“The Gamer Generation” Offers Positive Guidance to Parents New to the Gaming World

The Gamer Generation offers a good starting point for skeptical parents, but isn't a comprehensive, critical look at the world of gaming with kids.
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A review of the bookThe Gamer Generation: Reaping the Benefits of Video Games, byJennifer Comet Wagner.

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Unlike most gamers my age (and probably many of you), I haven’t been a lifelong player. I have a grand total of zero stories about an NES, nothing about parents bringing home this console or that. Nuh-uh. No. Sometimes, my dear sweet husband talks about his gaming experiences from what seems like a million years ago, and all I can muster is a clearly lost “…uh-huh. Totally!”

Um. I’m still allowed to be here, right?

In parents’ day, games were a waste of time — and not for girls. So my days were filled with more cut and dry “worthwhile” pursuits (Long division — lots and lots of long division). Fair enough. Gaming wasn’t nearly the massive cultural boon 25 years ago that it is now; there wasn’t much positive coverage of gaming.

Although times have changed, there’s still a lot of negativity swirling about the hobby. Almost all mass incidents of violence spark a debate on digital violence and the anti-social aspects of games. Gamers are almost akin to your everyday, average psychopath because of mass ignorance and fear.

And that ignorance isn’t necessarily malicious. It can be hard to navigate the conflicting information out there so you can make your own decision as a parent. As a result, the fear tactics purported by the mainstream media spread like wildfire, inciting otherwise reasonable (benefit of the doubt, here) adults to light up Mass Effect’s Facebook page, for example, in the wake of the Newtown, CT tragedy.

And that’s when The Gamer Generation: Reaping the Benefits of Video Games throws its hat in the ring.

The Gamer Generation is less an original manuscript and more a collection of excerpts extolling the benefits of the gaming space. Sources range from daily gaming fodder like Kotaku and Joystiq to highly-renowned research facilities. Regardless of the outlet, the message is resounding: Gaming is good.

Ms. Wagner holds that gaming has massive social, health, cognitive  and educational benefits. The teamwork required in a session of World of Warcraft is far removed from the anti-gaming crowd’s fantasies of solitary, socially inept caricature. Games like Wii Fit and the deluge of dancing games keep kids (and adults) off their butts and busting a move (or the aforementioned butt), improving cardiovascular health. Gaming can help surgeons perform their tasks more efficiently, with increased speed and reduced foul-ups. Kids can learn traditional material in a non-traditional space, more adaptive to their individual learning style.

And all of those are great credits to gaming and culture. The author is unapologetic about pro-gaming. But it is also that concrete stance that deflates the book.

Okay, okay — obviously a book about “reaping benefits” isn’t going to focus on negative aspects of the hobby. Got it. Save for a short, perfunctory bit at the end of the book, there is really no critical, well-rounded analysis, and that detracts from the credibility of the book. 

Take, for example, the social aspects of “social gaming.” Sure kids can play with other gamers, but is that all it takes to be social? This is debated in and out of the community. Hiding behind the anonymity of a screen name and chiding on racial, gender, and sexual grounds is inherently anti-social, whether you’re gaming with 100 people or just talking to your own nutty self.  

I guess that’s my gripe. Its nowhere near as engaging as I’d hoped for and it isn’t a comprehensive, critical view on kids and gaming.

For what it is, however, its purpose is served: a compilation of various sources, studies, and articles concerning the good and potential benefits of gaming. It is a great starting point for a parent looking to navigate the dense web of information that’s out there. 

“The Gamer Generation” Offers Positive Guidance to Parents New to the Gaming World
The Gamer Generation offers a good starting point for skeptical parents, but isn't a comprehensive, critical look at the world of gaming with kids.

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Imayen Etim
Imayen Etim is a freelance writer and GameSkinny contributor based in Gainesville, Florida. She can be contacted at imayen.e [at] gmail.com