Computer Games on a TV look like Crap & Why Kids Love ’em Anyway

K, I can troubleshoot the hell out of an lab-full of aging CRT iMacs with 35 energetic 12-year and 13-year olds pounding these relics from the late 90s into submission. But some things get past me. I mean, over Christmas break when I finally got around to seeing if I could get some of my old PC games to run on my MacMini, which is connected to my old school CRT standard def TV, it dawned on me: games meant for a PC monitor look like crap on a standard def TV. My DVD collection and video podcasts look great on the 10-year-old 36-incher. But even the first gen Age of Empires was completely illegible on my TV. Damn. And Duh!

But because I use the TV mostly for DVDs and don’t even watch broadcast TV on it (’cause I cut the cable over a year ago), I have a hard time justifying buying something fancier. I don’t know, it seems silly. But then again, I am the guy who just spent a shit-load on an external back-up system (le drobo) and three 500GB hard drives when it became clear that the drives I was hoping to use from my G4 tower were … um, of the wrong vintage. Damn.

I don’t know why I keep feeling the pull to get into computer games. I’ve never really been a gamer. But part of me feels like interactive computer environments are going to be a serious part of education. I mean, they already are a part of any kid who spends any time on them; girls on chat and myspace and boys on some MMORPG or pr0n. Ack. On a marginally related note: Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, the genius behind the “Zero Punctuation” game reviews, rocks:

Rare Earth - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rare Earth - (I Know) I'm Losing You Music: (I Know) I’m Losing You from the album “Earth Tones: The Essential Rare Earth” by Rare Earth


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Ray Even relatively crappy games, kids eat it up. They’re captivated by games on the Internet running Flash, that, in some cases, were little better than “select an adventure” kind of games where the player would pick one of three options and the game would act on the choice (basically a cut-scene) until the player was given the next set of three choices, Of course it didn’t hurt that this one particular game, Ray, was utterly irreverent, violent, and used South Park-esque characters. But it doesn’t even have to be something with any kind of narrative. The latest game they seem to be addicted to is a simple “snake” game where they guide a fast moving line of pixels on the screen, trying to “eat” an “x,” which when accomplished adds to the length of the “snake,” but they have to avoid eating their own tail. It’s like two-color graphics and a Homer Simpson “Doh!” when the player fails, and they love it.

It doesn’t surprise me that many adults fret over the content and completely miss why these kids are so attracted to these games. Unlike anything else they experience at school and probably at home, they are not expected to sit down and shut up, but are required to do some task that results in some reward if successful or relatively harmless taunting if they fail. Very much unlike my generations’ addiction to passively staring at a TV screen while our brains melt out of our ears, these kids plunge themselves into worlds where they have to figure out the objective, learn the tasks required and accomplish the mission. Funny thing is that these are all skills needed in the “Real World” but at the moment they are not a part of that “Real World” and so they become frustrated and increasingly disenfranchised with it. I wish that there was a way to make my content even more game-like in they’re having to work through problems and get back immediate feedback that propels the learning forward. JBB

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