief bit of his paper doesn’t exactly make sense to me. Is he saying video games don’t require effort, concentration or attention, because I’m pretty sure they require all three? He then goes on to say that reading requires active participation. Well, he is not wrong, but I’m pretty sure every activity ever requires active participation. The word “activity” is derived from “active,” so it would only make sense that activities require something being active, may it be your imagination or body.
Not only does playing video games require active participation, obviously, studies have shown that it actually increases creativity. Both boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative, regardless of whether the games are violent or nonviolent, according to new research by Michigan State University scholars. The study showed that of nearly 500 12-year-old boys and girls, the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, but it may to Mr. Johnson. Video games are a reason, if not a major contributor, that I decided to pursue architecture. So far, architecture does require a decent amount of creativity.
Then there is the topic of reading requiring concentration. Again, I know that reading requires a large amount of concentration, but to use that as an argument against why someone should not play video games is quite farfetched. In order to play a video game well, it requires a sizable amount of concentration, coming from someone who plays a saddening large amount of video games as well as spends a large amount of time reading. There will be times where I cannot have any other distractions, including any sounds other than what I am doing, to be able to perform at the level I prefer.
Near the end of his essay, he states, “To summarize, the cognitive benefits of reading involve these faculties: effort, concentration, attention, the ability to make sense of words, to follow narrative threads, to sculpt imagined worlds.” If you even skimmed the last few paragraphs, you would know that playing video games requires every single one of these things. “Sculpting imaginative worlds,” is the main point of some video games, actually. I don’t know if you have ever heard of the game Minecraft™, but if you spend a few minutes googling some of the designs people have come up with in that game, you would be blown away. That game, and the people that play it, spew creativity.
Roughly around the midpoint of the essay, he imagines a parallel universe where, “kids have been playing games for centuries – and then these page-bound texts come along and suddenly they’re all the rage.” After further describing this parallel universe, in the very next