Writing for boys and gaming.


I love the smart people over at TED.com. I could lose myself for days in the brilliant minds of the collective there. Immersed in the high quality videos, feeling new wrinkles growing in my brain until it hurts. I’ve “liked” their page over at Facebook so that I can be informed when they post new talks on video. This past week they posted “Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning” which interested me for a few reasons. First, I have two sons who are extremely intelligent but were left behind all of their grade school and high school careers. Second, I write for kids, some of those kids being boys.

I’ve always maintained that there isn’t as big of difference between boys and girls as society tells us there is. Maybe this is me trying to simplify things, or maybe it’s the female in me screaming for equality for all. I believe that as a society we are just as bad to our boys as we are to our girls. Men may have the power, but society strips them of a lot of things still.

Ms. Carr-Chellman maintains that we are losing our boys from schools because we do not accept their culture. She does address my concerns about girls and gender bias, so I think I’m okay with that. The only thing I might add which would take away from her focus is that girls might also make better students because society teaches us to be submissive. Care-takers. Memorize your lines and move as directed. However, we want adventure, and games too. But this is about the boys and while I love to blur that line, I understand the need here for distinction.

Here is the TED video that I’m talking about:

I always put a limit on the video games my boys played. I kept them age appropriate. But, I let them play. I would take the games away as punishment for failing in school. I stopped doing that as it didn’t work. I ignored people who told me the games were evil and must be purged from every household. I told my boys they were good at the games, they could also be good at anything they tried.

Games teach so many things and as I listened to my boys tell me about the latest game they were conquering I loved how excited they would get, how shiny their eyes were. They told me about the story, about the weapons, about the characters and plot. They craved the details. If you ask any teacher, as long as you didn’t say it was a video game, I’ll bet they would claim this was an earnest student who loved learning.

As she sums up at the end of the video, I agree with everything Ms. Carr-Chellman says. I too wondered why educational “video games” were nothing more than flashcards. So much of what she said was my experience with my boys in school. It would be good to see it changed, but for now we’ll have to settle for challenging it.

This video also stimulated ideas in me for my writing. We always talk/argue about writing for boys and I think that what Ms. Carr-Chellman says could be applied in our writing as well. She’s giving us a lot to think about.

There was a follow up video to this one titled, “Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world.” What Ms. McGonigal says is that she believes, as a game designer, that video games can save the world. She also has some wonderful thoughts that stimulated my own in kind. Here’s her TED video:

I think that there is something to be said about gaming, culture and ideas that are shared. Now I think I’ll go play a game or two with my family. I already regularly play the home version of the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution for exercise. Video games have been very good to me. They’ve taken excellent care of my sons and me. My husband and I spent a lot of time in the arcade when we were teens. I highly recommend you play.

posted under Miscellany

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