2/07/2011

When I am King: Gameskill

When I am King...

Video games will train our children.

As a new owner of a fancy phone, I’ve been doing a lot of research into phone applications (I’ve been playing a lot of games). One of the games I’ve been losing my life to is Angry Birds, a game in which you launch birds at pigs.

Launch birds at pigs.

It struck me, when I first started playing the game, that game designers have simply given up on the whole “plot” thing. I could imagine the meeting when the company tried to define the vision of the game: “There are these pigs, right, and they take these, um, eggs. And, let’s see, the eggs must have come from some birds, right, and they birds would be pretty angry, and … Ah, screw it. Let's write some code.”

But as I’ve sunk more of my nonexistent spare time into the game, I realized that there is actually a deeper level on which the game operates. It’s not about plots, and stories, and characters, and all of the traditional elements of an engaging fantasy world. Instead, it’s about life skills.

Think about it: you learn to precisely target the birds at the enemy to destroy them and their defenses. You sow terror in the pig community in the hopes of getting the eggs back. You wreak havoc and revenge upon every pig you see, advancing levels only when you have killed every pig in sight. And you do all of this with minions that are happy to die for the cause.

Angry Birds is training the next generation of suicide bombers.

This might be too subtle to catch at first. Then you get to the level where you launch the bomb bird at the bus full of pig children.

And while this could be construed as disturbing on some level, the fact is that our children need to develop life and career skills. Gone are the days when responsible parents would send their children out to harvest the crops, milk the livestock, and slaughter the family pets. And children learning a manufacturing trade in sweatshops is a dying tradition. Even the coal industry, a natural for minors, is sealed to the little tykes. So where are kids supposed to pick up the crucial experience that can carry them into their brief adulthood and us into our retirement?

Meanwhile, most kids spend every possible waking hour playing video games. What better way to train tomorrow’s adults than by teaching them through this engaging and interactive medium?

When I am King, all video games will teach important life skills. We’re part of the way there today, with such educational opportunities as performing hits for the mob, massacring aliens with heavy firepower, and jumping over crates to collect coins. But we could go so much further with a little more focus on the critical elements that our society revolves around:
  • Investment bankers could be raised on games that teach how to bankrupt the economy while spending government bailout grants in performance bonuses.
  • Budding politicians could be taught important talents such as looking determined, promising undeliverable goals, and outright lying.
  • All kids could learn the fine art of begging, as a backup when the other alternatives don’t pan[handle] out.
The time that kids spend playing will make them more qualified for these and other critical roles in our society. When our children can learn a trade in their leisure time, it's time to cut funding for education, because that's what governments do.
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