Strong Presidents, Strong Gamers

By Brendan Caldwell on June 20th, 2011 at 5:28 pm.

Fun fact: Lincoln had maaaad CS:S skills

President Obama wants fathers to encourage their children to “turn off the video games and pick up a book.” Books are good, but games are also good. So we want presidents to play more games. (As well as reading books and ending poverty and promoting equality and stopping terrorism and that sort of thing, obviously).

Good afternoon,

I grew up without a President around. I was lucky enough to be raised by a wonderful 90Mhz Gateway who, like so many heroic computers, never allowed my President’s absence to be an excuse for me to slack off or not always do my best at Quake. But I often wonder what it would have been like if my President had a greater presence in my gaming life.

So as a gamer of 15 years, I’ve tried hard to be a good player. I haven’t always been perfect – there have been times when work kept me away from my games, and my clan suffered as a result.

I know many other gamers face similar challenges. Whether you’re a FPS player returning from deployment or a Farmville farmer doing his best to make ends meet for his family in a tough economy, being a gamer isn’t easy.

That’s why RPS is kicking off the Year of Strong Presidents, Strong Gamers. We’re joining PCs across the country to do something about President absence. And we’re taking steps to offer men who want to be good Presidents but are facing challenges in their lives a little extra support, while partnering with businesses to offer fun opportunities for Presidents to spend time with their gaming citizens. For example, we have invited Barack Obama to come and play a game of Starcraft II. Sadly, he is busy. His daughters have soccer practice, or something.

We know that every President has a personal responsibility to do right by their people – to encourage them to turn off Fox News and pick up a keyboard; to teach them the difference between Mojang and Activision; to show them through our own example the value in treating one another as we wish to be treated. And most of all, to play an active and engaging role-playing game.

But all of us have a stake in forging stronger bonds between Presidents and their country’s gamers. All of us can support those who are willing to step up and be President-figures to those children growing up without a sufficiently speedy internet connection. And that’s what the Year of Strong Presidents, Strong Gamers is all about.

So I hope the Presidents out there will take advantage of some of the opportunities Strong Presidents, Strong Gamers will offer. It’s one way of saying thank you to those who are doing the most important job of all: running the country (In Democracy 2).

Happy President’s Day.

Sincerely,
Brendy Caldwell

, .

111 Comments »

  1. Bilbo says:

    …Righto

  2. gwathdring says:

    …. Wait, what?

    Also, my country confuses me.

    Edit: For clarity. The blog is almost as odd to me as this thing, but for reasons completely unrelated to gaming. I didn’t even realize this had anything to do with gaming until I read some of the comments ….

  3. McDan says:

    There be no presidents in Britain!

    • McDan says:

      Either I’ve missed the point entirely but this still isn’t funny, I kow it’s a spoof of El presidente’s blog thing. but it still isn’t funny. There aren’t even any puns! This is RPS! There must be puns!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, this mostly smacks of “oh my god, someone said people should read books instead of play games, QUICK MOCK THEM! MOCK THEM ON THE INTERNET! THROW TOGETHER A THING TO MOCK THEM!”

    • Berzee says:

      Er, yeah, that’s exactly what it is. That’s why I like it so much.

    • Pop says:

      We’re actually not far off having a president to be honest. We’re fat, we don’t understand irony anymore, and we’re about to kill off the NHS. What else must we do to qualify?

    • Consumatopia says:

      I thought this was funny, but I took it less as an attack on the president’s knowledge of video games and more a satire of the way we Americans have combined ceremonial head of state and political head of government into a single office. Our president is encouraged to be both a national father figure exhorting us to eat our vegetables and stay in school, and a partisan reformer trying to move state policy in a direction in the direction he promised to his supporters. It’s an awkward combination–nobody wants to take advice from their partisan enemy, which is why Sarah Palin can succeed in stoking up resentment over Michelle Obama’s advice to eat healthier. And honestly, even though I like the current president, I do find it kind of annoying that he’s trying to give me advice while the country and government have so many problems of their own. The President isn’t my father, though every president wants to act like he is. This the fault of voters who encourage that behavior, but it irks me nonetheless.

    • Maximum Fish says:

      @Pop

      I’d say you guys don’t have to worry about qualifying too much on your end; Stateside our government is getting to be almost as insufferably arrogant and paternalistic as yours, our politics are getting almost as boring, and our big cities are even getting their very own creepy Orwellian surveillance systems. So yeah, we’ll just meet you in the middle then.

    • roryok says:

      @pop @maximum_fish

      So yeah, we’ll just meet you in the middle then.

      Feck off, that’s our bit.

  4. Wodge says:

    is this lulzsec?

    • Wulf says:

      That would be incredible, wouldn’t it?

    • Bilbo says:

      i think there’s a joke in there somewhere, but buggered if I can find it

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      If you click the link at the top of the article, it becomes apparent that this is a spoof of the POTUS’s Father’s Day email.

    • Wodge says:

      I thought it would be something about Mr President giving his thoughts on The Witcher 2 in congress, but no, it’s this. Whatever this is.

    • Bilbo says:

      @Ignorant Texan Yep, I did pick up on that. I still don’t really get it. He just changed the word “Father” to “President”. Is that satire? Is it clever?

      …is it gaming news?

    • pepper says:

      @texan, I still dont get it. I was expecting a pun, what would that then be?

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      pepper -

      I’ll be damned if I know. I didn’t find this particularly funny, either. I think we have a case of satirical fail here.

    • pepper says:

      Aah good to know that. I suppose it fits more in a US orientated forum where the people are more familiar with events like this.

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      Bilbo -

      I apologize for not responding to your question, but I believe I answered it in my response to pepper.

      pepper -

      This is a pretty standard non-controversial, platitude-filled pronouncement from a politician on days such as this one(US observance of Father’s Day). I don’t believe this is a particularly American thing, but I could be wrong.

  5. Wulf says:

    Oh. Kay. Then.

  6. wazups2x says:

    There’s an image of Obama on this page.

  7. Premium User Badge

    mpk says:

    No, really, what?

  8. phosgene says:

    No staring eyes tag. I call shenanigans.

  9. X_kot says:

    Hmm…while the sarcasm about the “new media = decline of youth” point in the message is well received, I can’t say that I’m totally behind this snark. It seems like you’re only picking on one line in the original. I would think that encouraging fathers to take an interest in their children and stay engaged with them would be a welcome message.

    • wonderpookie says:

      I am soon to be a father, and the one image that keeps flashing through my head is that of me playing over LAN with my kids. I want to play computer games with my kids! It may have just been the one line, but as gamers, we’re just as able to be good fathers like everyone else! That one line seeks to marginalise and stereotype us, so this snarky article is more than welcome as a retort to a misguided viewpoint held by many people!

    • smokingkipper says:

      @Wonderpookie My 2 boys are 2 and 4. Personally I cannot wait to be able to play dungeons and dragons with them.

    • p4warrior says:

      My son is 3. Every day when I get home from work, he demands that I turn on both our PCs so we can play “the robot game” together. He absolutely loves Portal 2, even if all he can do is hold down W, jump, look around, and fire the portals.

    • Gadriel says:

      My father was a techie of the old school. Punch cards and oscilloscopes and whatnot. Some of my fondest childhood memories of time spent with him are playing old Atari or C64 games and him teaching me BASIC. We built PCs together, we played games together, we wrote code together. He fostered in me the passion and skills that have led me to a promising career. I don’t think playing video games was especially damaging to me. I think the key was his involvement. Video games are only bad for kids if they’re used as a substitute for actual parenting.

  10. Kaira- says:

    Father’s day? What kind of backwards land is this? Everybody knows Father’s Day is the second sunday of November!

  11. Valvarexart says:

    If you click on the “Good Morning” you will understand that it is a slightly altered version of what Barack Obama wrote on his…blog?

  12. Mattressi says:

    I’ve developed the habit of finishing an article before clicking on the links in it (I blame Wikipedia for how it always made me have so many tabs open that my browser would crash), so for the entirety of the article I had absolutely no bloody idea what was going on. Though, after reading the linked article, I’m still not quite sure that I understand…

  13. Gundrea says:

    British humour is dead.

  14. Gundrea says:

    Actually I was announcing that I officially killed British humour in the back of a pub in Birmingham on Sunday. No need to thank me.

  15. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Are the yanks invading RPS?

  16. Silverel says:

    Seems fairly tasteless, imo. The message from Obama doesn’t really seem like something that needed to be made a mockery of as it was fairly simple and sincere.

    Whatev’s. Stick to the video game stuffs.

  17. Torgen says:

    #whatisthisIdon’teven

  18. therosthewatcher9 says:

    Everyone else seems to not care for this very much, but he did take a swipe at video games in there. So, fair is fair. I myself don’t appreciate the implication that playing video games is somehow worse than reading books. I enjoy both, but they are different experiences.

    • Om says:

      It was a passing reference; hardly grounds for paraphrasing the whole thing. Even in the name of satire

      And I don’t think that ‘gamers’ (I do hate that word) should be so defensive about every last ‘mainstream’ comment on the medium. Obama’s not suggesting that playing games is the same as doing crack cocaine; he’s calling for people to encourage children to read more. If he’d referenced TV instead of games then the point would have been equally valid and we’d never have heard of this

      “I myself don’t appreciate the implication that playing video games is somehow worse than reading books”

      As you say, they’re different experiences. But if you’re a parent trying to encourage their child’s education then of course its better to have them reading books. Games are fun, and can certainly be educational, but they’re no substitute for building literacy

    • Berzee says:

      No, if he said people should turn off the TV to read a book I would have thought the same thing, “Eh? Can’t we judge the quality of individual creations instead of simplifying it down to Printed Word > Spoken Word (provided Spoken Word is video recorded…if it’s live, that’s theater, and that’s as good as books)?”

  19. Ricc says:

    Good article, I laughed. :) Yes, I do think presidents and politicians in general should care more about modern media like video games. So I hope the Year of Strong Presidents, Strong Gamers will help achieve this goal. ;)

    Btw, CD Projekt sent Obama a Witcher 2 collector’s edition a while ago. Hopefully he got the game patched and running, so he should be right on that. :)

  20. Berzee says:

    I like this. I liked it before I even read the original article and saw that it says stories written by people are inherently better than interactive stories written by people. I like it because it’s funny. I like this.

    • Berzee says:

      Now that the picture of Obama is gone and there is an explanation at the top, I like it slightly less. Apparently I just think quoting Obama with a word replace feature is funny? I am not a clever man.

      Never that less, I am pleased this exists because yeah, book. >_< When they first invented books, ancient tribal storytellers said they caused violent tendencies in kids. Probably?

    • jeremypeel says:

      People did indeed say such things about the newfangled novel, far more recently (nineteenth century recently). I can find a quote or three I’d you’re interested enough to press me on it; complainers generally held that novels filled the youths’ heads with dangerous nonsense fictions, space better used for that demonstratively useful stuff, fact.

      This was in bonnie England, naturally.

    • Consumatopia says:

      I didn’t see the original, but in it’s current form it’s got The Onion syndrome–a funny headline or concept followed by a completely predictable and tedious article based on that concept.

    • Gepetto says:

      Quotes:

      The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?

      - Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family, 1790

      Many adults think that the crimes described in comic books are so far removed from the child’s life that for children they are merely something imaginative or fantastic. But we have found this to be a great error. Comic books and life are connected. A bank robbery is easily translated into the rifling of a candy store. Delinquencies formerly restricted to adults are increasingly committed by young people and children … All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers This kind of thing is not good mental nourishment for children!

      - Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent, 1954

    • Berzee says:

      Thanks for the quots n’such! =)
      It’s good to know that essays like “A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls” exist as well, to balance the universe. =P

  21. Zetetic says:

    The original article says that fathers have a responsibility “to encourage them to turn off the video games and pick up a book”. (This doesn’t even mesh with the blurb at the top of this post.)

    All this assumes is that some American children do play video games at the expense of reading; only a fool would suggest that there are no skills that can be gained by reading that cannot be gained by playing video games. It’s a bit of lazy attack, but still plausibly a reasonable one.

    Perhaps if Brendan had spent more time reading the article rather than copy-pasting this lazy bit of pseudo-satire, he might have produced something funnier.

    • Berzee says:

      But rarely does anyone say “put down a video game that teaches one skill and pick up a book that teaches another skill, so that you will have a well rounded set of skills.”

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      The way it’s phrased in the original really doesn’t make it seem like obama holds video games in high regard. Kind of a shame, as I bet the industry definitely grew to a nice contributor to the US GDP.

  22. Premium User Badge

    noggin says:

    President Obama wants fathers to play less videogames and read more book

    That’s not even what the letter says…

    We know that every father has a personal responsibility to do right by their kids – to encourage them to turn off the video games and pick up a book;

    “…to encourage them” = “…to encourage their kids”

  23. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    We on the RPS comments section thank you Brendan Caldwell for giving us fuel enough for baseless anti-American prejudice for years to come. Your not-quite-funny-enough joke article warms our rain-sodden British hearts and for this we salute you.
    Americans, they have no sense of irony and are crass and stupid. Aaahh yes, that’s the good stuff.

  24. Davee says:

    Wow.
    HEY! Where did the Barack Obama picture go?!

    Oh, okay, you updated the article. It makes more sense now :p

  25. Brendy_C says:

    Well, this post sure Barack-fired.

    Ha ha. No? No.

  26. Vinraith says:

    With regards to the president’s comments, I don’t think setting up video games and books as an either/or dichotomy is going to produce the results he’s looking for. As a kid I read a ton, and I played a ton of video games. If someone had denied me access to games on the grounds that I should “read more” I assure you that reading more would have been the last reaction they’d have gotten.

    Video games are just this generation’s media scapegoat, though, like comics and rap before them. I can’t wait to see what we’ll blame for all of society’s ills next!

    • Gundrea says:

      Fox News Bulletin.
      Vinrath: Threat or Menace? More at 11.

    • gwathdring says:

      I would say there’s a type of thinking and thought development that comes out of reading hard to come by in other activities. It exposes you to new ideas and perspectives, immerses you in large quantities of linguistic material, expands the ability of the brain to visualize and create sensory imagery. Now, there are other ways to get the first one and playing with action figures can do a bit of the third. But the second one, and the particular way that reading builds not only our linguistic capacity but our symbolic and logical capacity … that’s not something easy to match with other mediums.

      Video games and movies can certainly provide rich and valuable experiences. They can also just be fun, which is in itself part of a healthy life. They don’t necessarily rot people’s brains out either–that has a lot to do with the way you interface with games, movies and television and not just the medium itself. You can rot your brains out doing anything if you disengage enough.

      The trouble that I see isn’t the lack of content in games and movies and television. It’s that you get pleasurable, reinforcing, conditioning feedback from these mediums whether or not you accessed any content at all. It’s the lack of learning required by these mediums–they don’t ask you to expand your mind or grasp of language in order to proceed. You can go through a lot of games learning and seeing very little other than bare mechanics far more easily than you can in a book–and the bare mechanics of a book are the linguistic tools in and of themselves essential to thought and communication. I’d say movies are even worse, not even forcing you to learn action to receive conditioning stimulus. Television is the worst of all, exposing you to a host of advertising gimmicks before you develop defenses against them in addition to allowing you to consume passively.

      That’s the key to me—passive consumption is bad for kids. Straight up bad. Passive consumption conditions you to be passive, it teaches you how not to learn. Kids don’t know how to subvert that conditioning, and once it’s in place it’s dangerous. They need to learn and be challenged, not taught to stare at things. Once they learn how to learn and how to enjoy learning then it’s safe to let them absorb passive media–but until then it’s a risk we shouldn’t be content to take.

      Games aren’t the problem. Violence and sex in media aren’t the problem. Passivity, however, is an enormous issue. It’s becoming easier and easier for children to avoid interaction with their environment, whether or not parents sit them down in front of a television intentionally. With a book, you have to push past every word and try to hold a scene in your head. It’s a demanding task and we forget that once we know how to do it without effort. It’s an enormous workout for the brain. There are elements of this in gaming, though even the most fiendish puzzle game rarely forces us to put the computational and memory strain on ourselves equivalent to that required to keep track of myriad locations, relationships and words as we do in novels.

    • Sadraukar says:

      @ gwathdring

      I had never really thought about it this way and I appreciate your reply. I’d be interested if RPS let you write a post on this subject to hear more of your thoughts on it.

      I grew up playing a lot of simulator games that required a great deal of time and patience to learn (especially for a child), but I would say they probably had a positive impact on my critical thinking and learning ability. Unfortunately, I doubt a child raised on Call of Duty would get similar benefits. I also could be found with my head in a book or playing with LEGOs much of the time growing up so who knows.

    • Berzee says:

      Very interesting thoughts on passivity. Now to test them =)

      Question 1) Would you be worried about a kid who spent a lot of time fishing and not catching anything, but enjoying it tremendously?

      Actually that’s my only question. Thinking about (and largely agreeing with) the whole passive/active thing, I have the following thoughts…

      As a parent, you shouldn’t let your kids play the kind of games that don’t challenge them. Well, sometimes you should, it’s nice to rest sometimes. But there are kinds of games (like the aforementioned simulators, or games that actually have a lot of words in them and therefore help with literacy too) that do challenge.

      Also, don’t let them settle for books that are unchallenging. Also, teach them to mock advertisements (we used to do this a lot, we would even watch entire infomercials together so we could laugh at their unfounded claims). Teach them to think about what things mean, and teach them how to discover meaningful things to watch or play or read or hear.

      Thank you sir. I will try to keep in mind these things when I have summoned children of my own. =)

    • gwathdring says:

      Fair points, I generalized a bit more than I should have. There are certainly games that build brains and books that don’t challenge.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it though. :)

    • Vinraith says:

      There are many unchallenging, passive books just as there are unchallenging, passive games. There are many active, challenging games just as there are active, challenging books. The book/game dichotomy is not a passive/active dichotomy. That said, the passive/active dichotomy you laid out is an excellent one, and (ironically) is itself far less lazy than the book/game dichotomy the president laid out.

    • gwathdring says:

      Ack … that was way longer than I meant it to be. Let’s try this again:

      A lot of this depends on the game or book. A lot of this depends on the individual. It is certainly not a books/games dichotomy. There are whole genres of games that violate the concepts I’m laying on gaming as a whole–text-based games, abstract puzzlers, simulators.

      The sorts of games children are likely to be exposed to–Mario like titles, web-games, games based on their favorite animated movies, AAA titles under parental supervision (or not I suppose, depending on the title and the parent) … there are loads of exceptions, but I really don’t think most kids are being given the more mentally stimulating side of video games whereas I would argue reading has more inherent mental stimulation before content is assessed. Games typically have cognitively passive interfaces.

      It’s certainly possible to have stimulating content on the other side of those passive interfaces. But especially for children still learning the bare necessities of critical thinking, it is these interfaces that are crucial. Once kids have critical thinking down, they can active messages across passive barriers and find meaning in less obvious places with alacrity. But you have to set a firm foundation, and that means choosing your interfaces very carefully.

      In essence, It is easier to be lost to passivity in the world of video games and television, not necessarily harder to find cognitive stimulation.

    • Berzee says:

      Good points. =)

      My only addition at this late hour is: As someone who played Mario and then spent at least a good year of my life running around with a green blanket sticking out of the back of my pants and pretending to my Raccoon Luigi and throwing couch cushions around the house so I could platform in real life, I don’t feel as though it robbed me of my imagination. :-) But as you say, it is a jungle of special cases.

      Now the *endless* hours I spent bickering with my brothers over whose turn it was to play Asheron’s Call…those could perhaps have been better spent whittling.

    • gwathdring says:

      ARgh! I had a better version of the above abbreviation of my too-long response, but then the editing thing went wonky and it posted my original. I’ll try to get some of the points I really wanted in:

      Mainstream gaming culture, I feel, is less connected to the richer parts of gaming than mainstream writing is to the richer parts of writing. I would then counter my own argument by suggesting that much of this is due to popular perception of games, the heavy advertising around certain sectors of the industry and perhaps simply the fact that writing and books have been around longer allowing the medium to mature a little–all this as opposed to some sort of inherent value books have over games.

      But those factors have a lot to do with the way these mediums are used by parents and children alike. A lot of it has to do with maintaining a balance in your (and your childs) diet of media entertainment and ensuring that as much cognitive activity and effort is expended as possible. Exploration, creativity, curiosity, imagination … these are things games can and do espouse in players. But there are things games and television cannot teach that can be accessed through other mediums such as reading, drawing, board games, physical puzzles, and so on and so on.

      If nothing else, diversity gives children the tools and the inspiration to think more actively and make broader connections between their more passive endeavors and their more active endeavors.

      If I ever have kids, I’m pretty damn sure they’re going to end up as gamers because I know I’ll be playing video games, board games, and so on for the rest of my life. Hopefully they will also love books and movies and music and Doctor Who and playing with legos because otherwise we won’t get to spend much time together. :P

  27. Premium User Badge

    KGB says:

    I find this satirical comment to be very spot on and I don’t get why so many gamers here do not find the president’s words to be heavy stuff: “every father has a personal responsibility to do right by their kids – to encourage them to turn off the video games and pick up a book; to teach them the difference between right and wrong”
    As a gamer I find this outraging: If you are not telling your kid to turn off the video games, you are not doing what you should be as a father. He’s putting video games into direct context of “wrong” and “right” and it’s quite obvious that video games is not the “right” thing.
    Video games are for many reasons a great way to socialise, learn stuff in new ways, etc. And of course they have their shortcomings as well. But I find this derogatory remark on games, which are to stay a part in our culture as long as books will be, comes from some previous century and the president should really know better.

    • Berzee says:

      Because, man, once you play Sonic, you never ride a bike again. Amirite?

    • X_kot says:

      Really? Outrage? Over an elected official towing a socially conservative viewpoint? As pointed out already, this is just an example of generational suspicion, and it will erode as time goes on. I think this sort of hyper-defensiveness will eventually die down, too.

    • Om says:

      “I don’t get why so many gamers here do not find the president’s words to be heavy stuff”

      Because its a throwaway comment. Jesus Christ man, stow your sense of moral outrage. Obama is not saying that games are tools of the devil and he’s not saying that children shouldn’t be playing them. What he is saying, IN PASSING, is that parent’s concerned with their children’s education should encourage them to read. “Heavy stuff”? “Derogatory remark”? Missing perspective?

      And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging children to put down the gamepad and pick up a book. This is not a suggestion that computer games are corrupting the youth or a waste of time (as if Obama was about to ban TV as part of a primitivist drive to outlaw all non-paper based forms of entertainment). Rather, its an understanding that kids will learn more reading, whether in study or leisure, than they will by playing FIFA

      (Which is not to say of course that they can’t play games after homework. This only becomes a dichotomy when gamers become ‘outraged’ at this perceived slight)

    • Berzee says:

      Om — if you take away their FIFA and give them, I dunno, “Till We Have Faces” then yes. =P But I read a thousand Boxcar children books and I had tons of fun but I doubt I learned more from those than I would from FIFA.

    • gwathdring says:

      Civilization taught me loads of information about history. I had so many little gobbets of history from that game … but you have to read the Civilopedia to get them, so it’s not like the game was teaching me. Still, it’s fun to be able to answer “Sid Meier’s Civilization III,” when a teacher asks “Where did you learn that?” Especially since the primary joy of Civilization for many people is having the Koreans build the Temple of Artemis, conquer the Romans and ally with Greece and Spain to prevent the Aztecs from becoming a nuclear power.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    Primary Hive Node KieronGillen morphed into Primary Hive Node QuintinSmith through gradual infiltration. Is this “BrendanCaldwell” about to subsume another Primary Hive Node?

  29. golden_worm says:

    Good afternoon,
    I grew up without a Brendan Caldwell around. I was lucky enough to be raised by a wonderful Keiron Gillen who, like so many heroic New Games Journalists, never allowed my Brendan Caldwell’s absence to be an excuse for me to slack off or not always do my best at blog comments. But I often wonder what it would have been like if my Brendan Caldwell had a greater presence in my gaming blog life.
    So as a gaming blog reader of 15 years, I’ve tried hard to be a good player. I haven’t always been perfect – there have been times when work kept me away from my games blog, and my post count suffered as a result.
    I know many other gamers face similar challenges. Whether you’re a RPS commenter returning from the forum or a Kotaku reader doing his best to make ends meet for his family in a tough economy, being a game blog reader isn’t easy.
    That’s why golden_worm is kicking off the Year of Strong Brendan Caldwell, Strong PC Games Blog. We’re joining blogs across the country to do something about Brendan Caldwell absence. And we’re taking steps to offer men who want to be good Brendan Caldwell but are facing challenges in their lives a little extra support, while partnering with businesses to offer fun opportunities for Brendan Caldwell to spend time with their gaming blog commenting citizens. For example, we have invited Brendy Caldwell to come and blog for a day on RPS. Sadly, he has a somewhat wonky sense of humour.
    We know that every Brendan Caldwell has a personal responsibility to do right by their people – to encourage them to turn off IGN and pick up a keyboard; to teach them the difference between Steam and GFWL; to show them through our own example the value in treating one another as we wish to be treated. And most of all, to write active and engaging PC game blogs.
    But all of us have a stake in forging stronger bonds between Brendan Caldwell and their country’s game blog readers. All of us can support those who are willing to step up and be Brendan Caldwell-figures to those children growing up without a sufficiently speedy internet connection. And that’s what the Year of Strong Brendan Caldwell, Strong PC Games Blog is all about.
    So I hope the Brendan Caldwell’s out there will take advantage of some of the opportunities Strong Brendan Caldwell, Strong PC Game Blog will offer. It’s one way of saying thank you to those who are doing the most important job of all: writing for RPS.
    Happy Brendan Caldwell’s Day.
    Sincerely,
    golden_worm

  30. Tommo says:

    Obama is talking about console games not PC games. I also see the youth are zombified by COD9

    • Berzee says:

      Whoa…

      true point. I never even considered that. =)

      Well that’s okay then, he should make those illegal.
      NO WAIT :( I liek Pikmin :(((

  31. Eddy9000 says:

    I think he has a point.
    I know this wont be a popular opinion, but the childhood years are important, formative years where important social, cognitive and physical skills must be learnt. Mainstream Computer games simply do not have that ability. You will not acquire language from a computer game as well as you can a book (or oral story, mass literacy is very recent), mario tennis will not teach you physical coordination in the same way as an actual game of tennis, and social gaming will not teach you the complexity of social interaction in the same way as actually talking and playing with other people. the fixed rules of games also prevent the open imaginative play seen when children find objects around the house and make scenarios between themselves. Although I think fans like to deny it, mainstream games often have a very immeadiate reward-reinforcement system, which I think could prevent children from developing reward-delaying coping skills, another essential skill. Games in the main also do not encourage imagination from language like books, an essential cognitive skill, although this is a criticism that can be made of TV.

    I love computer games myself, but in my role as a clinical psychologist I’d be hard pressed to reccomend computer games as a pastime for young children, unless they were played for little enough time as to not take the place of other activities, and played with a parent to build the parent-child relationship and provide social learning.

    I’m firmly in the camp that ‘games are art’ (or media anyway), and that they can be enourmously creative and make us reflect on the world around us, my problem is more that the mainstream games that will make up the kings share of those that children have access to are not in this camp. I’d love to see some text based adventures aimed at the child market (I have enourmously fond memories of me and my father reading through Ian Livingstones ‘choose your own adventure’ books, and would love similar games to come out for kids on computer, for example. It’s also been really encouraging to see ‘Minecraft’ become so popular, and would happily let my young child play this, with me, and probably on peacful mode, but as many copies as minecraft sold it will not have the market penetration of Nintendo’s fare. Television has matured enough for programs aimed at children to encourage discussion, language learning and imagination on their level (Teletubbies was written by a child psychologist for these ends), and I while I think computer games aimed at (and marketed towards) children could also do the same thing, I just don’t think they’re visible or accessible, if indeed they exist..

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Sounds like a good argument for teaching kids the joys of tabletop games, which force you to think and learn and interact socially.

      There’s such a variety of board games these days, as well as a fair few stripped-down, imagination/storytelling-heavy RPGs for those not ready for the intricate mechanics of D&D and beyond. Computer/video gamers who ignore that world are missing out on a whole lot of fun.

    • Berzee says:

      But what you’re saying is:
      1) Don’t let your kids play games disproportionately, to the neglect of reading or exercise or other pastimes.
      2) Select games for them that encourage good habits (i.e. winning isn’t guaranteed, rewards are not always instant, imagination sometimes required)

      What the Father’s Day article said was much less sensible and nuanced than what you said. So when you say you think he has a point, I think you ought to mean it literally. “I *think* this is the point that he secretly had but woefully failed to communicate.”

      But even what you said, seems to forget that there are a lot of books that are largely rubbish except in that they encourage literacy which comes in handy. (Rubbish as far as improving any skills goes…many of these rubbish books are still plenty great for teaching kids about good old fashioned heroics, just like many rubbish games or TV shows or radio programs are).

    • Consumatopia says:

      Mainstream Computer games simply do not have that ability. You will not acquire language from a computer game as well as you can a book (or oral story, mass literacy is very recent), mario tennis will not teach you physical coordination in the same way as an actual game of tennis, and social gaming will not teach you the complexity of social interaction in the same way as actually talking and playing with other people. the fixed rules of games also prevent the open imaginative play seen when children find objects around the house and make scenarios between themselves. Although I think fans like to deny it, mainstream games often have a very immeadiate reward-reinforcement system, which I think could prevent children from developing reward-delaying coping skills, another essential skill. Games in the main also do not encourage imagination from language like books, an essential cognitive skill, although this is a criticism that can be made of TV.

      None of the other activities you mentioned (reading, tennis, social interaction, imaginative play, or watching television) involves problem solving in a formal/mechanical system as computer/video games do. Indeed, if you found a child spending hours solving mathematical puzzles or learning to play a musical instrument, you could make much of the same criticism of that activity as you do of video games–mathematics and music don’t teach language, they don’t encourage social interaction, and they don’t allow imaginative play (at least not initially). It’s true that video games don’t teach every possible thing that kids need to learn, but no single one of the activities you listed accomplishes that either, and indeed the complete list of activities you list fails to teach some cognitive skills that video games succeed in teaching.

      I’m not saying the president is completely off-base in that parents need to encourage achievement, and screen time could certainly be limited. And at least this isn’t as bad when the previous president was hawking Baby Einstein. But no activity teaches everything, and the kind of problem solving required to complete Nintendo games is generally greater than that required to go through Choose Your Own Adventure books.

    • Berzee says:

      I suppose we could do the charitable thing here and assume he was addressing those fathers who think it’s good parenting if their kids play from sunup to sundown. I will go ahead and make this assumption, and hope that he gets better with his communication skills (I guess he should have read more books so he could avoid sounding like he’s anti-Steamworks and pro-Magick Obscura, when he’s probably actually just against parental laziness).

  32. cliffski says:

    Maybe if more of these ‘so-called politicians’ had played more ‘Democracy 2′ then their countries wouldn’t have trillion dollar debt mountains! *zing!*

    What? You can’t expect me to miss a plugging goal left THAT wide open right?

  33. noom says:

    I tried putting down a book and picking up a video game, but then I was just holding a video game. Didn’t quite know where to go from there. I could read the manual I suppose…

    • Berzee says:

      HA, true. I should like to hand the president a copy of Alpha Centauri’s manual and a copy of, I dunno, an Animorphs book or something. I played that game around the age my friends read Animorphs, I think? I know I at least played Warcraft 2 around that time, and the reversible Humans and Orcs manual blew my mind. SEE? I R DA READER TO.

  34. Hoaxfish says:

    For example, we have invited Barack Obama to come and play a game of Starcraft II.

    He may claim to be a Terran player, but everyone knows he’s secretly a Zerg player

  35. Owain_Glyndwr says:

    LEAVE GAMES ALONE! JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE!
    But in all seriousness, if I had to introduce a child of mine to either the world of books or videogames I doubt the latter would be considered seriously, if at all. Games are fun and are good for socialising but a taste for literature is a much, much better thing to have than a large collection of “I did this cool thing on a game once” anecdotes. Let kids play games by all means, but let’s not put books and games on the same level in a childs development. If the world suddenly lost all books it would be a tragedy. If the world were deprived of video games it would be a curiosity.

    • Consumatopia says:

      If the world were deprived of video games it would be a curiosity.

      If the Simulation Argument is valid, then the “curiosity” you’re talking about might just be the end of the world.

    • Berzee says:

      Let kids plant corn by all means, but let’s not put books and corn on the same level in a child’s development. If the world suddenly lost all corn it would be a tragedy. If the world were deprived of books it would be a curiosity.

      ^ That isn’t supposed to mean anything, really. I just wanted to do the word-replacement thing because it was cool when Brendan did it. =(

  36. Abundant_Suede says:

    I think some people are getting defensive because they interpret that particular statement in question as establishing video games as some sort of antithesis to reading as a beneficial activity, and obviously we don’t want to feel stupid for doing something we enjoy doing as adults…and so we lash out with some pretty silly counter arguments. Except that statement has nothing to do with what we as adults do for entertainment or hobbies.

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone would seriously try to take any issue with the idea that kids, in particular American kids, increasingly international laughingstocks for their general dumbassery, would be better served by devoting a greater share of their time to reading during those formative years, than playing most mainstream video games.

    Without having to reach at all into hazy territory as to what intellectual benefits there might be to either exercise, developing reading skills at that age has profound and clearly documented implications for your entire life. Our capacity for reading comprehension and the ability to process text is the foundation for most of the academic exercises they’ll be doing for the next 15-20 years and into their professional lives. Kids that go into that process without the reading skills that are so easy to pick up at that age, and so much more difficult to pick up later on, will be severely disadvantaged for the rest of their lives, compared to the kids that are reading powerhouses. There is no substitute for developing strong reading skills at that age, and the better and more ambitious you are at it, the more that will pay off the rest of your life.

    Furthermore, there’s no getting around the fact that communication skills, vocabulary, and mastery of language are vitally important in every aspect of society, no matter what you want to do in life. These are all resources most efficiently harvested by a reading lifestyle. Mastery of language will open doors for you, and the lack of it will close them just as surely. Assuming all else being equal, the candidate walking into a job interview with the mastery of language that comes from a reading lifestyle is going to effortlessly take away that job from someone who doesn’t have it, and frankly, it would cover a multitude of deficiencies, allowing that person to compete against people they might not be as technically qualified as.

    And hell, that’s just fiction. Even mediocre fiction. Even comic books would be better than nothing. The simple act of reading and parsing that launguage contributes to those things. And chances are, if you manage to develop an appetite for those things, you’ll move on to more challenging material that will pay even greater dividends. To say nothing of the sheer power of developing a taste for non-fiction. There is nothing comparable to the degree of personal potential you cultivate by being a regular consumer of informed tomes on any number of subjects.

    Now, of course not all video games are as empty an exercise as some people make them out to be. Any basic problem solving activity has some sort of value. A lot of games probably have at least as much benefit as basic problem solving tasks like figuring out the optimal configuration for stacking cords of wood in the garage, or putting together a set of pre-fab shelves. And those eye/hand reflexes are much prized by military recruiters as we train our new generation of super soldiers.

    But nothing about video games in general, has such a profound impact on the rest of our lives, as developing those reading skills, during those formative years. It’s a complete game changer. Not so much with the video games. Traditional educations have somehow managed to produce highly intelligent, well spoken, and effective people despite an appalling lack of twitch gaming skills. Somehow, we went to the moon with people who had never beaten a hooker in GTA with a baseball bat (perhaps they had to settle for real life practice at that). Conversely, it is very difficult for people who don’t develop effective reading skills at that age to be as effective an individual in our society without them.

    • Berzee says:

      True points about a reading lifestyle, but I distinctly remember:

      1) Playing games with words in them.
      2) Playing games and still reading tons of books.

      But like you say, nobody is really questioning the general trend. Just being careful that the general trend doesn’t cause people to use language that is too general and covers inappropriate specifics. As I mentioned previously, it’s ironic when someone complains about *this particular problem* and uses *inaccurate or unnecessarily vague language*.

    • Consumatopia says:

      You’re misreading the thread. People resent what Obama said here not because they think he’s trying to take away our video games as adults, but because video games were formative experiences for many of us as youngsters and we think we’re better people because of them.

      Imagine if Obama had asked fathers to encourage their kids “to turn off those rock and roll albums and pick up a book.”

      You could defend that line by comparing the importance of rock and roll music to that of reading. You could start making claims about the lack of cognitive benefits to “mainstream” rock and roll. But you’d be missing the point.

      As I said above, I like Obama and I don’t think this is a big deal. He’s old enough that it’s reasonable to excuse his ignorance on this matter. But that’s all that’s behind his statement here: ignorance. Excusable, not particularly significant ignorance, but ignorance nonetheless.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Apologies in advance for the duped replies I made, because they were apparently eaten by a spam filter, and will probably show up later on, making me look silly.

      I blame my appalling lack of video gaming growing up, in favor of all that meaningless reading I did. Clearly, my basic problem solving skills never fully developed.

  37. Nick says:

    Less of this.

  38. pizzapicante27 says:

    Im from Mexico does it still counts or is it only for US Presidents?

  39. Vexing Vision says:

    I like the idea of inviting the president to play a game. We should really do that.

  40. pipman3000 says:

    if american children spent more time reading books they wouldn’t be able to call me a cum chugging niggerfaggot over voicechat.

    i like video games as much as the next guy but people need to read more books.