In our household, we love video games. From iPad apps to MMORPGs (the huge online role-playing games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy), in this home you will usually find someone playing a game. The bearded gentleman and Mini-me pretty much outrank me in every sense in the virtual worlds we all inhabit.
It’s not for lack of interest on my part. Unfortunately, I came into this world with a delicate inner ear and the shoddy sense of balance that typically follows. I’ve never bothered to ask a specialist to explain it but whenever I watch rolling, rollicking graphics of any sort I get painfully nauseous. My physical therapy gym had this ultra cool bike with a screen that turned your exercise into a video game. I had to very politely tell them to either cover the screen or prepare for my dry heaving. I tried for awhile to play Final Fantasy XIIII by wearing Sea Bands. Sea Bands look like tiny sweatbands and have a plastic nub which presses an acupressure point in the wrist. They’re comfortable and worked most of the time. There were still a lot of points where I would have to turn my head or have the bearded gentleman play for me.
So, like being back in high school, I get to be a cheerleader rather than play on the basketball team (I’m a wee 5’1″). Most of the time I don’t mind too much. The bearded gentleman is deeply entrenched in Final Fantasy XIIII. I think he enjoys showing off all the comically flamboyant gear he collects. Recently, his collection of friends were able to buy a house and start decorating. Then, the game producers introduced private rooms. Like cockroaches running from the light, each team member ferreted off the furniture from the common rooms. It now looks like a Sunday morning after a keg party and a yard sale at a frat house. A special request has been made of me to re-enter the game as my adorable teeny-tiny archer self (seriously, I’m not much bigger than a cat and I always wear pink), to become the official interior decorator. Coach, I’m ready. Put me in the game.
I realize some people will think that my inability or inattention to video games has to do with my gender. I know lot of women, and some of them close to my age, kicking bum and taking names in these games. And, these games are clearly catering to women in the design of the games. Actually, after seeing some of the outfits that the bearded gentleman’s character has worn, I wonder if games are catering a little more toward women than men. Also, the invention of the motion sensor-based technology has made a whole new category of games based on dancing to practically any kind of music. For awhile, I was having a great time with a Wii Zumba game. Unfortunately, my knees — who are in league against me and have teamed up with the dual forces of arthritis and chondromalacia– and my orthopedist didn’t appreciate that I was getting an extra hour of exercise. I think they’re all just against me wearing a bikini. Jealous, the whole lot of them.
Mini-me has a disturbing obsession with the disturbing line of iPad games. Restaurant Story. Zoo Story. Dragon Story. Farm Story, Holy Crap What Comes Next Story. My charming little boy always wants me to know what’s going on in each of his story games. I’m not entirely sure how he keeps them straight. It must keep those young, healthy neurons firing away constantly. I can’t keep them straight. Why is the diamond dragon eating french toast out of the pig’s trough? Half of the time, I can’t keep straight whether the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or not. I’m not entirely sure how or why I’m supposed to remember how many servings of french onion soup are left in Restaurant Story. I think his expectations for me are a tad bit high. I’m going to take it as a compliment though. He clearly hasn’t noticed that Mom’s slipping.
There’s a lot of discussion out there about at what age gaming is healthy and appropriate, if at all. I choose to look at my child’s gaming habits as a learning experience. Sometimes he might be required to do math or reading but usually it’s well below his level. Instead, I think there are important lessons in art built into video gaming. Video games typically have a storyline, so there’s education there about content and creativity as well as writing a beginning, middle, and end. There are goals and goal-setting. Visually, you can find as many different kinds of art as you can games. Whether Mini-me is exposed to Pointilism in a video game or a museum makes no difference to me. It’s only important that it is added to his knowledge palace (for all you Sherlock buffs who get it). Recently, Mini-me told me that he thought it would be a cool job to make video games and was awestruck when I told him that I knew someone who did. I presented it to him that, if he wants, we can find a way for him to learn how to create video games. And there you have it: a little home-grown organic learning moment.
By the by, my all-time favorite game was Animal Crossing. I played it across a lot of different platforms. But there are only so many fish and bugs you can virtually collect in a lifetime. And, like in real life, I had no interest in getting to know my neighbors. I guess finally, in my thirties, outgrew a game designed for 12-year-olds.
FYI: TED has an interesting talk on video games by Tom Chatfield titled “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain”.