Adolechnics: Teens and Tech – Part 2
First, I’d like to apologize for my absence these past two weeks. Summer is a crazy time for me as my normal routine is disrupted which makes finding time to write difficult. I will do my best to try to post at least once per week over the summer.
In my last post, I took a look at the cell phone use by this generation that one researcher named Todd Joseph Miles Holden termed “adolechnics.” Today I am going to take a look at video games. Are they good or bad? Do they isolate students? Are they creating a lazy, fat, generation prone to violence?
When will we grow up?
Video games are good. There, I said it. I want to defend video games because, well, I love them! It’s funny, when I was young I assumed that I would naturally grow out of video games because I never saw people my parent’s age playing them. Then something happened. An entire generation of Americans never grew up (from video games that is). No longer do video game producers target children and young teens. The college age and older demographic is a major consumer of games and are targeted as such. Why is it that we never grow out of video games? Honestly, I think it is because they have grown up with us.
Think about it. Who was Mario being targeted to? Obviously the answer is younger kids. The music, colors, and story line were directed towards children and young teens. Fast forward to today. Who are the adult themes of Max Payne, Skyrim, and other similar games targeting? Many of the most popular video games feature adult language and content. They contain rich plots with intricate puzzles and engaging story lines. In truth, many video games are less like the board games our parents played and more like interactive cinematic experiences. The questions is, does this make games good or bad?
The good and the bad.
How are video games good? There’s no question that they improve hand-eye coordination, but it goes deeper than that. Many video games such as the Assassin’s Creed or Uncharted series feature intricate problems and puzzles to solve. Gone are the days of the “button mashers” (well, they still exist but are not the only offerings out there). The gaming world also boosts community…more on that in a sec.
How are they bad? Well, there is no question that many are violent. The language is also becoming increasingly foul. Typically, I only play sports games, so recently when I played a game called inFamous 2, I was shocked at the language. It was worse than most movies that I watch. Also, just as they can boost community, some gaming habits can increase isolation.
Isolating or Community Building?
Most adults tend to have a picture in their mind of the video game experience. They envision millions of American teenagers huddled alone in front of TVs completely disconnected from the outside world. This couldn’t be further from the truth for many gamers. For many, gaming is a link to an expansive community. The success of XBOX live, MMOs, and Playstation Network attests to this. Many of the most successful video games are created to be played in tandem with other students.
There’s no denying that communal aspect of gaming. Last fall I asked a student that was going off to college the next year if he planned on bringing an XBOX. He wasn’t much of a gamer, but he said that he planned to work on that during his final year of high school so that he could be prepared for college. In his mind, he saw the need to practice video gaming so that he could build relationships on his dorm floor.
Moderation and Moderators
For those who are concerned about the negatives of gaming I would propose that the technology of video games is not the issue. In fact, the technology is values neutral. As in any aspect of popular culture, there is the potential for negative influence. Over use of video games can effect grades and focus on other positives for students. I once read a report about the drop in school grades in most high schools that always correlates the release of a “Call of Duty” game. However, is the game the actual problem? I would say no.
Parents must help students achieve moderation by acting as moderators. I have seen parents play close attention to the music students listen to, the movies they watch, while paying little-to-attention to the content of the video games. I recently saw a trailer for an upcoming game that will feature full frontal nudity. Parents need to be aware of these things. With the incredible advances in the graphics technology, content very much matters.
I also believe that parents should play a role in controlling the amount of time that a student spends playing. There is such a thing as “too much” and that line is subjective to each student. With the increase in dual income homes, students are spending more and more unsupervised time alone. For many students, usually guys, this means excessive gaming. Parents need to insert themselves in this situation and help provide limits.
Surprisingly, not much is written or researched about gaming compared to the volumes of information written about the cell phone and social media habits of teens. There are a lot of assumptions made about video game usage, but assumptions are never a good thing. Parents need to know how, when, and why their students are gaming. As leaders of youth ministries we need to know this as well. Gaming is an incredibly important aspect of youth culture and one that warrants further study.
previous posts in this series: