Thoughts on my second book review…

Since I missed a few classes in the last two weeks, I wanted to share with everyone a little bit about my next Book Club review.  I have chosen a book brought in by Dr. Stearns, entitled Everything Bad Is Good For You, by Steven Johnson.  I am finding the book particularly appropriate for me because it challenges many of my own beliefs about pop culture.  Coming from a very conservative, traditional background, I am finding that Johnson heads straight to discuss everything that I tend to shy away from. 

Take the Xbox game Grand Theft Auto, for example.  My husband plays this game often, and I despise it for its language, violence, and lack of what I would call “wholesome values”.  Johnson argues my voice by claiming that the world of gaming sets clear goals for its players, with clear objectives to accomplish before those goals can be achieved.  Ultimately, when goals are met, players know they will be granted a reward.  In real life, objectives, goals are rewards are often fuzzy and confusing.  Gaming gives young adult players a good sense of what “real life” does not provide in a clear way.  Playing a game in a defined sequence of events also shows players that gratification cannot, in fact, be instant, because one must work hard to accomplish an ending.  By practicing all of this in a game like Grand Theft Auto, teens become sharper mentally, and this transfers itself into their lives away from the TV screen. 

Thinking of how this all relates to the ELA classroom, I can predict that Johnson will be the true-blue advocate of incorporating all avenues of technology into the course syllabus, no matter how “off beat” they might be.  I tend to favor all things in moderation, but I think Johnson will help me see positive in what I call negative.  -Sofia 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Thoughts on my second book review…

  1. sunyprof

    Yes, Sofia, an interesting and provocative book. I look forward to hearing more of what you think about Johnson’s point of view as you continue to read. There is increasingly strong arguments being made for the importance of the kinds of literacy learning complex video games entail. Any gamers out there who can help us with this? KES

  2. jmdegan

    I’m not sure I understand some of what Johnson is arguing here.

    I would tend to disagree that, because the game provides a reward for accomplishing goals, it provides something that is necessarily lacking in “real life.” Are we educating for wish-fulfillment? Is this kind of reward system authentic?

    While I can see how the game allows students to manipulate narrative, I think we also need to look at content. Is a game that rewards you for running over pedestrians, demeans women, and endorses criminal activity (all as vicarious experience) a text that can inform a socially responsible, literate subject? There might be aspects of the game that do important work, but I can’t see my way to accepting his argument based only on these aspects. That would be like saying cigarettes can be good for you because they help you loose weight. Taken all for all, I doubt very much that any educator interested in classroom that promotes critical literacy can take this judgement seriously.

    J. Degan

  3. allison

    I agree with Jerry. I think content is important and the game certainly doesn’t teach anything worthwhile as far as that goes.

    I am disgusted by the ways that video games affect adolescents. I know I am always talking about the YMCA but here is another example. Many of the kids still like to go to the gym, play pool, and engage in other more active activities. There is, however, a select group of boys who only want to play Xbox. Their obsession with video games does NOT help them learn about gratification. It does the opposite. When I tell them they must “earn” video game time, they literally do everything from screaming and insulting me to crying in a corner. These are 12-year olds. They don’t want to do anything besides play video games. Forget about sports, forget about reading.

    Video games seriously impede the learning process by making kids unreceptive to anything that is not fast-paced on a video screen.

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