Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Books > Games (and vice versa)?

The Brooklyn Public Library is now offering video games to lure the youth into its storied (ha, ha) halls.

As you could probably guess, this isn't jiving too well with some people.

“I think libraries do have a quasi-educational purpose,” said Harold Augenbaum, the executive director of the National Book Association. “Books and video games are different narrative systems. Book learning has been around two or three thousand years, but with video games there’s still a ways to go to use them effectively for educational purposes.”

What do you guys think about this? I'll post my own thoughts later, but I'm too lazy to write a novel about them now.


  1. I disagree with Augenbaum. While video games can't beat a book for educational purposes, video games have been shown to sharpen problem solving skills. Also, Oregon Trail taught me a lot about the struggles of 19th century American families as they headed west.

  2. If anyone in interested in this, you should definitely check out the studies and writings of Neil Postman. One of his most famous works, "Amusing Ourselves to Death", talks about the critical thinking required when dissecting a scholarly argument (or research) in a book, and contrasts that with skewing of television content to be have greater entertainment value more than anything else. I think that videogames fall somewhere in the middle because many do offer cognitive challenges as well as amusement.

    Something else to consider is the encoding process of different media forms. Someone writing a book is clearly invested in an idea enough to do years of research on a topic, and formulate a well-educated approach to the subject. On top of that, they must articulate their findings coherently, otherwise the educated public will be quick to denounce the legitimacy of the work. For videogames, I would assume the content encoded is rooted in the mass consumer appeal of videogame consuming markets (teenage boys?). It is understood that it takes a long time and a lot of talent to design a well thought-out and good looking game to the market, but the motivations are interesting to explore.

    Another book of his that might blow your mind is called "Technopoly", basically about how society is entirely screwed.