I was absolutely blown away by Sherry Turkle’s “Video Games and Computer Holding Power.” As someone who hasn’t seriously played video games in 25 + years, I knew that I had friends who are addicted to gaming (one almost failed out of college during his freshman year), but none of them has ever articulated why…Turkle’s interviews opened up a new world for me.
Jarish was perhaps my favorite; an adolescent searching for meaning in real life can create his own through gaming. He wants to use the “boring physics” he’s learning in school to develop his own program. Frustrated by manufactures sealing the game in a cartridge, he envisions a world where he would have access to the program so he could modify it and make it his own, a world which would be governed by rules, but he would be the designer of those rules.
There were also stories of both youth and adults looking for a sense of control, finding an almost meditative state through gaming, focusing so hard on the task at hand that they can’t be distracted by life, combining conscious problem-solving with the muscle memory of athletics. All of these things reminded me of why I love (and some might say addicted to) physical activity.
I find that meditative state through long runs or bike rides. During swim practices, I’m too busy calculating intervals to think about anything other than swimming. Rock climbing is so addictive because you’re faced with a problem (bouldering routes are actually called problems)and it’s that combination of thinking through how you can solve a problem and building muscle memory so that you can do it smoothly. Just like Jarish, I think about how I can use physics (though I would never say it’s boring) to my advantage…I finally get it. Just like I need physical activity to center myself, to know I’m in control, to release the stress of the day, gamers have their outlets in fantastical worlds.
Of course, Turkle also realizes that sometimes, gamers prefer the simulated worlds over the others and if kids are substituting gaming for traditional role play (you play teacher, I’ll play student), they may be missing out on opportunities to develop empathy.
Could this be solved with games which encourages kids to play together? Games where the script is loose? Where shy kids can have a chance to build a community?