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culture

Bookshelf: Everything Bad Is Good For You.

I got my copy of the much-hyped cultural work of yesteryear yesterday. I finished the opening section on videogames this morning on the commute. The book’s tagline is “how popular culture is making us smarter” and the theme is precisely that: watching new-wave TV shows and playing videogames is actually beneficial, but not in the manner we’re used to discuss.

It was inspirational to finally see someone who gets games and pop culture at large to discuss games seriously. The author makes the case that videogames are not storytelling devices – they are educational. And no, not in the hand-eye coordination sense, but rather exploration, logical deduction, splitting of tasks into manageable chunks and so on. (The skills learned given the labels “probing” and “telescoping”.)

The age-old accusation of being mindless entertainment for the lazy is dismissed very effectively, simply by pointing out at that playing most of the popular videogames is bastard hard – so hard, in fact, that a novice stands next to no chance of figuring out what he’s supposed to do and how. What the average videogamer doesn’t realize is that this is precisely what makes the games attractive and beneficial. You rarely know how a game works from the get-go: a satisfying game experience is one of constant learning, trial and error. Compared to reading books, watching movies or comparable activities, playing videogames is masochistic on the surface: you’re punished time and time again and you need to figure things out on your own.

Inspirational and enlightening stuff. It’s also a very quick and easy read. Recommended!

1 reply on “Bookshelf: Everything Bad Is Good For You.”

Videogames these days really are hard to a complete beginner. You get a little bit of a sense about it from playing a game in a genre you’re not familiar with. First, everything is overwhelming and brutally difficult. Once you get the hang of it, revisiting the first stages or restarting the game from the beginning is a revelation along the lines of “I can’t believe I thought this was difficult!”

What interests me in modern videogames is how a complete non-gamer can get into them anymore. I grew up with them, from when they were killer hard but simple affairs. Games magazines seem to be tailored exclusively to the gamer who knows what an RTS and other acronyms are, not to mention the cornerstone games of each genre. I guess that’s why the Tony Hawk series and racing games sell – they’re easy to get into based on real-world parallels.

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