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Cranky Editorials About Videogames 205

Posted by Zonk
from the get-off-my-lawn-ya-dang-kids dept.
GamePolitics has a roundup of some game-related weekend editorials. Some of them are awful cranky and not terribly well thought-out. From the Peoria Journal-Star: "Many of my college students... seem to be less familiar with books than earlier generations. In part, you can blame the influence of video games in pre-teens' lives. If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or Playstation, I think we know which one a kid will pick... In other words, good writing means good salaries. Think about that the next time you choose between taking your kid to the video store or the library..." Another piece rails against the Columbine videogame, while papers in Louisiana are duking it out over the recently passed videogame legislation.
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Cranky Editorials About Videogames

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  • by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:24PM (#15381305) Journal

    "If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or Playstation, I think we know which one a kid will pick"

    When I was a kid in the 70s they said the same thing about television. (Jesus, don't people remember that? God, I'm not THAT old!) My grandmother told me once that they said the same thing about radio when she was a kid. So what did they blame before radio? I'd imagine it was wanting to play outside instead of reading. Hint: many kids don't like reading all that much, especially ponderous books like Moby Dick

    • You echoed' my first thoughts on the subject.

      BTW, before that they blamed comic books, dime store novels and other cheap, approachable writings for decreasing and abasing the literary level of the youth.

      Here's a clue for the professor: No kid has ever wanted to read Moby Dick. Great literature for adults is often lousy for kids. Anyone who tries to force it to be otherwise is an idiot IMNSHO.
      • Moby Dick is not great literature. It's not even good.

        If they want to interest kids in literature, it should be sci-fi, spy/adventure stories, and other stuff that real people read without being forced - you know, Stephenson, Crighton, King...

    • "So what did they blame before radio?"

      The novel, actually.
    • You used your grandmother's memory to dismiss the idea in general, but were the warnings of your grandmother's time correct? There is some evidence that people are, in general, less literate then they were a century ago before radio, television, and now video games.

      From Wikipedia (caveats as to quality, requires more research, but raises possibility the following is true):

      "In New England, the literacy rate was over 50 percent during the first half of the 17th century, and it rose to 70 percent by 1710. By t
      • by kisrael (134664)
        "In New England, the literacy rate was over 50 percent during the first half of the 17th century, and it rose to 70 percent by 1710. By the time of the American Revolution, it was around 90 percent. This is seen by some as a side effect of the Puritan belief in the importance of Bible reading.

        In the United States, one in seven people (more than 40 million people) can barely read a job offer or utility bill, which arguably makes them functionally illiterate"


        Don't forget the importance of mathematical literac
        • [a] 7th-8th grade algebra teacher complained to me last night, "They can't figure anything out on their own. Even their video games don't teach them problem solving. It's all 'jump-jump-squat', over and over again."

          This teacher obviously hasn't been around for very long them. 80% of my middle school classmates couldn't figure out a damn thing in math class. And this was 15 years ago.
          • Oh yeah, because 1991 had absolutely no "jump jump squat" games ;-)

            I think the question is, how clever were students, say, circa 1977?
            • I think the question is, how clever were students, say, circa 1977?

              Ok, let me recall back 29 years and I would have to say that maybe 10% got math and could apply the principles. Maybe 80% muddled along getting some, guessing at others, and simply applying pattern recognition to the rest. The final 10% were getting high in the can talking about who knows what. I bet todays classrooms aren't too much different.

              What is missing from highschool, and college math, is accessible learning. I had one good ma
            • Ah, but the percentages wern't nearly as high.
      • "In New England, the literacy rate was over 50 percent during the first half of the 17th century, and it rose to 70 percent by 1710. By the time of the American Revolution, it was around 90 percent. This is seen by some as a side effect of the Puritan belief in the importance of Bible reading. "

        Did they count women and non-whites in these literacy statistics?
      • You used your grandmother's memory to dismiss the idea in general, but were the warnings of your grandmother's time correct? There is some evidence that people are, in general, less literate then they were a century ago before radio, television, and now video games.

        The evidence is flawed as it is based on the belief that egaltiarianism is scientifically true. Negroes score a full standard deviation lower than other races on standard intelligence measuring tests. Their large numbers, and recent inclusion
        • Oh shit, you did not just say "Negroes."

          What century are we in again?
          • Other than "Negroes", which word do you prefer to use to describe people of sub-Saharan African descent without regard to their nationality? "African-American" does not apply to word-that-you-prefer-to-"Negroes" living in Europe, and whether it applies to word-that-you-prefer-to-"Negroes" living in Canada or Mexico is debatable.

        • The evidence is flawed as it is based on the belief that egaltiarianism is scientifically true. Negroes score a full standard deviation lower than other races on standard intelligence measuring tests. Their large numbers, and recent inclusion in such statistics, greatly skews literacy statistics. Negroes, no matter what their country of origin, have abysmal literacy rates. In 1960, the United States was approximately 96% white. Today, it is less than 70%, and will be less than 50% by 2050.

          That's very intere
        • Especially when you consider that other countries (which presumably have equal access to television and video games) have higher rates of literacy (say, Japan at near 100%), it is logical to infer that the problem is not technology, but certain people simply are not capable of reading or writing. The unfortunate reality is those people tend to have more animalistic instincts, and will thus reproduce at rapid rates.

          Hey dude, I think the 19th century just called, it want's it racist idealogy back.
        • Every white person in the US should ask themselves: When we are a minority in our own country, will our new rulers treat us with the same goodwill as we treated them?

          An [wikipedia.org] excellent [pbs.org] question [splcenter.org].

          Ass.

        • Take your fear and anger back to Stormfront.
        • Wow! Finally someone puts it into perspective for me! I can't believe I couldn't see it before, but it's just so obvious: blacks and poor people are just stupid!

          JIM: Hey, did you know that literacy has declined every year in the US since racial quotas were removed?

          DAVE: No dude, I hadn't heard that. Could that be because of the socioeconomic status of nonwhite races here and their substandard access to education?

          JIM: What are you, retarded or something?! The only logical conclusion is that blacks are dum

      • Meh. Video games are too new to be the root of the problem. Look back to TV and radio, and the declining importance put on literacy by schools.

        Lot of people in this thread have said it already...Too much emphasis is put on "getting through" this period or that period of classic literature, and too little is put into fundamentals. I can't remember having quality grammar or analysis of structured argument in any high school course, and its wasn't in any of my required courses in college either.

        It wasn't in an
      • Correlation != Causation
    • Hint: many kids don't like reading all that much, especially ponderous books like Moby Dick

      A lot of the old classics are completely overrated.

      My mother always complained that we read too many "Fantasy" novels. Heads in the clouds. Read some real literature. What did she suggest? Wait for it.

      Jane Austin.

      Good grief. Apparently back in her day you simply had to read Jane Austin, or Charles Dickens, or some other pop classic tome that itself was trapped in the perpetual fantasy land of the english upper classe
      • Terry Pratchett probably does more insight into humanity in 10 pages than the entire literary "canon" combined :(
        • That just goes to show how little of the cannon you've read. I've got no problem with pop fiction, but Terry Pratchett, though fun to read, is brain candy at best.

          If nothing else, reading lit from another period will increase your vocab, and your ability to comprehend ideas expressed in complex language.
      • Yeah, Jane Austen is bad because she analyzed and satarized the social interaction of an incredibly important period and country in history. If you look beyond "haha, they're going to DANCES!" or "Why haven't they just built a gigantic robot army to fight for women's rights?" you might actually learn both about how high society operates and how humanity creates filters to force our superficial judgments of others to comport to our preconcieved notions of them.

        That is what Austen's work is about. It's not "j
        • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 22, 2006 @03:34PM (#15382998) Homepage Journal

          if you can't get past that point, I'm not surprised you hate the classics- they all take a refined reader to understand and appreciate.

          The trouble is that curriculum designers expect high school students, whose brains' emotion centers are not yet fully developed, to already be "refined" as you define it. Being forced by the school system to pretend to appreciate college or grad school level themes while in high school is enough to turn a student off from reading fiction.

          • Very, very true. My point was to refute the idea that the "classics" are somehow outdated and bereft of value, not to suggest that high school students are the suitable audience.

            That said, a lot of them are. Moby Dick is good, and I'd wager Bonfire of the Vanities would go over well.

            Shakespeare, of course, does a good job of getting its point across if you can get the kids past the old english.
      • Hmm, how old are you? And you're probably male too. The only English Don I've ever known once told me that to really enjoy Jane Austin you have to be over 30 and female, or if male over 40.

        OTOH try George Eliot, particularly Middlemarch. I read that in my early 20's and found it an utter page-turner. It may be a 'classic' but it's a hell of a good read. Around the same time I also devoured Thomas Hardy - I'd recommend starting with The Mayor of Casterbridge as that's another riveting narrative.

        Dickens I
    • When I was a kid in the 70s they said the same thing about television. My grandmother told me once that they said the same thing about radio when she was a kid.

      And during the time from then till now the population as a whole did grow worryingly fat and unhealthy.

      Not just books but also physical games, sports and "sound" toys like legos are losing out to videogames. Sure, videogames can eercise your mind too, but very o few of them do, and none can teach you hands on physics and practical thinking as well a
    • Moby Dick despite it's ponderous nature is definately worth reading so that one can truly appreciate the masterpiece that is Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.

      "To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee." - Herman Melville (and Khan)

      Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!
      • One of the best reasons to familiarize oneself with the classics (and I don't know why people keep putting that word in quotes; they are still defined as classics, regardless of one person's opinion as to their value) is to understand all the references from them which make up a great deal of popular culture. More often than not, a modern book, tv show, movie, or video game that is attempting to make a remotely serious point will employ a reference to something from classical literature, from the Bible all

  • by Otter (3800) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:27PM (#15381344) Journal
    I'm talking about young people who don't know how to use a period. Or never learned that you need to capitalize "United States." Or have no idea about extreme basics like nouns and verbs, and why one of each must be in every sentence.

    I can believe this is a problem. (A coworker was recently ranting about someone who regularly sends her lengthy emails where the only vowels are the 'o's in 'lol'.) But IM, chatrooms and blogs seem like more likely culprits than games.

    • by shotfeel (235240) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:47PM (#15381538)
      And sadly, the people who say things like what you quoted will insist the kid must read "Moby Dick" and other classics, while simultandously denigrating the reading of science fiction, fantasy and graphic novels.

      I'd like to know when in the Professor's childhood, millions of kids stayed up until midnight to get their hands on a new book, or waited anxiously by the door for the delivery person to bring their finally un-embargoed book. Then maybe he should visit a local, mainstream bookstore when the final Harry Potter book is released.

      Just because kids don't read what he did or thinks they should, doesn't mean they are any more lacking in literacy.
      • I think Harry Potter is something of a special case, though. It's also very simply written and plotted - compare it to its rough 1960's equivalent, A Wizard of Earthsea, for example.
        • It's also very simply written and plotted

          And I think that's a big part of what makes it so approachable to many kids. Plus it's a fascinating story that hold their attention. What worries me is when I see teachers and parents pushing books they think kids should read, sometimes causing kids to not want to read anything. If a kid doesn't want to read "Moby Dick", let them read Harry Potter -it's better than not reading at all.

          BTW, I did pull my Earthsea books out for the kids about a year ago. Although they
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:29PM (#15381362) Homepage
    If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or Playstation, I think we know which one a kid will pick.

    If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or pick-up a game of baseball, I think we know which one a kid will pick.

    If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or going out on the lake for a day on a friend's boat, I think we know which one a kid will pick.

    If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or hanging out at the local Denny's, I think we know which one a kid will pick.

    If the choice is 'Moby Dick' or mowing the lawn with the blunt edge of a butter knife, I think we know which one a kid will pick.

    Seriously. If we're going to bemoan the fact that kids generally tend to prefer leisure activities to poring over the great classics of Western literature, we could at least pick something that most kids might actually enjoy reading, like Shakespeare (Serial regi-patri-fratricide? Poison-tipped swords? Mass slaughter? Hot chicks? Rawk!)

    But Moby Dick--well, what teen wouldn't be utterly enthralled by a several-hundred-page long account of the finer points of the early American whaler's life and amateur deck-pacing?

    • GamePolitics took a very selective quote, and that is to their detriment.

      TFA actually says, right afterwards:

      "Then again, when I was a kid, I had plenty of non-educational alternatives, from junk TV to sandlot baseball. Yet my mother dragged me to the library every week, so I ended up with books all around me all the time."

      His argument isn't that video games have replaced reading. He's just saying that they are the flavour of the decade for avoiding reading. He's just rallying parents to force their childre
      • Yet, reading fiction, even the greatest work of "Literature", is no more informative than making a sandcaste. I'm not saying it's wrong. If it floats your boat, whatever.

        But I'm tired of this stuff. The alternative is informative non-fiction. Period. Mentioning "Moby Dick" ruins the entire argument.
        • From the perspective of a liturature teacher things may be diffrent...

          Reading Moby Dick or other "classic" works of fiction is "required" as a base point of comparison if you intend to spend the rest of your life picking apart fiction and sucking any enjoyment out of it.

          Having said that I am an avid reader, I have not read Moby Dick, I think Dickens is boring and I play the occasonal game, if this makes me uneducated in the eyes of someone with a doctorate in nit-picking so be it.
          • Having said that I am an avid reader, I have not read Moby Dick, I think Dickens is boring and I play the occasonal game, if this makes me uneducated in the eyes of someone with a doctorate in nit-picking so be it.

            Ummm, Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. Also, you haven't been bored to death by his writing until you've read "Billy Budd."

            • Sorry if I wasn't clear, those are two seprate statments, Dickens is often refered to as a "classic" author.

              I can see where you got that though.
            • what about Bartleby the Scrivener? Thats a fairly coma-inducing text.... and yet, there is value to reading it, as long as you skip the large passages of text describing the brass buttons on Bartleby's jacket in excruciating painstaking detail...

              and yet the simple phrase "I would prefer not to" has served me well in various negotiations and interactions.
    • I think that the only thing that Moby Dick beats is grievous physical injury or sexual assault.

      I'd rather spend half an hour playing with a marble, a string and a helium filled balloon than read Moby Dick.

      Seriously. If we're going to bemoan the fact that kids generally tend to prefer leisure activities to poring over the great classics of Western literature, we could at least pick something that most kids might actually enjoy reading, like Shakespeare (Serial regi-patri-fratricide? Poison-tipped swords? Mas
    • I'm 28 and I still haven't picked up Moby Dick. Yet, I read 20 or more books in any given year, not all of it "fluff".
    • If the choice is Moby Dick or getting kicked in the testicles repeatedly for about as long as it'd take to read the book, I know which one _I'd_ choose. Most of those "classics" authors were mindless pratts who thought they could be deep and who liked to hear themselves talk. And if I say the whale was a symbol of the author's father's penis, who the author always lived in the shadow of (Literally, the elder Melville had a huge penis that his son was always envious of, having got his from the tiny-wiener'd
  • Not to be redundant, but I'd pick just about anything over Moby Dick.
  • by richdun (672214) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:36PM (#15381444)
    I think (and will not substantiate with evidence, as is customary on this Internet thing) that the biggest problem with arguments like those mentioned in TFA is purpose and perspective. It has long been the case that the previous generation doesn't understand the current or next generation simply because they somehow forget that just a few years back it was they who were misunderstand by their previous generation. Age tends to lock us into our own perspectives, and we forget to look for others. I for one have always hated reading the "classics" because they lack relevance and tend to contain language that was long lost - yet society seems to have continued without "thee" "thy" etc.

    I remember in senior English in high school reading passages from Beowulf, then trying to read the original text (in English, but in Old or Middle English). I wonder if the people in those times felt the youngsters were too radical and forgetting their heritage. Language is meant to allow for communication between people and cultures (and times, really). So long as we're able to communicate, and do so effectively, we're good.

    That said, I think the more important dilemna is not youth's rejection of classical education for video games, but the lack of communication that exists between many youth and their parents/grandparents/etc. In most cases, it's not the youth's fault.
  • Cranky editorials about the cranky editorials about video games!
  • by bunions (970377)
    I was hoping for a return of Cranky Steve's Haunted Whorehouse map reviews. :mad:
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 22, 2006 @12:58PM (#15381647)
    Today games, yesterday TV, before that radio, before that it was the "bad books". And I'm quite sure that what we call the "classics" today were the "bad books" of their generation.

    Yes, the language of our kids changes. For the better or worse, who're we to determine that? Looking back 200 years you'll see that the language was laboured, ponderous, loaded with terms and phrases that feel awkward to us today. Yet, if you spoke like we do today back then, you might have been called "simple" and "unrefined", because you use most likely fewer words to express what you want to say, and you do not try to create word constructs that make your listener doze away.

    Language is ever evolving. And while I'm not really fond of the "OMG d00dZ!!!1!!1111" we find in chatrooms more often than people able to create sensible English sentences (non-native speakers are exempted from the requirement), they don't represent the language spoken. They are a minority (even though one that we, as computer users and most likely also chatroom users, tend to meet fairly often).

    Don't worry. They won't write books, so our generation will not be judged by them by future generations.
  • Quick run through (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RogueyWon (735973) * on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:01PM (#15381677) Journal
    Ok, random thoughts on each of the articles referenced by TFA:

    The Columbine game: this is one of those times when, even as a fairly straightforward, no compromises, advocate of free-speech, I wish I didn't find myself on the same side as some of these nutcases. Yes, yes, it's their right to say it and yes, I'll defend it. I seriously wish I didn't have to, though. I feel the same way about Rockstar sometimes. Their games rock in terms of the core gameplay (even if they have started recycling of late), they've reinvented several genres several times and if they want to make a game in which you dig up and rape the corpses of the grandmothers of assorted members of congress, then it is their right to do so. But for god's sake, guys, could you not grow up a little? Would make all of our lives so much easier and not make me feel... well... soiled, whenever I have to defend video-games against the latest loud-mouthed office bore.

    On games resulting in poor literacy: this article's slightly better than the snippets in both the summary and TFA. I've worked (briefly) in a school and there's no denying that standards of literacy are hideous today. Is the growth of the games industry a factor? Possibly. There's certainly an extra level of distraction that has resulted from the easy availability of games. However, I think this is missing the point a bit. The primary responsibility for ensuring a child's literacy is split between parents and schools and there are too many cases where both of these fail. I strongly suspect that many of the teachers complaining about videog games are themselves part of the problem. If they would stop chasing after the latest politically correct, culturally sensitive educational paradigm and start actually teaching kids how to write - including incentivising failure and penalising failure - then they might find that school-leavers would suddenly be able to string two words together in print again.

    And the Louisiana thing: Oh for god's sake, have these people nothing better to do? They know the law is unconstitutional and will, after much time, effort and expense, be struck down. Is there not a case for prosecution here, on the grounds of misappropriation of public funds?
    • And the Louisiana thing: Oh for god's sake, have these people nothing better to do? They know the law is unconstitutional and will, after much time, effort and expense, be struck down.

      Not only that, but it is a sexist piece of legislation by implying that females are defenceless objects and that it is taboo to even consider attacking a woman - while at the same time, failing to protect the male counterparts. Here's the text [arstechnica.com] of the law:

      "Provides for player participation in a video game in which the player

  • Compare and Contrast (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nsmike (920396)
    I have a BA in English. I can remember a few of my classmates who were a semester ahead of me in credits, and ended up in a Senior Seminar course with one of the most respected and well-liked professors of the English department (with good reason, he is an excellent professor). Unfortunately, for both him and the students, he chose Moby Dick as the subject for this seminar course. I never heard so many students turn on a good professor so quickly, and look so dejected and defeated after class every day.
    • How can anyone with a halfway open mind despise all of literature written before 1950? What the hell was the point in getting a degree in english with an attitude like that?
  • by B5_geek (638928) on Monday May 22, 2006 @01:06PM (#15381712)
    As a bored teenager many years ago I decided to read Moby Dick simply because it is considered a classic (and I wanted to know what the big deal was) {as a bonus, Picard kept making several references to it too}.

    While it was quite slow in places, I did enjoy the book. But I sence that my reaction to it might be unique.

    Am I the only person who thought it was (mostly) Very Funny?

    Disclaimer: yes there are some very somber parts, and humor was not the "all-encompassing" point to the book. Lest we forget the real moral to the story either.

    But, damn I was Laughing out Loud at several parts of the story. My mom would ask "What's so funny?" My reply of "Moby Dick", would only cause her to give me an odd look.
    • Yea, it's a funny story. It does drag in places, but there is a lot of humor built in to it. I think the big part of the problem is that a lot of people never got to the reading comprehension level that you need to appreciate humor in densely written prose.

      Always amused me with Shakespeare. The man was a master of raunchy humor. But 90% of the world misses it. I had a copy of Hamlet from 50 years ago, in which the over-zealous editors had tried to remove the sex humor in various places. These days, they wou
      • I really enjoyed Shakespeare at school. After a while I found it incredibly easy to slip into the mode of understanding language of Elizabethan England instinctively. In fact the word meanings seemed obvious after a while. And the stories as usual contained subtletly, complexity and plain good old 'sex and violence'. They really need to be seen as a play. Funny thing is in school you are made to read them as if they weren't meant for performance ... I mean everyone knows a novel is bound to be butchered if

        • That's pretty much my point, really. You liked it, you read it, you learned to be able to read it as literature, rather than as an exercise in intellectual cryptography.

          That's one of the great values of literature, in my mind. The old stuff is much more subtle than most literature you find these days. It's rare that I read a modern novel without picking up on the "twist" they think they're subtly leading up to.
        • I always find that if I go to see a Shakespearian play it always takes me about 10 minutes to get in tune to the language. Sure I can understand what's going on from the word go but it's an effort, I have to concentrate hard and I'm sure I miss much beyond the basic plot. However generally a few scenes into Act 1 something flips and from then on it's easy - and the language is far more enjoyable to listen to than most modern plays.
  • This is just people failing to understand. I read some, a long time ago, but it is not the main attributing factor to my college and professional success. I think that computers, video games and in many cases television can produce children who are intelligent and still become successful in a variety of fields.

    The people I know who read the most are English and Lib arts majors. Now, this could just be the people I know, but I am doing better (money wise) as a recent graduate (about 2 yrs) engineer then
  • People who care about learning, history, etc. will eventually tire of as much video gaming/tv/etc and turn to books. As for everyone else, let them have fun, tv, games or otherwise. After all, plenty of people read The Da Vinci Code and were dense enough to think that it was fact or something, I don't even know where to start with that, but reading books doesn't mean you must be a genius.

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