Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children is a regular section we’ll be running in the lead up to December’s SCAG meeting, and it takes a look at some of the scare-mongering tactics applied to new media throughout history – whether it be music, movies, television, or dime novels.
For every new innovation in science, tech, or entertainment, there are a group of killjoys waiting to ritually inform us that said innovation will melt our brains. Videogames are hardly the first form of media to fall foul of said killjoys, and they won’t be the last.
Sometimes a little historical perspective goes a long way.
Kids can’t read or write or study!
Hilariously – considering the fact that video games are often vehemehently opposed based on the fact that they stop children from reading or writing – there were numerous occasions in history where the act of reading had to deal with the same type of scaremongering.
The first account of this goes all the way back to Socrates, who worried that the act of writing would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.”
And what about those crazy school kids? Why the hell do they get so many days off, eh? Well apparently it’s a result of studies from the 19th century showing that reading for prolonged periods of time was a legitimate cause of madness in children! Yep, that’s right – the reason kids have three month summer vacations is due to the fact that studies in the Victorian age worried that excessive reading sent kids loopy.
So essentially books were harmful in the 18th and 19th century in the precise same way that video games are deemed harmful today – as a direct result of fearmongering and ignorance in the absence of understanding. Following that logic, we have absolutely no doubt that games will be used in the future to teach children in the same way that books are commonly used today.
In fact, it’s already happening. Henry Jenkins is probably the most famous Academic today still writing about videogames, and is the founder of Education Arcade, a movement that promotes learning through interactive play. Their mission is to “to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts, and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education.”
Again the key is awareness. Young people take the new for granted, while the old tend to fear the march of progress. It’s important to note that at one point there was a generation of people who were scared of the written word in the precise way that people are now afraid of interactive entertainment.
And what can we take from that? Well, we can look forward to a world that embraces the potential of gaming, and simultaneously look forward to being deathly afraid of whatever new innovation entrances our grand children in the very near future!
“Gosh darn these children and their firnickity hologram implant machines! They’re stopping the kids from doing their PlayStation 6 homework!”