Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Give credit to digital games

Raaaachel Wang's picture

In her post “Childhood ’play’” LiquidEcho wrote that, in her experience, imagination is an essential factor of her “play”. But playing digital games like cellphone games or CD games make her feel shamed because according to her, they’re lack of imagination. She does see the positive point of this rapidly developing era that it makes her able to adapt to new things or shifts easily. But gaining this ability of flexibility, she only gives credit the time period when the traditional games shifting to the new type of games, not this new type of game itself.

When talking about digital play, people always give negative reaction. According to my mom, it’s an “energy-consuming activity and totally a nonsense waste of time”. According to Stuart Brown,“ while video games do have some play value, a true sense of ‘interpersonal nuance’ can be achieved only by a child who is engaging all five senses by playing in the three-dimensional world.” People all seems to have stereotype on video games that they’re barely valuable. Admittedly, playing too much video games is not good both mentally and physically. But can you name any playful activity that can always be a helpful one with no limitation of amount? What I’m talking about here playing digital games, like computer games, phone games or iPad games and so no, within a reasonable amount, is useful, and have more value than people believe. It’s no denying that digital games are kind of a play, since it’s kind of a play, it does have the benefit of the general concept of play.

According to Taking play seriously, one view of the function of play “play-as-preparation hypothesis” states that “play evolved because it is good preparation for adulthood.” In this hypothesis, playing is viewed as a to get the experience and skills needed for future life, for example, building muscle memory for basic survival. But things are always changing and renewing itself with time, especially in human world. Nowadays, the first and foremost concern of our human beings is no longer survival. The society has already become much more complicated because of the development of technology, the change of the environment, the revolution of the society, and the evolving of human beings ourselves. The need for adulthood is also changing. Besides basic surviving skills and social experience, since people rely more and more on technology nowadays, being proficient in daily-life technology became more and more important. Why can’t we just view this “nonsense waste of time” as a preparation for the adulthood which highly relies on digital technology?

Besides the “play-as-preparation hypothesis”, the author also mentions the development-of-brain hypothesis and the “flexibility hypothesis”. She juxtaposes those three and illustrates the proof and skeptical views of these theories. But up to me, these three cannot be equally treated, because I think the first, “play-as-preparation” can conclude the other two----the development of brain and the ability to adapt to different situations, since it’s no denying that those are necessary for the transformation from childhood to adulthood, which is exactly kind of a preparation for the future.

This remind me of a computer I played when I was about fourth grade. It’s an online keyboard-controlled car racing game called Popkart. It not only makes me familiar with the keyboard arrangement and the basic operation of computer, but also brings me both physical and mental improvements. For example, I have to use both of my hands to play this game, and both the speed of my operation and the cooperation of both hands are necessary to perform well in this game. The same reason why playing piano can stimulate the brain growth, this can also bring some benefits to brain growth. Also, I need to face failure from time to time in this game, sometimes I tried so hard but I still can’t get through some tasks. Under this situation, I learned how to deal with obstacles on my road----both in the way to succeed in the game and my life road. This game even practiced my social skills, for this is an online game and have plenty of group tasks for players to finish together. In the process of neogociating and cooperating with other players, I learned some skills to communicate with strangers and build a relationship with them properly.

One skeptical view about this play-as-preparation hypothesis is, when it comes to expertise, play seems not yet proved enough t to connect with it directly. But I don’t think it’s a sufficient proof to deny the connection between play and adulthood preparation. As the author mentioned later in the passage, “…but it does one thing for sure: it makes the animal that playfights a better play-fighter.” The movement of play itself doesn’t necessarily have a specific goal for a specific future skill---- could you imagine a boy playing sands on the beach has to research in the dynamical structure of sand buildings when he grows up (I make up this term)? That is to say, some parents believe that play video games have no use, which is actually a biased view. Whatever the child play will certainly be kind of a preparation for the future---- no one can assert what kind of preparation it is, but it certainly will bring something to the child in the future. The uncertainty of one person’s life is already large, who can imagine how significantly the world may change in just several years?

So placing digital games in the context of this rapid-developing environment, it’s not that useless as people might think before.  How can we expect in such a changing era, children still play in the same way as before and shouldn’t we view the various ways of their playing can be more or less useful in some unexpected way?

Work cited:

  1. 1.       Henig, Robin Marantz, Taking play seriously, 2008.2.17
  2. 2.       LiquidEcho, Childhood “play”,  /oneworld/changing-our-story-2016/childhood-play-0