Meanderings of a Medusa: Beyond Play

Beyond Play

By Medusa of QgirlZ [Last Updated: 5/8/98]

When the OGR.COM editors asked me to write a new column I said “Who me? What do I know? What do I know about gaming let alone technology?” Then while jogging along the Ochygoochy river, my memory jumped back to less than two years ago – before Quake – to the days the total knowledge in my little brain amounted to turning the computer on and typing a paper. Sometimes even that went wrong! Then the all altering world of gaming came knocking on my door. When Quake came to my stoop with its sleek salesmanship – 3D levels, fast paced keyboarding and mouse skills, online gaming and endless fun – my antiquated computer knowledge was forced to evolve.

Online gaming is more than just play time; it’s an opportunity for development. It’s obviously far more interactive than television, requires specific skills, and in many cases takes the curious beyond just sandbox fun and into the realm of technology. Less than two years ago I didn’t know what RAM was and thought a mouse would be of interest only to my cat. While I started playing with HTML before the origin of QGirlZ, it was the clan that motivated me to really learn and create some pretty graphics. Now some very simple networking knowledge runs amok in my mind, multiple programs are there on my HD to do my bidding, and I’ve even opened up my machine and plugged in new hardware. Now that’s progress! But behold, there is more.

Online gaming affords its gleeful disciples the opportunity for cognitive development and, for those younger gamers, a socialization process unseen in human history. In childhood, psychosocial development hinges on fantasy play. Online gaming is all about the expression of that inner fantasy world. Now we can share that with others on at least a superficial level whether it’s fragging freaks or positioning tanks. In early school aged children fantasy play is very important for the development of morality. Online gaming can offer the same possibility for social skill development to its users – but of course we have all met those social depraved individuals online who are already beyond hope, or are they? Maybe it’s a relatively consequence free world in which to experiment with lashing out at people. It’s better than yelling obscenities at your teacher or a poor clerk.

For all online gamers it’s a way to role play. It is an opportunity to be people we could not otherwise be. So how is this like being a toddler or a school-aged child? Well, for them play is not only fundamental but functional as well. Through play they develop the cognitive skills which allow them to better adapt to their environment and cope with its demands. When we hit adulthood, play magically becomes recreational but in childhood it’s a necessary process for developing the moral, social and cognitive skills needed in adulthood. Why do you think the Peter Pan complex is associated with a childlike spirit? Yup, because it’s hard for the work-a-day world to see play as something other than recreational and distracting.

It seems to me that computer games push the envelope of an entire industry. Online gaming seems to have brought an unforeseen dimension to this push. Yet it smacks of the same modus operandi; while online gaming has brought us a new way to interact, it still teaches us necessary skills. These skills were esoteric only a few years ago but have been popularized in the past decade. Like the child we as adults (term not necessarily applied to the writer) are learning to adapt to the new environment of technology. The flood of technology is not going away; it’s a phenomena that we must deal with. Just as it would be an advantage for the middle school aged child to develop the capacity for concrete operational thought it would be an advantage for us to better understand computers. Without concrete operational thought a child lacks the ability to comprehend basic rules about the world around him or herself. He or she would get confused when you unfolded the day bed because he or she would not understand that the couch is one in the same but just in a different shape. What I propose is that online gaming offers the possibility of learning the new rules. Without that understanding in the future you may be left asking the magician down the hall to help you send a file that should have taken only seconds to send.

On the other hand this could all be a way to rationalize spending too many hours on the computer when I should be doing work. But if this holds to be true in the future and one is computer phobic then I suggest one easy and fun way to get on the boat — play games online and play them a lot. Find out how you to play them and keep on learning. Play is fun. Play is good. Online gaming is a way out of antiquity and into the future. So play and play hard!

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