Turkey Post #1: Majoring in Video Games

This is the first of what I am imagining as at least two (maybe more) posts today and over the next couple days during the holiday break. Which is a break in the sense that I have a couple of days off from school and I’m not teaching tonight and we’ll be enjoying some Thanksgiving cheer at a friend’s house this afternoon, but it isn’t a break in the sense that I have much grading to do, I’m trying to roughly speaking plan my classes for the Winter term, and I have a ton of stuff to do around the house.

I suspect that my “holiday” is similar to many of yours.

Anyway, Right now, I want to make note of this New York Times article, “Video Games Are Their Major, So Don’t Call Them Slackers,” which is about a couple of different places around the country that are starting full-fledged programs in “Video Game Studies” at both the undergraduate and graduate level. There is some “pooh-poohing” of this, but most of the article is praise; here’s one interesting passage:

“The skills and methods of video games are becoming a part of our life and culture in so many ways that it is impossible to ignore,” said Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who is now president of the New School, which includes Parsons.

Parsons has offered game courses to graduate students for five years and this fall began an undergraduate program in game design.

“But if you just look at the surface of people playing games, you are missing the point, which is that games are all about managing and manipulating information,” Mr. Kerrey said. “A lot of students that come out of this program may not go to work for Electronic Arts. They may go to Wall Street. Because to me, there is no significant difference – except for clothing preference – between people who are making games and people who are manipulating huge database systems to try to figure out where the markets are headed. It’s largely the same skill set, the critical thinking. Games are becoming a major part of our lives, and there is actually good news in that.”

This is all fine and good, and as a professor in a field where sometimes the exact application of the degree can be fuzzy, I appreciate Kerrey pointing out the critical thinking skills that can be applied to things beyond game design.

Still, I have to say that, for the most part, video games have passed me by. Oh, I go through phases with games like The Sims 2, and I might get Civilization IV when it comes out for the Mac (and it will probably be available for the Mac at about the same time as I’m ready to get a new home computer, actually), but I can’t get into any of the PlayStation games. On the other hand, my 8 year old son plays video and computer games about as much as he watches TV and/or reads. It is for him an equal mode of entertainment, and I suspect that this is also the case with a lot of my 20-something students.

Of course, here’s the question: will today’s 20-something video gaming students still be playing when they are near 40-somethings like me? Hmmmm…..

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