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To think gaming can be just a "worthy" form of amusement as reading?

(25 Posts)
Evelight Mon 01-Sep-14 14:21:01

Here's the context: ds 8, dd 11. Both bright students, athletic, no school worries etc. Dd is an avid reader- over summer vacation, she would read 3-4 library books a week. As I used to. In fact, it makes me so happy whenever she reads one of my childhood books.
Ds hates reading, and never reads for pleasure (except once, memorably, the first diary of a wimpy kid). All summer, he games. xbox, tablet, laptop. I'm not above a spot of Plants v Zombies myself, and I keep telling everyone that minecraft is just like playing lego. Extended family and friends keep mentioning he games "too much" and his hours should be controlled.

Anyway, I find myself wondering whether we, as a society, snobbishly elevate reading as some kind of worthy, "good" activity for kids, while gaming is something that must be closely controlled and timed. Is our societal preference for reading over gaming simply a form of intellectual snobbery?

I realise the irony of posting this, btw, while on the front page of mumsnet is an article about sexual violence in games. Is there no sexual violence in books? Can people not write stories about their violent, misogynistic sexual fantasies?

TalcumPowder Mon 01-Sep-14 14:31:13

I don't think it's the 'narrative' of games that puts them in a different category to reading, it's that games (to generalise) are a relatively passive form of amusement, more like TV than reading. Reading requires fleshing out a fictional world by active acts of imagination, while a child is learning new vocabulary and concepts, and, while some games I'm sure involve similar, in general, a gaming child isn't learning and imagining in the same way. It's a more mediated, passive activity.

Bulbasaur Mon 01-Sep-14 14:37:49

Gaming can be dangerous because it deposits random bits of dopamine at random times which can make them addicting. You do a quest you get a reward, so you do another quest to get the next reward. Think of it like a harmless drug. It's fine in moderation, but not to play all the time. Otherwise, like any addict he'll actually be unhappy even though he's playing all the time.

The test is to see what happens when you kick him outside for a bit. If he melts down, it's time to cut back.

Books activate other parts of the brain. You're not given visual pieces of the information and it makes your brain "think" more.

Pipbin Mon 01-Sep-14 14:39:33

I agree with you there.

I have no idea why reading a book is seen as more worthy than playing a game. Just the same as reading books vs watching films.
There are some great games out there, which involve a lot of maths, logic and critical thinking to play. Not obvious stuff but many games involve 'thinking round corners'. There are some utterly shite books which do nothing to stretch the imagination or introduce new vocabulary.
Books are very solitary, games can be played with others.

My issue with games is that some of them can make people very frustrated and angry. I do not believe that playing games makes children violent.

Pipbin Mon 01-Sep-14 14:40:59

And I don't think anyone can argue books vs games as they are two different things.
It's like arguing books vs knitting.

msrisotto Mon 01-Sep-14 14:42:30

Depends on what you an adult, not everything I do has to help me improve myself and there's nothing wrong with entertainment for entertainment's sake. But these games aren't going to help literacy or have any real educative value as reading does. Books broaden your horizons as well as your reading and writing skills.

I'm sure games do sharpen problem solving skills to an extent though, as Blubasaur said, they can be addictive.

Evelight Mon 01-Sep-14 14:44:27

Oh yes, there are absolutely a ton of games which are simply mindless "brain candy"- and I play some of them when I have spare time too! but then, there also are whole reams of books which, to my mind, are brain-numbing and can also contain fairly pernicious tropes about men and women, girls and boys. Both books and games are pretty diverse. What I am objecting to is, as parents, we have a knee-jerk reaction to valorise reading as a leisurely activity, and demonise gaming, (without even considering all the diverse sorts of books and games out there). Or at least I have. I am just questioning why I feel happy when I see my daughter reading, and anxious when I see my son gaming?

Bulbasaur Mon 01-Sep-14 14:48:50

I am just questioning why I feel happy when I see my daughter reading, and anxious when I see my son gaming?

Reading and reading comprehension are an important life skill. You will never not need reading. It will be important to read and comprehend when you go to uni and need to write your thesis. There's just many benefits of reading.

Gaming can be beneficial for increasing eye hand coordination. But, in general, outside leisure gaming serves no other purpose.

If you want him to have a valuable skill, get him computer games, make him DL mods and program them in. Computer programmers are in high demand, and if he loves technology then this might be right up his ally.

Nanny0gg Mon 01-Sep-14 14:52:24

But books and knitting are different. So one is not 'better' but there is a different skill set.
Same with gaming.

I used to read 7 books a week as a child, and probably 3 or 4 as an adult plus magazines and newspapers, until my eyesight made me need reading glasses as well as my normal specs.
I also love computer games. Very, very different. I do think reading requires more of you than games, which can be very repetitive as well as passive.

I do think reading should be encouraged and screen time limited.

Pipbin Mon 01-Sep-14 14:52:49

Exactly MsRisotto.
I'm sure we are all sat down to read great works of philosophy and not play candy crush at all.

I think that some people who are so anti games don't really play them and only see what they are shown by the media. Or they only play the likes of Candy Crush or Farmville.

I have to say that I read more than I play games now, but I have played a lot of games in the past.

Pipbin Mon 01-Sep-14 14:53:43

But books and knitting are different. So one is not 'better' but there is a different skill set. Same with gaming.

That is what I meant.

Evelight Mon 01-Sep-14 14:54:02

He's been nagging me to get mods! But that makes me even more "anxious" smile

Reading and reading comprehension are great skills to have! However, I am not sure whether reading novels for leisure really improves our "life skills" or not- I feel knitting or cooking is perhaps a more useful activity, in terms of life skills.

Evelight Mon 01-Sep-14 14:57:08

Re going outside: it is a tussle to get him outside, but once out, he enjoys it a lot. And he does various sports (swimming, martial arts, soccer) 3-4 times a week. But for choice of activity, it is always gaming, never something else.

BertieBotts Mon 01-Sep-14 14:59:36

Getting into modding is no bad thing, the more computers and devices become simplified to use, the more coding and developing skills will become in demand, because people don't understand how their devices work, hence anybody who can fix it when it breaks is in demand, and as more and more systems become digitalised, anyone who can write this stuff and make it to what you want is in demand.

One of my main hobbies revolves around a game and is actually quite challenging and interesting but I don't tend to mention it because people think it's "weird".

BertieBotts Mon 01-Sep-14 15:01:32

I think I was always the same as a kid with books, though. I never wanted to go out and I'd read for hours and hours and hours. I probably moaned when my parents tried to kick me outside too! I don't think it's necessarily a big sign something is wrong.

enderwoman Mon 01-Sep-14 15:07:53

Yanbu but then my sons are currently playing Minecraft and have a house with working shower and lift do I might be biased especially as computer programming was a childhood hobby of mine. winkwink
I prefer that my kids play a good quality game like Minecraft than watch soaps which many of their friends do.

I attribute my ability to pack a fridge or car boot to Tetris which is no different to a jigsaw really.

NeoFaust Mon 01-Sep-14 15:19:25

I'm amazed that anyone thinks gaming is more passive than reading. Reading may require an 'act of imagination' to generate imagery, but in every game I've played (thousands - I have laid waste to a galaxy of worlds, slaughtered a nations worth of heroes, sent whole choirs of angels screaming into the dark) it requires active mental effort to achieve results. I love reading to the point of addiction, but if I want to keep my brain active I play games.

I'd say games like Bioshock or Deus Ex, with deep profound narratives and open ended gameplay, surpass the novel with their capacity to be moving, inspiring and just damn fun.

Evelight Mon 01-Sep-14 16:07:21

I think that general parenting wisdom would favour gaming over watching TV- my son went through a period of Drake and Josh and it was awful, awful.

But reading wins out every time over gaming, though the more I think about, and from what several ppl here are suggesting, there doesn't seem to be any concrete, solid evidence which points to reading being an inherently "better" activity than gaming, it all depends on what games and what books.

Nobody would impose limits on reading time however, the way they do with gaming, and children don't have "reading privileges" taken away from them, as they do "gaming privilege"- among the parents I know irl, gaming is seen as a somewhat iffy privilege which needs to be curbed. I realise the point that some are making, that they are just two different types of activities and shouldn't be compared, but I tend to compare them a lot, just because the way my two children's preferences are. If I had three children, with the third preferring knitting as their leisure of choice, then I would probably be comparing the three...

GemmaWella81 Mon 01-Sep-14 16:14:17

I play racing simulation games which require an indepth knowledge of physics and racing car setup to achieve the best performance.

Comparing something like farmville to that is laughable. To suggest that it's passive and less immersive than a book is hilarious.

I read books to relax.... I study textbooks to learn and stimulate.

Any other bollocks about gaming people want to come out with?

ThinkIveBeenHacked Mon 01-Sep-14 16:15:40

I think it comes down to both of your dcs having sufficient downtime. Your dd relaxes and takes time out through reading, and your ds does the same through gaming.

Id be worried if either activity ate so much into their day that they refused or were incapable of other activities (chores, homework, bit of fresh air etc).

Nanny0gg Mon 01-Sep-14 16:20:47

and children don't have "reading privileges" taken away from them

I used to! My parents worried that I always had my nose in a book! So I was sometimes given limits. (Then I would sit on my windowsill at night and read by the streetlight to catch up - no wonder I have dreadful eyesight!)

GemmaWella81 Mon 01-Sep-14 16:22:19

You have terrible eyes because you ignored the advice it'd make you blind? ;-)

JCDenton Mon 01-Sep-14 17:08:18

Me too, Nanny0gg ! They had to take my lamp away because I kept reading until the small hours and ended up shattered the next day.

Gaming is a wonderful medium, one thing that drives me up the wall is when people say it's 'mindless', even in less puzzly games, the player is always thinking 'why did I lose?', 'how do I beat this guy?', 'should I buy this item or this weapon?'.

I've never seen reading fiction as anything other than a lot of fun. Generally I don't learn anything from the fiction I read as I like sci-fi and as a child I was a natural reader. Also, most games have a lot of text or will end up with the player reading strategy guides to improve their performance.

Nor do I believe that gaming stifles creativity at all. Take any popular PC game and there will be a thousand and one mods made by the players, from fixing issues, improving graphics to adding in new story. I'm playing a mod now which was produced by a forum, it has completely new models, maps, gameplay elements, scripts, original music and voice acting. It would happily stand on its own. It's an amazing creation, and bunch of people inspired by playing a computer game.

There are a lot of repetitive games on phones and the like but Fruit Ninja is to gaming as Heat magazine is to literature. Comparing Candy Crush to the likes of Deus Ex makes my teeth itch. Not that there's anything wrong with Heat or Candy Crush.

Above all, gaming is fun. It can prove to be inspiring and creative but it doesn't have to be. It's no less worthy a medium than any other and I can't stand some of the bollocks talked about it. Incidentally, the article on the main site contains some rubbish and of course, people are shocked at it, which makes me angry.

Nanny0gg Mon 01-Sep-14 18:57:22



brainfidget Mon 01-Sep-14 19:37:06

I agree with others that it depends on which games and which books. But with the caveat that games are designed to be addictive, so the chances are that it'll be played to death - which means the amount someone can learn from that game peaks fairly quickly, probably long before they get bored of it.

Not so with books; you don't tend to read the same book again and again for weeks / months on end looking at different angles and a better understanding.
I've read loads of books when I accidentally uninstalled backgammon while DP played World of Tanks (apparently very strategic hmm ) and I reckon I've learned / thought more as a result.

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