Would you believe it was once believed that reading books would rot your brain? Amazingly enough that was the pseudo-science of the day in the 19th century. Even now we still hear about how watching too much TV is bad for you, though the ‘science’ of that seems to be in flux. Heavy metal music is bad for you and playing Dungeons and Dragons will rot your soul. We have been dealing with these grasping studies about how the things we love are bad for us, how they’ll rot our brains or souls, or send us straight to hell.
Having grown up in the 80’s and 90’s, I’m no stranger to more than one of these hysterical attempts to convince us we need to change our lifestyles to something more acceptable. Then I became a parent, and like any logical human being I kept in mind that moderation is key, but I also had to accept that kids are going to go for the things they like. You can’t force your kid to like playing sports, or want to go outside all the time, learn to ride a bike, or fall in love with the outdoors. The best you can hope for is that they grow up loving something, do their best, and gather enough skills to help them as adults. I read books like they were candy, watched TV, listened to metal, and played DnD (hells I still do those things) and I think I turned out all right.
I’m also a gamer, and over the years that has come with its own set of stigma. Worse, I’m a male gamer and we already know what they say about those. Recently I was shown an article that, like the person that showed it to me, got my hackles up. “Don’t let your kids play video games for more than two hours a week, or it will make them antisocial!” Funny, my son has been more social playing games than any other time in his young life, but what do I know. I have been a gamer for about thirty years, and I have to say most of my friends have been met through gaming. Whether it was my friends coming over to play Golden Eye, or Mario Kart, or getting online to play Battlefield, gaming has always been a social experience. I don’t know if the people doing the study are gamers themselves, but I’ve personally never found gaming to be a solitary experience. I’m sure sitting a child in a room alone sure emulates a solitary experience, but that’s just not how gaming works in the real world.
Thankfully, with every study about the things that rot our brains, or give us cancer, there’s always counter arguments and different studies. We can count on broader views to look at things in realistic application and feel confident that our 30 or so years spent gaming did us just as well as it will do our kids. When those kids go on to become programmers, software analysts, authors, designers, and artists they can look back at the studies done today like we look back at the hysteria over heavy metal and roleplaying. Gaming is the largest entertainment industry in the world, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and our kids are growing up in a world vastly different from our childhood. We have to adapt as parent, but just like our parents let us eat raw cookie dough and watch too many cartoons, we’ll do just fine.