Wednesday, 25 May 2005

Too Much Johnson

Johnson 's all over the 'Net recently, well The Guardian, anyway. It seems that book of Steven Johnson's that I mentioned earlier has got people all over wondering if computer games aren't too bad after all, or at least better that watching Charlies Angels...

The Guardian article linked to above says:
The bestselling games, Johnson points out, are usually the most complex. Gamers are not would-be zombies after all, but are looking for a challenge. Parents and teachers need to recognise the strengths of popular culture and what it is teaching our children, but also recognise what it does not teach. We need to fill the gaps, he says, particularly in verbal and emotional intelligence and social skills. Although he observes that given the chance, children will play video games in groups, and interact with each other as much as with the game.

This leads to what Bobbie Johnson (see what I mean about "too much"?) over at the Graun calls "Gaming's dirty little secret" and that's this: While playing games you spend an awful lot of time doing things that aren't really fun.

I finally noticed this a while ago. I think I was playing Secret Weapons Over Normandy and I realised that although I couldn't shoot down all the planes today, if I shoot down a few now and then sleep on it I'll be able to shoot more tomorrow. Repeating until I could grind all the way through a level. Actually this was quite fun, to be honest, but then I realised that I'd pretty much have to do the same thing with the next game. My reactions might be a little quicker, sure, and if the controls were the same, then I'd probably have an advantage on the earlier levels, but the things is that each new game does require an element of unlearning and relearning.

This is quite a useful skill, too, though. I've been teaching myself guitar recently and I realised early on that I wasn't going to be playing like Robert Johnson (hey! I kept the theme going) just yet, and I'd likely have to beat a few end-of-level bosses before getting to him (reading music, scales, that sort of thing), but if I could put 40 hours into, say, KOTOR, surely I could do at least that with the old guitar. Plus I'd have a real-world skill at the end of it. It's working so far (not that I'm any good, or anything, but I'm going to keep going until I am).

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