Gamers Teaching Through Gaming

Hello Everyone!  Originally I was going to do an article about trolling as social conditioning today, however I have been inspired to do a different sort of article today.

While many are talking about the shooting that happened in Colorado last night/this morning I want to talk about something that I think is more important.  Gamers who teach their children through gaming: a cultural phenomenon being used by gamers to teach their children.  The reason I am not doing a post about the shooting is encapsulated by Patton Oswalt on Twitter:

Patton Oswalt on Aurora Shooting

While it is important to recognize these tragedies we must also be able to move beyond them.  Dwelling on them for too long only makes events like these more effective as their point is to disrupt the natural flow of life and instill fear.  When we talk about them in the ways that we often do we empower those who wish to commit similarly heinous acts and increase their efficacy.

Now, on to the topic for today’s discussion.

I was inspired by Gabe of Penny Arcade’s Gabe and Tycho today.  There have been two comics: The Proxy Part 1, and Part 2 that have been about teaching children.  More importantly not just teaching children, but parents learning to know when to let their children fail and when to help their children succeed.  In The Proxy, Part 2 Tycho says: “You don’t want to be one of those guys.  We saw that shit in scouts.  We all knew whose dad worked at Boeing. You could tell who had access to a wind tunnel.”  In the panel you can see that he is referring to pinewood derbies.

Tycho makes a very obvious remark about our own society and culture: that parents don’t want to see their children fail – so much so that some parents will actually do things for their children so that their children don’t have to experience the harsh reality of failure. However, the thing that I love about the two comics most, The Proxy, Part 1 and Part 2, is that there is a direct connection made between teaching children card games (Poke’mon in the case of the comic) and teaching children sports.  It draws a parallel between teaching children through traditional methods, such as pinewood derbies, and teaching children through non-traditional methods, such as the Poke’mon card game.

Through sports we try and teach our children many things which will make them successful in life: hard work, team work, perseverance, and dedication.  All of these character traits are traits that parents love to see in their children.  Winning builds confidence, but failure builds understanding.  Through failure we all learn many things in life.  These things are often very harsh realities about life, but they are essential if our children, as individuals, are going to succeed in life.

Gabe notes in his update for today, Friday July 20th, that: “So the current storyline is indeed taken straight from my life. My son attended his very first Pokemon League night on Tuesday.” The comic that he made, while indeed made for laughs, was taken straight from his real life.  But what struck me most were a few remarks regarding his son later in the update:

I’m incredibly proud of him though. For one thing he kept playing which I can’t imagine was easy. Also he asked if we could practice before he goes back next week. The fact that he wants to go back makes me extremely happy and you can bet we’ll practice.

I can’t teach him how to hit a baseball but I can sure as shit teach him about synergies, draw engines and probability.

There are so many parallels that can be drawn between a child learning to play baseball and a child learning to play Magic: The Gathering, or Poke’mon the card game.  The most obvious, to me, is the pride that parents feel for their children.  I teach children martial arts three days a week and the thing that parents love to see most (usually) is not that their child is winning, but that their child is persevering, practicing, and working hard; they’re learning essential life skills for success later in life.  When working with parents and children the pride I see most often comes when a child, after losing, comes to understand that they need to work harder and thus develop a resolve to be better.

It’s important to recognize that traditional sports are not necessary for this development in children.  When a child wants to do well at something we should be willing to push them to make them better, but in a way that they will enjoy it and understand why we are pushing them so hard.  This can be achieved through baseball or soccer, but can also be taught through card games, board games, and many other non-traditional sports games.

Gamers can and do use games to make teach their children these lessons.  Gabe demonstrates all of this through his son’s experience playing Poke’mon.  We can teach children how to think, analyze, and understand through gaming.  We can teach them about how to make themselves better through practice and hard work.  This is what parents want to see in their children.  It’s important to begin recognizing that sports are no longer the only way that we can teach character traits like hard work, team work, perseverance, and other life skills that children should learn in order to be successful.

Gamers are teaching their children in new ways that the old tradition wouldn’t have thought of.  This is the ingenuity that I love to see in the gaming world and I can’t wait until these sorts of games becomes a mainstream way to teach children the character traits that parents want to see in their children.

Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist


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