Computer Games

The writing is on the wall - computer games rot the brain It's the snarl that gives the game away. It's the sobbing and the shrieking and the horrible pleading -- that's how you know your children are undergoing a sudden narcotic withdrawal. As the strobing colours die away and the screen goes black, you listen to the wail of protest from the offspring and you know that you have just turned off their drug, and you know that, to a greater or lesser extent, they are addicts. Some children have it bad. Some are miraculously unaffected. But millions of seven- to 15-year-olds are hooked, especially boys, and it is time someone had the guts to stand up, cross the room and just say no to Nintendo. It is time to garrotte the Game Boy and paralyse the PlayStation, and it is about time, as a society, that we admitted the catastrophic effect these blasted gizmos are having on the literacy and the prospects of young males. It was among the first acts of the Labour Government to institute a universal "literacy" hour in primary schools; and yet, in the six years following 1997, the numbers of young children who said that they didn't like reading rose from 23 per cent to 35 per cent. In spite of all our cash and effort, the surveys increasingly show that children (especially boys) regard reading as a chore, something that needs to be accomplished for the sake of passing tests, not as a joy in itself. It is a disaster, and I refuse to believe that these hypnotic little machines are innocent. We demand that teachers provide our children with reading skills; we expect the schools to fill them with a love of books; and yet at home we let them slump in front of the consoles. We get on with our hedonistic 21st-century lives while in some other room the nippers are bleeping and zapping in speechless rapture, their passive faces washed in explosions and gore. They sit for so long that their souls seem to have been sucked down the cathode ray tube. They become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious. These machines teach them nothing. They stimulate no ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory -- though some of them may cunningly pretend to be educational. I have just watched an 11-year-old play a game that looked fairly historical, on the packet. Your average guilt-ridden parent might assume that it taught the child something about the Vikings and medieval siege warfare. Phooey! The red soldiers robotically slaughtered the white soldiers, and then they did it again, that was it. Everything was programmed, spoon-fed, immediate -- and endlessly showering the player with undeserved praise, richly congratulating him for his bogus massacres. The more addictive these games are to the male mind, the more difficult it is to persuade boys to read books; and that is why it is no comfort that Britain has more computer games per household than any other EU country, and, even though they are wince-makingly expensive, an amazing 89 per cent of British households with children now boast a games console, with distribution right across the socio-economic groups. Every child must have one, and what we fail to grasp is that these possessions are not so much an index of wealth as a cause of ignorance and underachievement and, yes, poverty. It hardly matters how much cash we pour into reading in schools if there is no culture of reading at home; and the consequences of this failure to read can be seen throughout the education system. Huge numbers are still leaving primary school in a state of functional illiteracy, with 44 per cent unable either to read, write or do basic sums. By the age of 14, there are still 40 per cent whose literacy or numeracy is not up to the expected standard, and a large proportion of the effort at Further Education colleges (about 20 per cent) is devoted to remedial reading and writing. Even at university, there are now terrifying numbers of students who cannot express themselves in the kind of clear, logical English required for an essay, and in many important respects if you can't write, you can't think. The Royal Literary Fund has, in the past few years, done a wonderful job of establishing Writing Fellows at our universities, offering therapy for those who can't put their thoughts on paper; and yet the fund admits that the scale of the problem is quite beyond its abilities. It is a shock, arriving at university, and being asked to compose an essay of a couple of thousand words, and then discovering that you can't do it; and this demoralisation is a major cause of dropping-out. It's not that the students lack the brains; the raw circuitry is better than ever. It's the software that's the problem. They have not been properly programmed, because they have not read enough. The only way to learn to write is to be forced time and again to articulate your own thoughts in your own words, and you haven't a hope of doing this if you haven't read enough to absorb the basic elements of vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, style and structure; and young males in particular won't read enough if we continually capitulate and let them fritter their lives away in front of these drivelling machines. Gordon Brown proposed in his Pre-Budget Report to spend £2,000 per head on improving the reading of six-year-old boys. That is all well and good, especially when you consider that the cost of remedial English in secondary school soars to £50,000 per head. But it would be cheaper and possibly more effective if we all -- politicians, parents, whoever -- had the nerve to crack down on this electronic opiate. So I say now: stop just lying there in your post-Christmas state of crapulous indifference. Get up off the sofa. Can the DVD of Desperate Housewives, and go to where your children are sitting in auto-lobotomy in front of the console. Summon up all your strength, all your courage. Steel yourself for the screams and yank out that plug. There are many alternatives, you know! The world has been doing fine without video games for quite some time, trust us a little! Get the full low down on the latest gadgets from top companies here. And if they still kick up a fuss, then get out the sledgehammer and strike a blow for literacy.

197 thoughts on “Computer Games”

  1. Computer games are not a problem as a whole, only certain ones contain this mind-numbing repetition. Typically they’re the ‘shoot-em-ups’ (although even they do something for the children’s mental response speed, and their visio-spatial awareness). These types of games are the principal meat of the console market, and admittedly consoles are largely very unhelpful in this regard. But instead of abolishing all computer games, switch the kids to PC games.

    PCs are inherently more educational anyway, due to a much more complicated input system, and a more complex operating system. The games on PCs do not lend themselves to simple fighting games, but rather to more complex ones such as Role Playing Games (RPGs) and Real-Time Strategies (RTSs). In RPGs one typically controls one character or a small group of characters, leads them in a long adventure (the one I’m playing now has 11 discs…) collecting goods and improving the characters along the way, and in an RTS one typically builds a nation or army from scratch and coordinates it to some large end (conquering the world, winning a battle, etc.). These two types of games principally encourage two different skills, but are both very useful and sophisticated. RPGs encourage problem-solving, and RTSs encourage strategy and logistics: massive coordination of resources and timing. Both of them encourage quick thinking, retention and swift recollection of large amounts of information, calculation and coordination.

    Taking a good example, in “Shogun: Total War” the player conducts two types of game simultaneously, attempting to conquer Japan (often by force, though diplomacy and industry are well represented, and a combination is usually best) and also defending on the battlefield against invading or defending armies. The battle engine is superb, including terrain advantages, lots of unit types, morale, leadership, experience, unit strengths and weaknesses, weather conditions, fatigue, etc. This obviously requires the knowledge and retention of large amounts of information, attempting to coordinate them to best effect and knowing what results certain actions will have in terms of the other variables. In addition the main campaign is educational, at the very least players gain some idea of Japanese geography, and the game is highly historically accurate so hopefully they will learn something from that too. There’s a “Medieval: Total War” too if people think that European geography and history are more useful.

    This type of game does not rot the mind.

    I was always encouraged to read and did so, and have always been able to write essays. I’ve always liked RPGs and RTSs, and so I’m not entirely sure that my views come from a balanced or comprehensive source! Nonetheless I think there’s nothing wrong with computer games as a whole, but some are clearly much better than others.

  2. I speak as one who, for three months, was so seriously addicted to Electro Freddy, Boris, that zapping Freddy replaced almost all other forms of enjoyment.

    And of course it didn’t stop there. Freddy was simply the slippery slope down which I slithered towards a compulsive obsession with finding the 12 magic tokens which would destroy the Evil Necromancer, free the princess, and light up my name – My Name – in eye twitching, pulsating, glory on the Last Screen Of All.

    Thankfully there was an end to it all. The demise of the necromancer cured me of my obsession with gaming. Once I reached that final glorious ending, no other game could ever hold me in its thrall again.

    So, I’m sorry to have to break it to you, Boris, that I’m on your boys side on this one. They aren’t the ones with the problem, it’s you with the problem, you are displaying symptons of technophobia 🙂

    It isn’t games that damage our children’s minds, it’s our failure to spend time with our children. Games are not damaging – they’re ace, Boris!

    So, go, Boris juniors, kill all of the virtual baddies – and give ’em one for Auntie Flo’!

  3. And one last point.

    Combined Middle East debate
    4,347,884 page impressions
    Pope meets Muslim envoys: Your reaction
    1,401,281
    Muslim cartoon row: your reaction
    1,331,356
    Richard Hammond: Your messages
    1,543,503
    Would removing veils improve community relations?
    778,782
    Have UK airport delays affected you?
    1,323,031
    Your reaction to death of Steve Irwin
    827,125
    What are your views on the Israeli action in Gaza?
    388,017
    Can North Korea be restrained?
    288,087
    Should Iran develop nuclear energy?
    422,153

    The above listing of debates ranked by poplarity is currently displayed on the BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ forum. If technology enabled that level of political interaction, then – aside from power crazed politicians like Blair & co subverting it – what do we have to be afraid of?

  4. Make them play games like Football Manager. The sheer amount of numbers that must be juggled to be at all successful in that sort of game make them far from mind-rotting.

  5. Ho,ho,ho! Father Christmas here. Out of work for another year and Mrs Christmas suggesting Prozac for my depression. It’s not just the out of work worry but the realisation that I, personally, have delivered thousands of Nintendo mind-numbers to frizzle the brains of innocents. I’m sure, dear Boris, that, as a good journo, you felt forced to focus on just one aspect of the Playstation plague – namely its influence on illiteracy in young Brits. However, the less informed of your readers really ought to be made aware that in-depth research (details vailable) has proved conclusively that these so called ‘toys’ contribute greatly to aggressive behaviour in boys (who develop a liking for killing but don’t want to go to Iraq and get killed). Yours S. Claus (aka St Nicholas)

  6. If games consoles are reducing our literacy, is word processing software diminishing our ability to spell correctly? What about mobile telephones, does our reliance on them prevent our being able to remember telephone numbers? Is increasing reliance on technology making us less reliant on our own abilities? I think it is.

    If there’s one thing to be said for games consoles, it’s a very cheap form of entertainment compared to more active passtimes. A good fishing session costs a fortune in tackle and bait these days. Playing cricket on a Saturday ends up costing at least forty quid by the time you’ve paid your match fee, travel costs and had a good drink with the lads afterwards.

    The cost of taking up rally driving or running a fast car exceeds the means of most people, but playing racing games does not. Participating in adventure sports doesn’t exactly come cheap and a weeks skiing will set you back the best part of a grand. Video games might make people fat and stupid but they are a cheap form of entertainment that appeals to the masses.

    I don’t doubt that reading books and riding bikes is better for kids than shooting virtual bad guys but I can’t see things changing in the near future. A generation of parents that likes these games as much as their kids is springing up, things will get worse before they get better. They might go out of fashion one day, when playing shoot-em-ups is something that Grandad does.

    Another thing, whatever happened to virtual reality?

  7. Could not agree more. Computers have the ability to turn a normal, polite and chatty seven year old into an obnoxious, monosylabic teenage boy in seconds, as I found out this Christmas. They drain children of an imagination and help the boundaries of right and wrong become blurred. The love of reading is a wonderful gift and we should be doing all we can to ensure that children grow up with this gift. A good book can make the past come alive for a child far more than any computer game can. A well written book will transport the reader across the world and across the centuries, how tragic that we are allowing our children to loose this.

  8. I’m with Flo’ on this. I’ve been hooked on Tomb Raider for years (which reminds me that I have the latest copy still unplayed). If nothing else, it’s great to chase Lara Croft down long corridors. I’m still rather sorry that in the very first game I played, the only way I knew how to end the game was, sadly, to drown her in a swimming pool.

    The only ill-effects I’ve ever suffered from playing computer games has been from playing a Grand Prix racing game all day one day, and then climbing into my real car. Unfortunately, playing Grand Prix had reprogrammmed me to drive into corners at high speeds, brake hard, and turn the wheel sharply. On the short journey that I took that evening in my real car, the result was that I mounted and drove over a roundabout, and about a mile later spun the car through 90 degrees.

    Tomb Raider has no such ill effects. It requires the application of no little intelligence, coordination, spacial awareness, and indeed sometimes even a little courage. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  9. On a darker note, I’ve just been through the experience of having BBC News 24 first announce that Saddam Hussein was about to be executed in the next half hour, and to then report that he had been executed. The result was that I was thinking about Saddam Hussein while he was being hanged.

    Did I feel happy? No. I thought his trial was a farce. And his sudden, rushed execution has been its unsurprisingly botched culmination. It will be understood, and perhaps be intended to be understood, as the execution of a Muslim by Christians on the dawn of Eid.

    What comes to mind somehow is Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, who was executed there in 1946. At least one person wept on the occasion, simply because Auschwitz had claimed yet another life that day.

  10. You’re making the mistake here of tarring all video games with the same brush. You’ve tried to argue against the first-person shooter genre with a lot of rhetoric and not many facts, but it reads like you’ve had experience of playing games only by proxy. ” I have just watched an 11-year-old play a game” – but did you ever try playing it for yourself?

    They become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious.

    Then might I suggest a Nintendo Wii and a copy of Wii Sports? This has been a big hit with my family this Christmas, and it’s the first time that my brothers, my uncle and my grandpa have all played the same game together in the living room.

    These machines teach them nothing. They stimulate no ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory — though some of them may cunningly pretend to be educational.

    Try playing through a Legend of Zelda game without basic literacy. You can’t, because you’re required to read virtually all the way through or you won’t understand what to do in even the early stages of the game. You will also need good problem solving skills later on in the game. Now, I’m not claiming to know what I’m talking about here, but I’d wager that one Legend of Zelda game will teach more about problem solving than your Classics degree ever did.

    And I think that’s part of your problem. You’re approaching the problem of declining literacy from the point of view of somebody with experience of a Classics degree. You know what skills are required for that particular course. But in a more scientific course, reading novels will only do so much to prepare you for the kind of technical writing that will be expected of you, and will leave you woefully unprepared for the kind of teamwork and problem solving that will be required.

    Yes, reading has become something that is competing with TV and video games for young people’s attention, but is the solution really to stop them from playing? I think part of the problem is the attitude towards reading that is prevalent in schools. There’s no attempt to find out what children actually like to read on an individual basis and then find other books that would interest them. In fact, the situation is virtually the opposite – when I was studying Standard Grade English, the Point Horror books were a big hit with people my age, and more of us were reading voluntarily than ever before. When it came time to choose a book to study, Point Horror books were explicitly banned. I’d imagine that the same is happening with the Harry Potter books today. Instead, children are being told to read Shakespeare in schools – no wonder they’re being put off!

    I’m currently reading my way through Iain Banks’ sci-fi series of books, and I can’t get enough of them. The sheer imagination involved in constructing the worlds in which the stories are set has me captivated. Now, if my temperament for reading was being assessed on one of Banks’ ‘literary fiction’ novels, I would have been classed as one of your video game playing zombies, my brain rotted by the glow of the television screen. The fact is that I think that Banks’ literary fiction is complete and utter drivel, and more of an exercise in literary masturbation than a serious attempt to tell a story. It’s not that I don’t like reading, it’s just that I was reading the wrong books.

    And I think that’s the problem. From the start of this article you’ve taken your fat, tar-soaked brush to everything from children’s preferences in books, to the educational worth of video games, to the literary requirements of university. Try getting a broader view before forming opinions next time.

  11. I did a science degree and I found that the fact that I am an avid reader helped me a lot when it came to writing. Good writing is good writing whether it is technical or not. When one looks at the grades of students who read a lot and students who only read when they have to there is a big difference in the quality of their writing.

  12. You come up with absurd allocations that computer games have a direct correlation to children and adults literacy level where is the proof you just pull figures out of your hat and claim them to be true .

  13. I agree with Jack Target’s reply.

    I’m certain that playing Strategy/Trading/Action Games on my Spectrum in the early 90’s helped develop my decision making, information retention and fine motor co-ordination skills.

    I think it is a case of all things in moderation being good. For example, my 4 year old son is able to control a car around a race track on the computer. For Christmas, we bought him a scalextric set and he immediately was able to have the cars whizzing round without them falling off the track. He knew not to go to fast, he co-ordinated going faster in the straights and slower round the corners. This annoyed is 9 year old sister, who came off around almost every corner. His older sister isn’t interested in the computer car racing game. His interest and participation has improved his skills in that area.

    I still believe their time on the computer should be limited, just as I believe it would be wrong to force them to participate excessively in any sport (my son can be a pro footballer if he wants but I would worry if he spent all his spare time training to the exclusion of all other activities).

    I disagree with “The writing is on the wall – computer games rot the brain”, I would agree with “The writing is on the wall – excessive participation in singular activities may be detrimental to balanced development”. Mind you, I like your title more in that it will get more reader attention.

  14. k – I too did a science degree and agree with you completely.

    I too bought my soon-to-be-seven year old a computer game (on TV) and it’s still in the box. His favourite toys have ben a huge crayon full of paper and pens, his sisters Leap Pad, his Thomas the Tank Engine annual and a new DVD player for his dinosaur films.

  15. < When one looks at the grades of students who read a lot and students who only read when they have to there is a big difference in the quality of their writing (K)<

    How did you work this one out? Are you saying reading lots of books is a sign of a superior academic ability? I remember several obessive readers from school and university. I can’t however remember there being any correlation between the amount of books they read and what grades they got.

  16. Yes, reading lots of books (and no, the fear street novels do not count if one is over the age of thirteen) tends to be sign of superior academic ability, but not always superior intelligence. When at university the friends I knew who read avidly got much better grades for written work than those who did not and they tended to enjoy their work a great deal more, whereas those who did not read for pleasure tended to find researching and writing essays a struggle (I know intelligent final year and masters students like this, who still resort to copying and pasting sections of their essays from the internet and then paraphrasing it). Perhaps, the difference in grades is a relativly recent occurance, due to the increase in coursework that students are required to do and the decrease in the importance of examinations.

  17. So what then does blogging count as? Is blogging a brain-rotting bad habit or an educational activity? I’d say it’s addictive, serves little useful purpose and that there are far more constructive things one could do with ones time.

    Would the five minutes I’ve just spent writing this post have been better used swotting up about something on Wikipedia instead?

  18. Well as wikipedia is unregulated and anyone can put anything up, I would not advise using it as a revision source. But, seriously, these sort of blog sites are great for talking to a greater diversity of people than I would normally discuss politics with. Take raincoaster, apart from the fact she lives in Canada, the fact that she is an anarchist/communist whereas I am a conservative means that in real life we would probably not really ever talk about anything. Whereas on this blogsite we can have civilised debates and see other points of view to a much greater extent. I think of this blogsite as an interesting educational tool as much as anything else.

  19. < Well as wikipedia is unregulated and anyone can put anything up, I would not advise using it as a revision source.(k)<

    In this respect books are also unregulated, anyone can write a book, anyone can set up a publishing company. At least wikipedia is referenced, unlike newspapers, which are often used as sources of information during these debates. I find you can learn a lot flicking through wikipedia when you’re bored.

    I can’t see how reading about a historical event, a famous person or an area of politics on wikipedia is any less reliable than picking up a paperback in Waterstones. The fact that people can add their points of view to the article must surely be an advantage over a book, which often merely articulates the authors’ own points of view.

    In terms of academia recommended texts vary greatly from lecturer to lecturer, from establishment to establishment. I’ve even heard of one lecturer that made his students buy his own book at fifty quid a copy. Nice work if you can get it. In fact with Boris being something of a bookseller himself, perhaps there could be an ulterior motive to this rant against the video game.

  20. Steven_L – Boris doesn’t charge us to come here. But I agree that Wiki is an interesting and valuable source of information that is regulated under strict rules. The fact that anyone can contribute tends to mean that rubbish is disposed of rather than distributed unchallenged.

  21. I’m a Wiki fan too. I regularly read articles on topics that I know quite a bit about looking for some specific information. I was about to say that I rarely find any information that’s incorrect to my knowledge, but in fact I don’t think I’ve EVER found incorrect information on it.

    Someone I know is a professor at UCL. For years she was part of the academic gang who hate Wikipedia, forcing students to re-submit essays that cited Wikipedia as a source. Recently however, she actually looked at it, again initially in subjects in which she is highly expert. Since the articles were comprehensive, unbiased, and often more well-written than most of the academic books she reads, she softened somewhat to it. Of course it is still not a valid source, but is superb for background reading.

  22. Boris, Boris, Boris. I think you’re a very funny guy and refreshingly frank and sincere (from what I see of you on the telly anyway). But your article is total garbage. Okay, not TOTAL garbage, but is typical of the views of someone who has barely picked up a control pad in their life.

    Yes, far too many games are rubbish – mindless, unoriginal and, as a result, forgettable. Far too many games are violent too (not that I want to get into the argument of whether violent games make the player develop violent tendencies, as I believe games help me LET OUT my aggression..). But exactly the same is true of films too. And music.

    But there are games that involve huge levels of tactical thinking and problem solving, as other commenters have alluded to. Also pretty much all games encourage coordination of many forms.

    On top of this some games (though far too few as I mentioned previously) have fantastic storylines, utterly memorable characters, and just generally provide an honestly deep and memorable experience.

    Take, Metal Gear Solid, as an example. It blew me away. Really it did. The storyline, with shocking twists and turns, combined with the fantastic musical score, the thumping atmosphere, the brilliant, deep and varied characters, and the important message it tries to convey, provide an experience that I will never ever forget.

    Yes it may be old now – the graphics compared to games today are terrible, and the gameplay mechanics are creaking with age (both no fault of the game, merely time) – but there’s so much more to it than pretty colours and blowing people up.

    It’s deeper and (for me) more enjoyable and memorable (by far) than any film or book I’ve ever seen or read.

    Anyway not to rant on, but Boris perhaps you should try playing games before you form an opinion on them. And if you do (not that you will) make sure it’s not one that your young nephew recommends or it will only serve to reinforce your premature suspicions.

  23. I recommend:

    Final Fantasy 7
    Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn
    Warcraft III
    Civilisation IV
    Neverwinter Nights
    The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

    And specially for you Boris:
    Rome: Total War

  24. Why does reading a book become a better use of your time then playing a game? Studies have shown that games have extremely complex storylines, require problem solving skills, forward-thinking, spacial awareness, advanced risk/reward strategies and some of the most impressive storylines of all entertainment medium.

    I remember AA GIll saying people who disregard tv as worse than books (blaming poor quality tv etc.) are tv-illiterate. I rather fear you may be game-illiterate.

    Sit and read a book and a wonderful story is presented to you, you can learn, you can be excited and you can be amazed by the beautiful prose that writers bring us. Play a good game and you not only watch a story you take part, you shape that story, you work things out, you uncover secrets and beat challenges along the way.

    I don’t make the mistake of disregarding books Boris, because they are wonderful things capable of keeping me up until 4am and making me late for work (darn you Keith Waterhouse), but I also don’t make the mistake of disregarding computer games based on very dubious lazy notions that somehow equate reading as infinitely more valuable than playing.

    Read some Mills & Boon then play Call of Duty and tell me which is better both in terms of entertainment, education, improvement of ones mind. Because I know which I would prefer my children to experience…

  25. Thanks Boris.
    On balance I think it is inevitable that to help our kids connect with a diverse group of peers, now and in later life, there needs to be some ‘console time’.
    I have suggested the ‘sledgehammer’ option on several occasions, so am grateful for the endorsement here which I will frame and keep handy for the next time …

  26. k said: (hear! hear!)

    >on this blogsite we can have civilised debates and see other points of view to a much greater extent. I think of this blogsite as an interesting educational tool as much as anything else.

  27. What might those who are playing computer games be doing if they were not playing games? Makes me shudder to think about it. With religion in terminal decline, we need to have some way of keeping the proles occupied. Computer games appear to fit the bill.

  28. we need to have some way of keeping the proles occupied. Computer games appear to fit the bill. Mike H

    What a pathetic remark. You aren’t my last ex-husband are you? Because you sound just like that miserable, jumped up little snob.

  29. Sorry Auntie F that I have given offence. I thought I would be among like minded people here:-)

    There is a serious point though. The Romans had their gladiatorial games to keep the people’s minds off other things. Rather similar to computer games in a way – particularly in the way they needed to get more and more gory to keep the “viewers” interested. Religion was a useful controlling force for quite a while but is now on the wane. What next? Boris is right in that they are brain rotting but so was religion and the Coliseum.

    I don’t think we have been married yet but who knows what 2007 will bring. Have a good one everyone.

  30. Uncritical belief? Which is what it is for many, but of course not for all; and not all will get their minds putrefied by computer games, but many will.

  31. I wonder if people were afraid that books would rot away the great aural tradition of culture that existed before their invention. They have certianly been considered dangerous in much the same way as new media and games are practising using it.

    Mrs . N refers to my blogging activities as “Playing” . I `m not at all sure it is much else

  32. Reading the Guardian yesterday (is one allowed to admit that here?) I came across this:
    “Coleridge divided readers into four types: the best were “Moghul diamonds” who “profit by what they read and enable others to profit by it too”; “Sand-glasses” remember nothing of what they read and only do it to get through the time; “Strain-bags” remember “merely the dregs of what they read”; “sponges absorb all they read and return it nearly in the same state only a little dirtier”.”

    I feel that most readers of books in the modern world are sand glasses. However it keeps them, and me, out of trouble and so is probably good thing – perhaps like blogging. Wasn’t the big worry about books a control issue? – that they would allow the people to be privy to what the first estate regarded as their privileged knowledge – rather like the Internet today. However I think it would be fair to say that at least 95 percent of the printed word is just fodder for the sand-glasses. With the electronic word on the Internet it is probably much higher but it keeps us out of mischief.

    My point? I think I was just squeezing out the sponge.

  33. So, Boris, can I sign you up for my Campaign for the Abolition of TV Advertising to Children? You could be the third member.

    May I suggest that all those who roundly condemn this article read it again. He is talking specifically about Nintendo, Game Boy and Play Stations – video game consoles, not PC-based strategy games.

    The slightly hysterical tone of some contributors reminds me of the smoking thread on BJ’s forum, except the latter is more reasoned and analytical. You guys aren’t addicted, by any chance?

    Like you, Flo, I was once hooked on a shoot-em-up game when the machines were in their infancy (and I was not). This one, set in a table-top, had been installed in a pub in Wales where we were on holiday. It was so addictive that I spent every available minute crouched over the damn thing, firing missiles at the grimblies as they marched across the screen then, when they were all gone, feeding it with cash for the next fix. I can’t say it ruined the holiday but can understand why the family were cheesed off.

    Since then, I have given these games wide berth and was delighted when the headmaster at my sons’ school announced he was banning GameBoys from the school grounds. Every other parent, without exception, supported the move.

    The marketeers at Sony and co know what they’re doing. It’s no secret that games are developed and honed for their ability to get children hooked, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/5191678.stm

    Of course we can’t de-invent them. But that’s a feeble excuse for letting children zombify themselves.

  34. Conservatives are being asked to be modern and to jettison imaginings of a forgotten golden Eden . Sometimes I wonder why exactly .Many things are getting worse and see no reason not to wish them restored to their former glory . This computer games thingymabob however is pure filler . Boris isn’t allowed to aim his fork at the plump juicy steak of the EU and so he scavenges , not unlike a mangy cur, around the bones beneath the table . Literacy levels have nothing whatsoever to do with computer games , they are not having any effect in Asia or India , the reverse if anything . Naturally you can engage in pointless repetitive activities using computers . More pointless than chess , more pointless than dominos , drafts , bridge , football ,golf , fishing …..and so on . Clearly not and I remain hooked to some of these

    It is this sort of dislike for the modern that does make the Conservative Party with its average age above 60 a laughing stock. There are real problems to be addressed. The collapse of the educational system caused largely by years of listening to the NUT and the teaching colleges. The destruction of the working class communities within which life was once ordered for the majority . The poisonous effects of the benefits system that has , in turn destroyed the low income family .
    Look at who is failing , white working class boys . The privileged are learning to read just fine , they are piercing their stomachs , walking like pimps , listening to hip hop , playing computer games and in may ways annoying their parents , no doubt . They will still collect qualifications and be fine .

    I feel Sorry for Boris ,he is denied access to the large issues of the day and I commend his attempt to sneak a little sense over the closed Cameroon border. In this case he is appealing to the worst and least attractive foibles of the curmudgeonly old .

    (At 43 I am something of Peter Pan figure and will not admit to being old for decades to come . )

  35. Idlex said
    Did I feel happy? No. I thought his trial was a farce. And his sudden, rushed execution has been its unsurprisingly botched culmination

    He deserved to die and he is dead. In this way the “farce” of justice in Iraq is immeasurably superior to the convenient fiction of justice we put up with .There are forty , or so , prisoners in this country who will never be released. Rose West is the most famous and all should be executed . In this way we will all be aware of what death is and the appalling crime that is murder , it should be in public and we should all have to face the moral decision we are complicit in.

    Love , sympathy and pity are evils without justice . Justice comes first and I do not believe the emphasis on Love that Jesus brought to the Jewish tradition was ever intended to be though of as outside that governing context.

  36. Rose West is the most famous and all should be executed . In this way we will all be aware of what death is and the appalling crime that is murder… (newmania)

    So, in order to make people aware of the appalling crime that is murder, we should judicially murder Rose West?

  37. Rose West is the most famous and all should be executed . In this way we will all be aware of what death is and the appalling crime that is murder… (newmania)

    So, in order to make people aware of the appalling crime that is murder, we should judicially murder Rose West? (idlex)

    Well said idlex!

  38. Not well said Idlex .There are levels of knowing Looking and seeing , recall and memory to some there is no difference but there are profound differences We know we will not live forever and yet we spend out time lost in the modern illusion of immortality the physical reality of death is hidden , tidied away and this is part of the ubiquitous superficiality of modern preoccupations .
    We know that murder is bad but an imaginative empathy with the victim cannot be attained without the greatest effort . We would rather not make that effort we would rather the outcome was tidies away into a room where we cannot see it . The dead cannot complain and the families of the dead can do little .
    This is convenient, actually it is cheap , and it is wrong .

    I do not seriously expect capital punishment to be brought back to this country despite the clear wish of the majority that it should be .I have however found it amusing that the worst thing about killing Saddaam , it would appear , is that we have “seen ” it . In this I see an echo of the moral malaise of this country from which much else follows.

    It isn’t right but it seems to make everyone comfortable (temporarily) .Exactly what I detest about Tony Blair. Killing a person who deserves to be dead is an unpleasant duty not a vicious or barbaric act. It is an expression of love.

    Having concluded the debate and knocked Idlex into a cocked hat I will be returning to gags and smutty innuendo post haste . I `m afraid none of you will ever be as good and fine a human being as me !!(especially Flo)

  39. Sorry Auntie F that I have given offence. I thought I would be among like minded people here 🙂 (mike H)

    No offence taken, mike H. As newmania said when I first joined Boris’s Blog, since we’re both blogging here, we must have something in common. How about mutual detestation of nulab and their corrupt government’s destruction of our freedom, democracy, values and rule of Law? Or our mutual disgust with nulab’s corrosive, near totalitarian, nanny and surveillance state – will that do?

    I’m a life long Liberal, Mike H. Though disenchanted with the Lib Dems – thanks to their leftward lurch, betrayal of local community politics and adoration of the corrupt EU. I stuck with the Lib Dems because I could not vote for the divisive policies of the Tories.

    It surprised me as much as it does you that your new leader’s liberal Conservatism and winning potential encouraged me to join your party recently. But then look what happened. No sooner did I join than Hilton-Cameron began lurching to the left and all manner of Toynbeesque, spin doctored, rubbish began pouring out of them. Now who do I vote for? I feel cheated and angry, I’d never have joined a party which so mimics nulab. I will certainly not vote for another spin doctored sofa government, one even more utopian and hare brained and with even less sustainable, sunshine rules the day, policies than nulab – which is the direction in which Hilton is dragging the conservatives.

    What Hilton and Cameron have failed to grasp is the highly contradictory nature of us lot in the centre – and that Liberals who are disenchanted with the Lib Dems have been shunted to the centre right over the past 10 years by nulab, not to the left. I suspect that the same is true of a majority of those who are disaffected, centre left, nulab supporters. That’s why, given that this must be the most detested government of all time, the Conservatives are not mopping up the support at they should be in the polls.

  40. …and to you Mel

    Best Regards

    Unimportant member of the aetiolated wraiths encompassed by “and all”

    K increase in coursework that students are required to do and the decrease in the importance of examinations.

    I recently met someone who was doing an English degree . Having stumbled through one myself ages ago I was staggered at how little she (a mature student) seemed to understand of the subject. Politely enquiring as to what she was actually doing I became aware for the first time of the modular course work system. I am quite obviously . not half as clever as I like to think but I am pretty certain I could get through such a degree in three months from a standing start. To be fair lets say History or some other soft subject. And then they hand out Firsts. Bitter bitter I know but really , noone has ever obtained a first at my University for English and getting through at all was not accomplished by half the course. Are degrees now as worthless as A levels ? You are young and sprightly , I think , do tell .

  41. Love , sympathy and pity are evils without justice . Justice comes first – newmania

    Justice is returning like-for-like newmania. For example executing a person for committing murder. However by definition that is also turning us into complicit murderers, like-for-like remember.

  42. What Hilton and Cameron have failed to grasp is the highly contradictory nature of us lot in the centre –

    Yes Flo I think there is definitely something in that . Where the fissure opens up for me is that the by reason of never having to have policies the Liberal Party has become a home for refugees from political reality and a host of shallow attitudes ..can you imagine what the kumquat drizzled offals at Islington`s bleeding edge are like . The Conservative Party has come to stand not just for certain political views but for honest politics itself . It is this moral and personal gulf between the forces of hell (Liberals) and the glittering knights of justice (Conservatives) that strikes one .

  43. definition that is also turning us into complicit murderers, like-for-like remember.

    No it isn’t JT ? If I imprison someone am I a kidnapper . No , of course not.
    Justice has been pictured a set of scales and while it may not be a perfect model it has some merit which you might acknowledge. All you offer is a wallow in self serving empathy . Enjoy your warm bath while “Ye lovers (of justice) bathen in gladnesse” .

    I am resolved to improve you in 2007 , it is my burden

  44. There are levels of knowing Looking and seeing , recall and memory to some there is no difference but there are profound differences We know we will not live forever and yet we spend out time lost in the modern illusion of immortality the physical reality of death is hidden , tidied away and this is part of the ubiquitous superficiality of modern preoccupations . (newmania)

    I’ve been re-reading the above passage for about 10 minutes trying to make sense of it – unsuccessfully.

    Justice has been pictured a set of scales and while it may not be a perfect model it has some merit…

    Well, that’s a start, I suppose. Do you have any further thoughts on justice, other than a vague image of a set of scales?

  45. Newmania, you choose a particularly poor example in calling for Rose West to hang. Why her?

    Punishment? She’s getting that already. She might even prefer death to her miserable, drawn-out existence as a universal figure of hate. Her husband certainly did. And God only knows what her fellow inmates are dishing out as “punishment”.

    Retribution? She has done nothing to hurt me personally, unless you want to quote John Donne. Sorry if that sounds glib but her crimes are not in the same league as Saddam’s. I can understand why millions of Iraqis want to see the bugger swing in revenge for the suffering he has brought upon them, their families, their friends and compatriots. Rose West? She’s a one-off, plain nuts.

    Deterrent? Oh yes, there must be scores of British women thinking “Goodee, we don’t have the death penalty. I’ll just kill a few kids and bury them under the patio before the old man gets home.”

    To be honest, I’m torn on the death penalty when it comes to the likes of Saddam. Principles are good but aren’t they all negotiable in extreme circumstances? Take two examples:

    Scenario 1: You have a gun. You find yourself next to a doctor who is about to pull the plug on a pitifully disabled baby.

    Scenario 2: You have a gun. You find yourself with a megalomaniac scientist who is about to press a button that will destroy the entire population of Europe.

    In both cases you could intervene. Which one, if either, would you shoot?

    And to those who think Saddam should have been spared, who are we to impose our morals on a nation with different values? (many of them, it must be said, rooted in scriptures not entirely dissimilar to those underlying our own Judeo-Christian principles).

    And while I’ve got you, Newmania… your comment on the original topic: It is this sort of dislike for the modern that does make the Conservative Party with its average age above 60 a laughing stock.

    I hope you’re not having a pop at me for siding with Boris on video games. I may be the wrong side of 40 but as someone who is (rather was, until object oriented programming got the better of me) a fluent programmer in C and Turbo Pascal – entirely self-taught – it’s not exactly a case of “The Rolling who?”.

  46. Boris Boris Boris… I DO like you. But this article is utter pants. No way to react just because you were beaten at PacMan by a six year old this Christmas !

  47. Another thought. Funny, isn’t it, how the bleeding hearts who condemn the Iraqis for stringing up one of their own, in their own country for the gravest offences against their own people, are so forgiving of extreme Muslim behaviour when it’s carried out in our country against our people.

  48. I’ve been re-reading the above passage for about 10 minutes trying to make sense of it – unsuccessfully.

    Oh dear .. It is true Idlex I entirely lack your gift for lucidity. Sorry. I think the best plan is to think through ones own thoughts first and write later.Allow me to ponder

  49. Right then admonished by Idlex as obscure and picked on by Paul D I `m rather honoured and I’ve had another go.

    Justice is a word for rightness and has no meaning outside system of belief including right and wrong. Such a system may have religious underpinning but it is not necessary. The wish for and sense of good is in our hearts whether or not God put it there .
    An injustice or crime , imbalances the “Scales of Justice “. Our wish for goodness makes us want to correct this balance and the meaning of the traditional Scales is the difficulty of weighing and measuring this response . It does not mean it is easy to decide ; quite the reverse . If we do not allow this model though , we are left with “convenience “. In that case all those I dislike may expect to be bagged up and fed to the pigs by tomorrow . Why not , if there is no such thing as justice ?

    Justice cannot be disassociated from revenge although the distaste for it is a real problem( the “deeds creature” problem of Hamlet). In the case of murder it is the revenge taken by the living in behalf of the dead. Like all revenge it is prompted by love and respect for the victim. I have a parable ..(it was only a matter of time …….)

    Hundreds of years ago in the Village of D nestled in loamy D shire a good man lived and by his work acquired a small cottage . A bad man seeing this thought that the world would suit him better rearranged a little . He killed Good man and occupied his house .The villager’s first instinct was to drag him from his bed and after public torture and humiliation, so all should know ,dispatch him to hell. Bad man was a clever arguer though .He made suggestions that troubled them .
    ” Retribution , he sneered , why ? I have done you no personal harm and Good man cannot be revived by this means ”
    “Listen ” he said as a pitchfork approached his temple “In order to have done this I must surely be mad .I am not responsible and as for deterrent , well it is unlikely anyone else is as mad as me . I can’t see what you gain by any of this ?”
    Perhaps it was he screaming of good man’s wife and children ..who knows but still the villagers advance upon bad man…now he began to panic
    “Wait wait he pleads at about this time Ghengis Khan is spending happy weeks killing and torturing hundreds of thousands …I mean compared to him I `m really astonishingly moral ”

    The villagers appear to agree that this would be convenient , it is after all quite confusing and aside from the growing stench of Goodman’s corpse life would certainly be easier if they forgot about him entirely. As Bad man breathed a sigh of relief however they laughed telling him that it was only a cruel joke and that his soon to be over life held nothing but pain. They did this because they loved and still love Goodman and they cannot abide the injustice.
    Same here . Rose West dead , Hussein ..obviously .

    In real life we do not know who is Good and who is bad and we resolve this by Jurisprudence in which we seek to recreate impersonal justice in the world . Some things seem clear to me . Death may very well be justice and as such should be available. We are right to worry about weighing the scales and our limited view of what justice is .We are wrong to be so bamboozled that we forget the point and create complexity when there is none . We are wrong to give to much weight to what the murderer has to say because it is “easier”.

    The two example you give
    1 If it was my child yes
    2 Yes

    These are personal not judicial judgements though. I would rather both were submitted to law which I may seek to affect as part of Society .

    With some relief let me turn to the modernity of Paul D.-Paul you have always struck me as a gorgeous silvery fish flashing in the bright waters of the modern stream . I am a curmudgeonly toad sulking in a muddy hole as it passes me by . I am perfectly happy that the past was in many ways better . I just think that this one (computer games) is irrelevant and silly .

    I am 43 and member of the Conservative Party , I only know one computer game , Sims. Hat tip to your IT skills

  50. That was much clearer, newmania. But as you describe it in your story, the death of badman re-balances the scales of justice after his murder of goodman. Allow me to modify the story slightly:

    Just when the villagers are about to kill badman, the village idiot intervenes and says, “Wait! Who is going to look after goodman’s wife and children? Who is going to do goodman’s work of hauling water for us from the well?” And as the villagers ponder this, the idiot says, “Why not make badman work to support goodman’s wife and children all their days, and haul water from the well? We cannot bring back goodman, but we can replace him with badman.”

    And the villagers think about it, and then they say, “That’s all very well, idiot, but what if badman escapes or refuses to work?” And the idiot replies, “Badman will always drag a ball and chain, and village dogs will soon hunt him down if he escapes. As for whether he will work or not, why not ask him which he prefers?”

    And so the villagers ask badman which he would prefer: immediate execution or continued life in the service of goodman’s wife? And badman chooses to live as her servant.

    And so badman lives on, working for goodman’s wife, and hauling water from the well. And life in the village continues almost exactly as it did before.

    Which is the better justice? That badman simply be killed, or that badman make good the harm he has done?

  51. An afterthought about computer games. Boris wrote up top there:

    The only way to learn to write is to be forced time and again to articulate your own thoughts in your own words, and you haven’t a hope of doing this if you haven’t read enough to absorb the basic elements of vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, style and structure; and young males in particular won’t read enough if we continually capitulate and let them fritter their lives away in front of these drivelling machines.

    Newmania has just been forced to re-articulate his thoughts with new words of his, and has done so creditably. But hasn’t he done so by playing this online computer game called boris-johnson.com, which has a multi-player text input-output system, some unwritten rules, and a few prizes to be won?

    Perhaps we are ourselves “frittering away our lives” playing this game? What sobbing and the shrieking and the horrible pleading would there be if our children marched in and told us to stop playing this infernal Boris Johnson computer game?

  52. Well, that dreadful enforced winter break is over, and chance for me once again to read the outpourings here.

    Having not played a computer game since I was very much younger and the original text-only ‘Adventure’ with its maze of twisty litle passages (all alike) was around, I’m probably not the best person to comment, and the fact that I don’t even have a TV either won’t help I guess, but I’d say that televised ‘sport’ and the national lottery are the way in which the lower orders are very effectively kept in their place. Video games seem to be less effective, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with a mental age above 21 ever playing them.

  53. newmania what is the point of this justice though? I’m not entirely sure I disagree with you, but this question nags me.

    I assume you don’t come from a religion that believes that there actually is a large physics pair of scales somewhere for us to rebalance, and that you’re speaking in metaphor. If so, then why do we try to rebalance them? And more to the point, perhaps the scales are a bad analogy, after all it does rather seem to assume (by rebalancing) that the justice negates the evil. What if it adds to it? I hate to spout children’s cliches at you, but “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and I’m not convinced that executing someone justly isn’t wrong. So again, why should we be just?

  54. Jack . The scales of justice refer particularly to the legal process of seeking fairness in courts as variously conceived, it likens balance to fairness or in our legal system the ubiquitous notions of what reasonable man would think … It is a metaphor for the fine balancing of considerations. As an image of this “human “process it is, of course compromised and slippery in reality but the physical sense of weighing fractional increments of load with infinite care is a model for judgement. It is not a metaphysical metaphor for morality and will not work . Notably as the murder victim remains dead

    This picture precedes a age where anyone would have questioned the worth of the endeavour, the existence of justice or the superior claims of comfort ease and convenience. I still do not .

    In the case of murder ; the revenge cannot indemnify the bereived and it grievously assaults the revengers soul . It is expensive and may well have a poor effect as well as a deterrent effect. Despite all of this I believe that at times it is right and should be an option. I think it likely that what is right will in the end lead to the greater good but social effects are a secondary issue. All of these problems are large , especially the effect on the revenger and the society that by proxy commits the act. Nonetheless there is right and there is wrong

    I have tried to show how to me a sense of right and wrong are all that is required for the rest to follow .You , typically, wonder where such an idea might come from .For the purposes of capital punishment I only asked that its existence might be allowed from experience like the existence of sight .I have previously admitted to you that with no clear faith I am somewhat at sea explaining most of the things in life that are obviously important and true .

    Btw I was pleased to see the Bishop of Lichfield support the hanging of Saddam……some cojones left after all ?

  55. What sobbing and the shrieking and the horrible pleading would there be if our children marched in and told us to stop playing this infernal Boris Johnson computer game?

    Touché, Idlex. Neat move. However, most web forums aimed at the younger player are unmitigated rubbish written in txt speak (aka fukwit).

    I fail to see how the torrent of drivel on these sites “y u 2 disin me wid da evils wen u dun no nufin baht me lol” shows the internet – in that sector anyway – as making anything but a negative contribution to the art of vocabulary, grammar, rhythm, style, structure etc.

    At least BJ’s forum can’t be accused of lowering the cybertone.

  56. At least BJ’s forum can’t be accused of lowering the cybertone

    It varies

    . He is a clever stick that crafty Idlex isn`t he .

  57. “This picture precedes a age where anyone would have questioned the worth of the endeavour, the existence of justice or the superior claims of comfort ease and convenience. I still do not .”

    A hundred uncritical Christians might have just noted this and added the following to their arsenal:

    “This picture precedes an age where anyone would have questioned the worth of prayer and worship, the existence of God or the supremacy of God over science. I still do not.”

  58. He is a clever stick that crafty Idlex. Indeed, Newmania. But what I want to know is how to win one of these prizes he talks about. What’s on offer? A shiny new Ford Escort? Holiday for two in Old Baghdad? Conducted tour of the Customs & Excise offices?

  59. Politcal figure in negative viewpoint on videogames shocker!

    Kids are educated far better now than what they were 40 years ago, before computer games were even invented. Spending time playing games is no different than spending time watching the TV. Shall we try and ban the cinema next?

    Boris, you really do not understand computer games and you are of the ilk that never will.

  60. Kids are educated far better now than what they were 40 years ago

    Jam, don’t you mean like what they was 40 years ago?

  61. Um I think children are educated far better today than goats were 40 years ago.

    On a serious note I’m still trying to get my head around this government initiative!(?)

  62. “Spending time playing games is no different than spending time watching the TV”

    TV is awful too! If I had children I would seriously limit the time they spent watching the television and playing video games.

    However, I do think video games encourage violence to a much greater extent than television does simply because watching the television is a rather passive activity whereas video games require a much more active participation. i read recently that ps2(I think it was ps2 anyway) had bought out a game where the player played the part of a character that had to kidnap a young girl, sedate her and bury her alive in order to win. This type of game really crosses the line and it is worrying that teenagers will be playing this game.

  63. But what I want to know is how to win one of these prizes he talks about. What’s on offer? (PaulD)

    Boris’ books!

    I won my first one – 72 Virgins – by claiming the jackpot that Melissa had announced for whoever posted the 200th comment on a thread a couple of years back. To my astonishment, Melissa came good on this, asked for my address, and sent a signed copy of the book, plus a House of Commons diary, and a rather winsome photo of Boris.

    The second prize, Boris’ book about Rome, showed up shortly after I’d written a pastiche of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner on Boris’ bicycle collision with a French pedestrian. It began:

    It is our Boris Johnson, and he striketh one of three.”

    Raincoaster has also been a winner of a book, sent all the way to Canada. And I think a few other people have got them as well. There don’t seem to be any rules about who gets prizes, and it perhaps depends on how many spare copies of Boris’ books are available. But it is a most excellent touch, which I hope Melissa is continuing to exert.

  64. < If I had children I would seriously limit the time they spent watching the television and playing video games (k)<

    Thats all well and good provided you can afford to allow them to participate in enough other passtimes to keep them occupied.

    When I was a kid my more active hobbies were fishing, playing cricket, playing chess and playing war-games. I played some video games too but was never that obsessed with them. My parents certainly weren’t poor but they weren’t rich enough to feed me, clothe me, buy me fishing gear, give me pocket money to buy my toy soldiers with and keep me kitted out with new cricket gear every time I’d sprung up another few inches and buy me computer games. I couldn’t have everything I wanted all the time, very few people I knew could either.

    Then you have the winter months. It gets pretty cold and wet up here, it’s not safe for a 12 year old to go sea fishing on slippery rocks and the trout are out of season. You can’t play cricket in the winter and war-games club and chess club were only once a week. During the winter my friends and I would spend more time playing video games and watching videos. It was inevitable.

    It’s all well and good telling kids they can’t watch the television or play computer games but in most peoples’ circumstances what will they do instead? Probably go round their friends house for a game on the Playstation or to watch some video nasties. Would you stop them going round their friends houses too?

  65. Easy, I would get them to read books! Cheap (free from the library), entertaining, educational and they help children to invent their own games.

  66. < Easy, I would get them to read books!(k)<

    Reading books is all well and good when you’re on your own, but it’s hardly a social activity is it? When I was a kid I’d play computer games and watch videos with friends. If I had stayed at home reading books all the time I wouldn’t have had any friends.

    From what I remember at school reading all the time was synonymous with having no friends. Most people I went to school with would read a bit, some would read more than most. Then there were people who went through their whole school life never once doing anything remotely socialable. Every break-time they would sit indoors reading a book while everyone played and socialised outside.

    Just like with video games there has to be a point with reading where it becomes too much. If you read too much as a child at the expense of socialising you surely become unable to interact with the real world and your peers. That must stunt a child emotional growth and confidence in later life. At least video games are competitive and sociable. At least when you sit down to watch a movie with someone you are sharing the same experience.

    All things in moderation I say, but I very much doubt a child can be forced to read at the expense of partaking in the activities they want to without it damaging their social skills and confidence.

  67. I am 14 years old (I found this article in a gaming forum) and you could say I fit into the gamer stereotype, I’m not all too athletic, I don’t go out too much, but, I enjoy reading and at the risk of sounding too big headed) I’d say that I’m above average intelligent, and I have found that I have hidden talent for sprinting.

    I’ve played Video games since I was 5. They’ve always been part of my life, and they didn’t rot my brain, and now I feel I have an obligation to defend them.
    First, I’ll talk about what you labelled (and I suppose correctly) the most violent type of game, the First Person shooter. If an FPS makes you walk outside and massacre those around you, then you seriously need psychiatric help. The FPS is not there to serve any purpose, it is meant to ridiculous fun, and oh my it is. These games are always given age ratings where they are needed, but even still, they do not have an effect on the people who play them, and they aren’t always rampaging kill for kicks games. It’s just fun, and brings out a slightly sadistic side to the player, but at the end of the day, the gamer knows that, it was just a game.

    Next, I’ll talk about your comments on reading. it’s not for everyone,, you will never be able to make all little boys read passionately, but, that is because some children just aren’t interested in what most would label, a good book. I wouldn’t say that I am, but recently, I’ve been asking my friends to recommend me books, and I’ve found all of their recommendation’s very enjoyable, I’ve never used my school Library as much as I have in the past few months. What I’m saying is, all you need to do is convince children to at least try, find a book that they can enjoy.

    Throughout your article, you basically highlighted the flaws with youths of today and then linked them to videogames with no apparent relevance. Then, you say that they cause poverty. I can tell you, they certainly do not. you pay £200-400 for a new console, but this will happen once every 5 years, not so the companies can leach money from you (but I wont be so naive to say that companies are making games to make us happy, that’s a lie, it’s to make money, they make ss happy so they can make us pay)but so they can introduce a new machine that provides a better experience by taking advantage of new technologies. Speaking of new technologies,let me introduce you to 2 systems, the Nintendo DS, and the Nintendo Wii.

    The DS has been available since March in 2005, and has outsold it’s competitor the PSP 2:1. It’s less expensive, has less powerful video cards, but it’s key selling point, is it’s 2 screens, one of which is touch sensitive.
    The DS is perfect for everyone, not just children and teenagers, but for adults, people like you who never play videogames. It’s unique control system it’s easy to use and one game in particular, Dr. Kawashimas Brain Training, is made especially for people to sharpen their reflexes, improve their logic and help your memory. In Japan, it has sold millions. At just £99, it’s hardly going to put you on the streets

    And the Wii, a new games console, which uses a controller which looks like a TV remote, which senses movement. The Wii is bundled with a game called Wii Sports, featuring basic versions of tennis, baseball, boxing, golf and bowling. To play tennis, you literally, swing the remote to return the ball. In golf, point the remote down, hold down the A button, and swing. In baseball, hold the remote like a bat and swing, or throw (not literally, we don’t want broken remotes!) to throw the ball. It’s fun for everyone, the day I bought it, my Mum and dad had a competition to see who could get the highest score on bowling, and it is exercise. The console is just £180, £90 cheaper than the Xbox 360, and £220 cheaper than the Playstation 3.

    Boris, I recommend you buy a Nintendo Wii, if you don’t like it, return it to the store (stock shortages means they’ll definitely take it off your hands!) but I assure you, it will change your opinion of videogames.

  68. Social skills maybe Steven but not confidence. I think confidence has more to do with the reaction of the people around you and is mostly set in one’s formative years. It is a myth, for example, that shy people are quiet. Shy people who lack social confidence are usually the loudest and most animated because they try too hard. Either that or they seek a boost in alcohol which helps present a false image of boisterous, overbearing confidence. The positive reaction of a peer group can go a long way to compensating for an opinion based on others negative reaction, even if that reaction is the indifference of parents or the subtle slights that only parents can give:- ‘oh why can’t you at least try to be like your sister/brother’. So I think it doesn’t matter if a child plays computer games occasionally but that they feel valued and want to be with other people. It is if they are using computers as an escape that is a problem. That and I do think that violent games, as has been pointed out, have an effect on the psyche. But you are right Steven in pointing out that if a person doesn’t have a peer group, they can never gain peer group approval.

    I had horses – I brought them oats, they approved. It worked for me! As for warm and cosy support in the horsey world when i was a child… erm, it’s a bit competetive. Raincoaster may confirm that one? But who needs a virtual reality when faced with half a ton of sweating testosterone with a mind of it’s own!

  69. I enjoy reading and at the risk of sounding too big headed) I’d say that I’m above average intelligent (Aranpreet Bhangal)

    Good grief. At 14 you have every right to be big headed with a contribution like that. Well done, sir.

    As for you, Idlex,
    To my astonishment, Melissa came good on this
    you’re a loser. I’ll come round yours in the shiny new Ford Escort and explain why.

  70. I got a book from Boris and I attribute it to the sheer volume of words I was shoving in at the time. I have remained in a state of chuffedness ever since.

    I suppose everyone but me knows , but has Boris ,in his prestigious position as shadow education minister, had anything much to say about the voucher scheme floated by Nu Lab , the NUT`s ambush of it? What about the current cross party agreement that streaming and selection should be reintroduced. I seriously doubt that computer games have much of a role in this debate which is a strong one for the Blues . It appears that after 40 years it has been accepted that Comprehensive education was a mistake .
    “Grammar school education for all ” what a sick joke that is . Now no money and wrong area means you have no chance .

    In Northern Ireland 42 % of University entrants come from less privileged backgrounds , here only 28%. 76 % in the ICM poll the other day favoured streaming and importantly as befitting the less academically inclined.

    If we are worrying about Literacy we might start there or with the benefits system that has destroyed social structure for the poor . Only 20% of white working class boys get 5 CGSEs A to C level. Its a catastrophe .

    What is the blond one saying about it ?Stop playing space invaders ?

  71. 14-year-old Aranpreet Bhangal would appear to be the living refutation of Boris’ assertion that you have to read a lot of books and then try very hard to express yourself in your own words. After apparently playing computer games non-stop for 10 years, he has only just discovered his school library, but despite this handicap has today posted a magnificent little essay here.

    Either Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training really works, or Mum and Dad helped out a bit with the writing. I suspect Dr Kawashima myself.

    And I saw the Nintendo Wii being demonstrated on Newsnight recently, with Pat Cash playing tennis on it. It did seem a truly astonishing innovation.

    Melissa, I don’t want to be a loser: can I have a Wii?

  72. The thing is Newmania, is that streaming has been going on in schools. I have spent time in selective schools and comprehensive schools, private and state schools and the one thing they all had in common is that children were split into classes of different abilities.

    I thought this was awful for the less able children as they were made to feel like losers by the time they were teenagers. The teachers even made fun of them and were simply not bothered about helping them, but concentrated on pushing the already clever and studious students even further to push the school up the league table. Some schools did this by making the bright students sit their exams a year early (and then again the next year) so they look as if they have got twice the amount of good grades.
    This sort of system is a terrible way to educate the less abled or even the less inclined students. If the less abled children had been in a secondary modern type school they would not have been made to feel so stupid (and as such rebel against education) and would have recieved greater attention from the teachers and would do far better. If the abled, but less inclined students had been put in grammer schools they would have been forced to use their intellect and would not give in to peer pressure from less abled friends who feel rejected by the education system.

  73. I got a book from Boris and I attribute it to the sheer volume of words I was shoving in at the time. I have remained in a state of chuffedness ever since. (newmania)

    This is the normal way in which Melissa disposes of her enemies.

  74. I am rather a large fan of Boris and read his blog with awe, but this latest post has provoked me to actually make a comment.
    I’m twenty and currently studying Business Studies at university. Until last year I was, you could call, addicted to videogames. From watching my father play on the Nintendo Entertainment System to forming a large collection of consoles both retro and modern, hundreds of videogames and related paraphernalia, I have played hundreds, if not thousands of videogames of all different genres and ages.
    I have several comments I’d like to bring up on this post. First of all, you appear to be targeting videogames as a sole cause of a childs lack of literacy skills. Whatever happened to the crusade against ceaseless television viewing? Have we decided that this is no longer a problem or is it that videogaming has taken over in terms of popularity?
    I also mention this as videogames, as noted so rightly in previous comments, require more interactivity and use of the brain than staring at a television screen. Whilst I agree that some games offer nothing but sadistic pleasures through senseless violence, there are many, many more examples of games that require interaction through reading, solving puzzles, awareness of the environment and many other skills that emulate real life.
    I would even argue that videogames teach much more than television shows, films and even some books as they do promote learning of “ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory”.
    To claim that some “cunningly pretend to be educational” is very opinionated in a post that is presented as fact. I assume you have never played a videogame in your life, for if you have played as many games as I have, you would surely know that there are educational games. I refer to a previous comment about the exceedingly popular Dr. Kawashimas Brain Training as one example.
    So what about the problem with literacy, and how do I feel about it? Despite coming from a broken home and economically challenged background, as most youths who are having problems with education do, I was brought up well by my father. I would choose books over television. I was awarded a scholarship and was educated at a grammar school.
    Videogames simply fuelled my passion – and that passion was reading and writing. I would write reviews of games. I learnt some programming languages. When it came to choosing a university course, I even enrolled on a videogame design course. I changed once I’d got to university as my passion for videogames had dwindled and I thought it would create limited opportunities for future careers.
    I have got back into reading since coming to university, particularly classics such as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Dracula”, and of course I own a couple of your books. However, I am absolutely appalled at the standard of literacy here at university. I have flatmates and friends who cannot spell, cannot compose coherent essays and don’t have a book on their shelves. Even some of my tutors only have a basic grasp of how to use the English language.
    I want to challenge that literacy levels are falling, but I fear being lambasted for being too young and suffering from “the last generation was better” syndrome. But I’m pretty sure that around sixty years ago, the only pastime was reading.
    I just feel a little shocked that Boris has fallen into the trap of creating a correlation between one thing and another before having first hand experience and bonafide facts. Excessive use of videogames may be a contributory factor in dwindling literacy levels, but it most certainly is not a correlative nor the sole factor.
    With regards,
    Phil

  75. “I have got back into reading since coming to university, particularly classics such as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Dracula””

    Both good books, but not really university level. I have just graduated and I read both of these book as a young teenager. Citing these as an example of high literacy does rather highlight the decline in educational standards. Sadly Aranpreet Bhangal’s comment highlights this as well and is one of the best arguements I have read for not allowing children to play video games too much.

  76. K -Both good books, but not really university level.

    Don`t be such a snob K. It is entirely reasonable both should be studied at University.

    Dracula is an interesting example of a book where the character is larger than the literature (like Robinson Crusoe ) this is often true of Gothic romance which can be looked at in term of cultural archetypes. Such books do annoy the “Literary” …so does 1984 , often called adolescent . It is not

    I would recommend A “Picture of Tory and Gay “Greg Barkers Autobiography. Ok it isn`t but when he writes one that surely must be the title.

    I think you should be forced to read Finnegan’s Wake until you see the error of your ways …AAAAAAAAA !!!!

    (Your qualifications are so impressive I like to include them whenever possible )

  77. Newmania,
    Ok, fair point studying a them at university is ok since they do tell us a great deal about culture and the evolution of society. But as a book to read rather than study they are not really tough going and are not good books to use when trying to show how computer games do not harm literacy levels.
    Saying that though, my reading levels seem to have gone down since I entered my twenties. I have double lined bookcases where I have placed all my “good” books on the outside and all the dog earred Jilly Coopers, Dan Browns and Harry Potters on the inside. The punishment for my snobbery is that each time I try to get one of my hidden books I end up causing an avalanche of “good” books, which are all hardbacked and rather heavy.

  78. Ok, fair point studying a them at university is ok since they do tell us a great deal about culture and the evolution of society.

    No “studying them” is not an anthropological expedition across the thin line between the stupid and the clever. These are both excellent books and the fact they are not hard going is one of their qualities. I dread to think what horrors you have inflicted upon yourself K but I do hope you have not confused boring obscure and long winded with “good”Incidentally I don`t mind you applying your critical faculties thusly to me for obvious reasons.
    On education the sort of streaming now in place in, a haphazard way is not what is meant. You do not understand the problem. The Middle classes buy education or move. Wrong postcode and no money and you have no chance . Comprehensive schools are worse than the secondary moderns were never mind the Grammars. There is of course a lot to say about this and suffice to say I do not get here out of old Tory prejudice . Quite the reverse.
    I suppose you would prefer it if I droned on a bit but I won`t

    So you have reached the ripe old age of “your twenties” . …grrrrrrrrr.

  79. Newmania
    I have, but one thing to say: Dracula is a big, fat disappointment of a book! As was Frankenstein. I suppose it is like you say, the character is bigger than the book.

  80. Newmania,
    I was actually agreeing with you (I think) about streaming. It is far better to have whole schools streamed than to have comprehensives where the students are streamed once in school anyway. The presant system seems to be a way for the anti-grammer schools to feel goos about their moves for equality regardless of the fact that it comes at the cost of a childs education and self esteem.

  81. PaulD —-

    You must of course now find a way of joining the Boris book club!

    Idlex, newmania, raincoaster and of course Jaq all qualify as well-deserved members and so should you. To be another winner we shall need to devise a new competition. BTW my two favourite Boris books have not been mentioned and they are available for prizes, namely: Have I Got Views For You and his first Friends, Voters, Countrymen – Jottings on the stump all about his first election campaign in Henley.

    The Question for the 2007 prize is: “Any bright ideas for Boris and the Conservative Party in the wake of a Brown Premiership?”

  82. I absolutely agree with your point about the standards of literacy and education in the UK. However i find it shocking that you single out computer games and games consoles as a cause. Although it is evident that modern video games can be distracting and addictive it is entirely biased to call for their removal. As far as i am aware, before video games proliferated in the home there were distractions to children such as television (you could argue that these distractions had fewer adverse effects).
    The fact that you fail to see any positive effects of video games demonstrates you have little understanding or experience of the diversity present in modern games. Although there are games which are simply about shooting aliens there are so many other genres such as strategy, rpg, mmorpg, simulation, and many other subgenre games which offer children many benefits, such as an interest in real world business, mathematical skills and some experience of social interaction.

    Im my experience of playing video games since about the age of ten (now 17), video games have not had an adverse effect on me. I often spend over an hour playing a game, however personally i see that as better than watching television and it is my chosen form of relaxation. I do accept that it is no equivalent to other activities such as physical exercise and real social interaction. When i was younger i was passionate about reading, and i used to read a lot of fiction. I still read a lot, however through the internet my reading interests are now primarily non-fiction. I read magazines, newspapers and blogs.
    I can assure you Boris, video games are not all evil and the majority of games offer some form of development to children. It is excessive use which is an issue

  83. “Any bright ideas for Boris and the Conservative Party in the wake of a Brown Premiership?”

    My effort

    . Simon Heffer was saying to day what I have been saying ever since the quite outstanding Boris piece on the boundary commission ..Broon may go early . We may in fact be in an election year. If this is the case , and it is as likely as not , the question of what `we` must do is somewhat more urgent than it might appear. My advice I `m afraid is rather boring but its getting time to be serious.

    .

    Dear David

    Please do not be tempted into making hard policy decisions , all the time you do not the enemy only make one criticism. If Brown seeks to bounce the electorate into an endorsement, this will provide you with cover. Don’t fret about the Neo Cons and UKIP defectors, they are playing at rebellion . Remember this must be a game of reaction not pro-action if we are to win . Control and discipline is all leave showboating to the bloggers.

    You appreciate that Brown will try to put right what he sees as the major obstacle to a Nu lab victory. You know roughly what these are. The leaked memo said ,”we have been outflanked on patriotism , been assailed for broken promises and spin …the New labour Brand has been contaminated” You also know Brown is highly sensitive to the iniquitous Scottish dispensation . Dennis McShane put his likely strategy well …” to catch the Tories bathing and walk off with most of their clothes.” This was in an article entitled Brown knows he has to cut taxes”. Worth reading |David

    You have taken the centre and Brown will try to grab it back .Moreover he will portray himself as the man of substance who will deliver the New labour Agenda ..the spin and lies will be Tony`s fault He will say you can have low taxes , reformed public services, reduced red tape and yet maintain social justice , the NHS and a caring smile. Don`t write policies ,prepare your arguments and take up the weapon he has left……………

    Tell them every day that Labour said all of this ten years ago.

    Mention Frank Field , told to think the unthinkable , reform the disastrous benefits system ,eliminate the poverty trap and the dependency culture. Remind them it was the back bench opposition and in particular the opposition of Gordon Brown that derailed the supposed Blair project. . Constantly entangle brown in his past and suggest he cannot be trusted.

    Be prepared for a flashy gesture like ditching inheritance tax. . On 30% ( ICM) he has nothing to lose. You must be quick to smile at him him as a man who will promise anything but whose political constituency will pull left.

    Never forget to say . “You’ve had ten years and now you admit you were wrong ?”

    Keep you nerve you are getting it right . Steer clear of Iraq ,steer clear of “immigration” the EU even ( hard I know) just match the Brown moves . Keep the focus on what Blair promised ten years ago and what has happened since.

    Give the Conservative Party a friendly splash of cold water they have forgotten we could lose. Demand their support quietly we must appear unified against the certain factionalism that will erupt after president Blair. Drop the A list (Its work is done ) and throw out afew hints . They are Conservatives , they will knuckle down
    At the moment the Labour party is wrestler on the mat . We have to keep them where they are ,they move , we move , nothing risky but instincts and caution are the watchwords. Play out the time and we will win . You political instincts have been supernatural , they know they picked a winner and they know they will have to grow up.

    David, there is a lot to do to get this country back to where it should be but the constituency of agreement for a reforming agenda comes after victory not before . Remember this in 1979 Margaret Thatcher was highly conciliatory to the centre ground . I believe you have the talent to be one of the great Conservatives and with the economy’s wheels squeaking you might just get the support for a radical agenda sooner than you think. When that happens ;don’t let us down .

  84. Newmania – good advice but my reaction would be: steer clear of immigration, the EU and Iraq? You’ll be saying steer clear of politics next! Oh well there’s pensions, education, crime and punishment, religion, tax, energy resources, the NHS and the welfare State. But like I said you are advising politicking rather than politics, which I’m sure is on the money.

  85. Pinch the slogan of Stop Harlow North – one of the key marginals you need to win.

    Tell them nulab is: Unnecessary, Unsustainable and Undemocratic.

    Unsustainable: because nulab have run up billions of debt for UK while consistently running a mile from green policies. All the while, they’ve introduced a whole swathe of perverse, anti-green, policies, including massive expansion of aviation and unmanaged migration to UK, thereby placing unsustainable pressure on our services and infrastructure – and our ability to meet our green commitments.

    Undemocratic: because nulab have eroded our civil liberties, Rule of Law and parliamentary democracy, while undermining our culture and values. surveillance society.

    Unnecessary: because the new Conservatives have emerged to right all of these wrongs – to run the economy sustainably, the government democratically and to make UK’s environment green again.

    Though, of course, to make these claims, the new Conservatives will need to be clean as a whistle when it comes to spin and spin doctors.

  86. JAQ – On the EU ,immigration and Iraq especially , any votes in it we already have and certainly any seats.My view is. Get in ,build trust, shift right.
    When I thought about what I would do rather than what I would like I would waffle about the enviroment and let Labour lose; hinting to the party that my intentions were sound.

    This is exactly what Cameron has done and its working . People forget we are mid term in the doldrums and the Conservative Party do not have the suppoprt for a woking majority..They are mile ahead of Labour but it will take a long time to turn the ship around.

  87. Idlex, newmania, raincoaster and of course Jaq all qualify as well-deserved members and so should you. (Melissa)

    So send him a Ford Escort XR3I.

    And don’t forget Steven_L.

  88. I wonder if ,a la Prince Nasseem ,folowing poor bevhavour one might be asked to return the book. When Boris`s load of rubbish on the Saddaam excetion comes up I may be in danger

  89. Newmania– you are quite safe and overall deserve a 5*

    Auntie Flo’s slogan idea is also 5*

    And all I need from Idlex is use of his limitless credit card…

    Where is Steven_L btw?

  90. k said:
    Both good books, but not really university level. I have just graduated and I read both of these book as a young teenager. Citing these as an example of high literacy does rather highlight the decline in educational standards.

    I’m aware that these aren’t university level, but I’m not studying English Literature. I was merely expressing the fact that I have starting to read again, and I’m not reading Harry Potter or suchlike (despite it being an entertaining read).
    I was also suggesting the fact that people of my age and younger do not read books at all. I consider myself to be more educated than my peers, though whether I have had the same “educational standards” as yourself during my time at school I do not know.

    k said:
    Sadly Aranpreet Bhangal’s comment highlights this as well and is one of the best arguements I have read for not allowing children to play video games too much.

    If you are assuming Mr. Bhangal and myself as case studies for why children should not play too many videogames, I am horrified. We both made our cases perfectly clear, and I’d like to reiterate it isn’t the videogames that are the problem. If someone watches TV too much, they are not reading or learning. If children spend their evenings hanging around in the park or street corners, they are not reading or learning. It is not the videogames that are the problem, it is the lack of interest in reading and learning in general.
    I may have cited books that aren’t four hundred pages long and written in Latin, but I read, I watch the news, I read up on topics around my university course.
    I believe myself to be a minority in a youth who are obviously not being educated or not having interest in education, or both. This is the problem that needs to be addressed, not whether we play too many videogames or whether we enjoy Oscar Wilde as opposed to, well, I don’t know what author I’m supposed to be reading instead.
    Regards,
    Phil

  91. Ok, Ok. It just sounded as if you were both saying “look we play video games and look how clever we are”. But it is a sad fact that you are a university age and are just reading books like Dracula and yet consider yourself to be better read than many of your peers. Just as it is a sad fact that the fourteen year old who commented is claiming he has above average intelligence for his age group. If both of these claims are actual facts than the education system really has gone wrong somewhere.

  92. I’ve come into this debate a little late, but I’d like to mention that I am a life-long video game player. At their most frivolous, they are diverting and fun; at their most involving they are a kind of art form, requiring application, skill and intellect, creating absorbing, detailed worlds as vivid and imaginative as any literary creation. To dismiss them as the lobotomising playthings of indolent yoofs is an opinion born out of ignorance.

  93. < Where is Steven_L btw? (Melissa)<

    He just got out of bed following yet another miserable night of cricket down-under. Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten that you owe me a book, as soon as I see you hawking it on these pages you’ll be getting an email.

    What was the question? What should the tories do when Brown gets in? If it was today, I’d ask him this:

    ‘Firstly I’d like to congratulate the RH gentleman on his election as leader of the Labour Party. I wonder if he as given much thought as how he’s going to sort out the mess his predicessor has left him in. Violent crime increases but our prisons are full, nurses are being laid off while hospitals close due to debt, while employers complain about innumerate school-leavers our top universities can no longer trust their A level results, Iraq slides in civil war, the resistance of the Taliban increases and our troops abroad are still under equipped. What does the RH gentleman see as his first priority in office as our new Prime Minister?

    You never know things might be even worse by May or whenever it happens. Just ask him what he’s going to about the mess Blair has left him in.

  94. My favourite video game has always been space invaders. You could even play it through a sort of glass table in pubs at one time so if you went out for a drink you didn’t have to stop playing.
    I never thought it was anything but a waste of time though.

    Actually, I found writing my own game more fun. But even Simon might wonder where my anorak is now. I’d still rather strip an engine down though and put it back together.

    Maybe I’m just old fashioned but I can’t help remembering a cartoon I once saw, of a child hooked up to a computer, complete with virtual reality visor. The computer screen showed ‘today kid we’re going to teach about nature’
    In the background was a garden.

  95. Just when we thought the ‘Blame Videogames’ band-waggon was full… It seems Boris found just enough space to squeeze himself (and his big bag of cliches) on board.

    As a graduate of English Literature from a University consistently ranked in the Times top 20, and an avid gamer since the age of around ten, I’m left wondering exactly where you get your half-baked ideas from.

    Despite ploughing countless evenings into Sensible Soccer and Civilisation as a youth, I still found time to achieve a level of literacy that was more than adequate for University admission, and subsequently, dealing with the demands of academic essay writing. If anything, the nature of games encourages minds to explore wider worlds and possibilities, and to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to solving problems and puzzles.

    It just feels like you haven’t really done your homework, Boris. It seems a little hypocritical of you to claim that most young people arrive at University unable to tackle a simple 2,000 essay because their literacy levels have been undermined by games, when you appear to have neglected the golden rule of essay writing: always back up your arguements…

  96. You’re wrong, Boris.

    And if the sheer number of adults who enjoy vidoegames hasn’t already proved it, time will.

  97. You utter fool Boris! How could you fall into this knee-jerk trap?To tar all games software with the ‘Outraged of Tonbridge’ attitude falls well below your usual standards. SOME games software will bore and annoy both player and any observer , but of course there’s plenty of thrilling , educational , emotionally engaging and of course just plain fun games to discover. It’s an art form , Boris. Don’t knock what you don’t get. Email me back and I’ll give you a list. Might even get a TV show out of it if you’re prepared to change your mind and be amazed…..

  98. It seems that Mr Johnson has made the mistake of assuming that all games are the same!

    If his son had developed an addiction to a worthless, trashy magazine such as ‘Nuts’ or ‘Zoo’, would Mr Johnson have written an article titled “Literature Rots The Brain”? I think not!

    As with literature, there are both stimulating, worthwhile videogames, and there are cheap, corrosive videogames. I would say to Mr Johnson, you need to get educated on the subject matter and take a more active role in the kinds of games your son plays. I certainly wouldn’t allow my children to play the videogame equivilent of ‘OK’ Magazine. So make sure your son is playing videogamings latest absorbing & challenging masterpiece, because those games do exist!

    If i may make a couple of suggestions:

    Dr Kawashimas Brain Training & Big Brain Academy.
    Nintendo Wii Sports.
    The ‘Tycoon’ series.
    Sim City.
    The Sims.
    Sid Mieir’s Civilisation.

  99. Boris my man I like you! You make me laugh and I mean that as a compliment. Though I do not necessarily agree with your political point of view you more than often put an argument across in a clear and concise manner for which I respect you. You often also seem to be well informed in the subject matter on which your opinion is based, which again, in times of idiotic ‘celebrityism’ is something to respect.

    On this subject I also agree with you that it is far from beneficial to allow our children to spend hour upon hour on a daily basis in front of the TV playing computer games, a message which coming from someone who works in the video game industry might be surprising to hear. However you have fallen in to the trap of placing blame on the object of people’s addiction rather than the root causes of the problem. It’s not the problem that video game consoles exist, it is in fact the fault of parents who do not encourage their children to partake in other forms of entertainment, whether educational or recreational (of course both can be intertwined). Blaming a video game console for an apparent drop in student’s inability to prove basic literary skills is comparable to blaming McDonalds for obesity, the mobile phone for a reduction in social skills, or alcohol for alcoholism. Life in this country is fascinating because of the vast array of opportunities for things to do in your spare time and banning all and sundry would make this world a very boring one to live in.

    Your argument is also a little unbalanced. Not once do you mention the poor plight of those few who are addicted to reading. When I was in my teens I became addicted to reading books by a certain novelist. I would be up all night for nights on end reading page after page and getting very little sleep. This did me no good whatsoever as I would be tired in class during the day and over time my grades began to slip, until finally I had read all of books this novelist had written.

    So my point is, don’t blame video game consoles, they are there to be enjoyed, as is reading and football and rugby and all sorts of other recreational past times. Let’s begin to support parents who feel they need help, not to discourage their children from playing video games, but instead to encourage their children to enjoy other forms of entertainment. Not an easy task in the slightest as often to encourage someone to do something you have to be a fan of it yourself and more importantly you need time to do this.

  100. Stuart C – Hear hear. I still find myself sitting up far too late, reading myself through that tired phase when I should turn in, into a state of insomniacal alterness.

  101. This is regarding about video game violence and your view on games.

    I played super nintendo when i was 6. i play castelvania. i played zelda, mario etc. Then on to playstation, xbox, etc…..my brain was not once rotted. I do believe reading books would be healthy, however, your making it sound like it is the next plague(video game wise). It is not the video games fault at all. It is the parents fault for letting them on R rated games. i have seen this. yea mario is great for kids, however, it can be bad if u play it 24 hrs straight. Controlling the time is the key, and this is what the parents are NOT doing at all.

    your gonna have to understand this. Just because you don’t like games, doesn’t mean you can put the blame on it. I understand your point of view, but your ranting on here makes me laugh.

    It IS the parents fault. If a 12 year old kid tells daddy that they wan’t doom 3, or gears of war for christmas, what do you think happens? They fail to keep that responsibility. The ratings are there. They know how to read. (i would hope)

    maybe you could find a way to controll games from reaching children? Do you think you can? try it. Tell the parents. …….

    Guess what? They baught them the game anyways.

    I’m sorry to sound like a complete jerk on here, but your little “politic” view on games is barking up the wrong tree. I play games like crazy, i work, i go to school. Many people do this.

    “Some children have it bad. Some are miraculously unaffected. But millions of seven- to 15-year-olds are hooked, especially boys, and it is time someone had the guts to stand up, cross the room and just say no to Nintendo. It is time to garrotte the Game Boy and paralyse the PlayStation, and it is about time, as a society, that we admitted the catastrophic effect these blasted gizmos are having on the literacy and the prospects of young males”

    it sounds like to me you either have a BIG grudge against game or just technology wise, or you have a kid that you failed to take responsibility for.

    teach the parents how to raise kids then maybe you’ll get your own wish of what you would like to see.

    I also wan’t you to know, it is not based on games entirelly. you got 12 year olds kids getting pregnet or having sex and losing interest in “your” school system. once again, that is the parents fault.

    stop blaming it on things that you dislike and look at the real picture here. educate the parents. Alot of them have not been doing their job.

  102. Become a slave to bits of rectangular paper for the majority of your existence, whilst reveliing in the wonderful greys of open London?

    or

    Float your soul off to a world of green grass, blue skies and impossibly large waterfalls?

    I think the children are a mite sharper that you give them credit for…they’re beginning to work out how to gain enjoyment from this westernised society…yes it is hedonism and nihilistic…the best things in life usually are…

    And many games such as the one’s made by ‘Nintendo’ might actually teach a bit of literacy, problem solving, and doggedness….perhaps some ‘oiks’ might find that preferrable to attending university, becoming a wallflower, and having older workers break their backs during their 20’s..

    Horses for courses, what people chose to do with their spare time Boris is their choice…i recall a good edition of newsnight where you rather sucessfully downed Tessa Jowell for suggesting she would get involved with the takeover of Manchester united. So…what do you intend to do to stop the evil games companies rotting children’s minds? I’m intrigued to hear your plans for outlawing Playstations..

  103. In spite of all our cash and effort, the surveys increasingly show that children (especially boys) regard reading as a chore, something that needs to be accomplished for the sake of passing tests, not as a joy in itself

    – They’ve found joy in something beyond the book?…gadzooks tarquin!

  104. “Dark forces dragged me away from the keyboard, swirling forces of irresistible intensity and power”

    Sounds interesting?

    “Who hooted at me?”

    Stop hooting at us already, we love games it’s not our fault.

    …and to end this I have played games my entire life, and you as a politician, journalist, and TV guest cannot possibly ever enjoy a simple game. I am truly sorry. 🙁

  105. Sorry boris, but this is nonsense. here’s a game my company made:

    http://www.democracygame.com

    It’s rightfully described as the most sophisticated political simulation game ever made, based on neural networks. It models the political ‘ecology’ of a country, and puts you in charge as PM. When it was originally made, I emailed and offered you a copy, but received no reply. Now I know why.
    That game is used by some US lecturers in their high school politics classes. And yet you think it rots peoples minds?
    Let me know if you want to try it, and see why you are wrong 😀

  106. Please please please come back to me on this one. I would love to depate this with you.

    I am Dyslexic and at an early age was told to play these games to help with my eye to hand cordination. We had a very early PC so that I could play word and number games to help with other areas of my condition.

    I am a youth worker with the 10-16 age bracket that you clearly single out as the problem and I am an avid gamer (have been since I was 4 and will be till they nail the box shut) I enjoy reading and viewing a wide range of TV/Films.

    Now I have set out my qualifications to reply. If a parent buys an 18 rated game for 12 year old timmy it is no worse than if they purchase an 18 film. I have had children like that at youthclub, due to the spoiling of a loving parent this boy was out of control in all sences and will amount to nothing I am sure.

    I have other gamers who have come to the group, they often are better at thinking round problems than others due to their regular need to use the brain they have to deal with a new chalenge.

    My right to reply to all of the people above is covered by my Girlfriend experiance working in a shop, the Parents come in and buy an 18 rated game for their brat that is smashing the stock on to the floor are the same ones that will let the child play it all night not careing that the child has school the following day.

    I give to you one item of advice, put Pratchett and Rankin on the National curiculum as required reading. I thank my sister for providing me with one of Pratchetts books when I was young, it made me laugh and kept me reading when all school gave us was either rubish or presented to us badly.

    My Final comment is this, do not judge this new form of entertainment for the masses else you will be no better than those that felt Film was ‘evil’. Use common sence and make parents aware that the age ratings are there for a reason, engage with the parents on their respocibiltys to the child. Encorage game makers to produce content of a type you wish to see, just as is done with Film and TV.

    Please come back to me I would love to discuss it directly with you Sir!

  107. I’m twenty years old. I’ve been playing video games at least a couple of times a week since I was five or six. I’m fully literate, articulate, and have plenty of external interests. I have GCSEs and A-Levels, and am working toward a degree. So, uh.. go back fifty years and tell children to stop playing with Meccano because it’s implying all they can do is menial labour.

  108. Whenever I read articles on games rotting the mind and all that, I can never decide, is it ignorance or arrogance…? Games make for one sexy scapegoat after all. They’ve got it all; drugs, violence, etc. Good gravy, you lot must have thought, we’ve hit the mother load.

    All these arguments really goes to show is just how out of touch the current generation of politicians really are with the people who occupy the country their running, and more to the point: what the future holds…

    And whoever it was that said that the Cons are knights in shining armour needs a lobotomy. You’re a danger to society and require disabling.

    I find it interesting talking to my father who regularly berates me about my inability to just “pick up a book” and blah blah blah with regards to researching… anything (whoops, there goes the attention span).
    I think it would be fascinating to take 10 “oldies” and 10 “young’uns” from any background and give them 5 subject matters covering a broad range of topics to research.
    Two things I think would stand out; the difference in how fast the two groups accumulate information, and the range of opinions on display in each groups presentations.
    Now I don’t doubt for a second that the oldies argue about the validity of the information gather from the internet, but of course they’re going to say that, after all it’s not written on paper!

    Boris, before you write anything remotely similar to this again, I’ve got a few games I recommend you give a whirl: Grim Fandango (or any of the old school Lucas Arts adventure games), System Shock 1 or 2, Thief: The Metal Age – just to name a few. These titles demonstrate just how powerful a story telling medium “games” (can’t get much more general than that) really are, and the extent to which they can stir the imagination.

  109. Yup, I think Boris is a bit out of touch on this issue. I’ve been into games since my mum bought me an Atari VCS consol in 1980. Since then, I’ve been the proud owner of a ZX81, Spectrum, Atari ST, Nintendo 64, Xbox and now an Xbox 360. I especially like first-person shooters, although anything with a healthy dose of violence is fine by me.

    In theory I should be a oafish, goggle-eyed sociopath with few social skills; but I like to think that I am a sensible, considerate, erudite, active, well-travelled 34 year-old man. Boris’s opinion sounds like Ludditism combined with an old-fashioned moral panic about the corruptability of the masses.

  110. [Ed: inappropriate section]

    Videogames improve literacy, hand-eye coordination, ability to work as a team (play an online multiplayer title), social skills (again, in multiplayer titles), problem solving skills (games are full of brain busting puzzles), and patience. Without those things, you won’t make it far at all in any modern day game that is worth playing. But of course, you wouldn’t know that because you don’t actually play them. You just take your little observations of someone else experiencing a game and try to bash them based on that. I could walk into a movie theater, see people sitting in their seats with flickering reflections in their eyes, stuffing their faces with over-buttered popcorn and 10 gallon Coca-Colas, and easily make claims about them very similar to what you have said. However you don’t see me calling for an end to movies. Why? Because I can be open minded enough to sit down and enjoy a few from time to tim and understand that though there may be some popcorn stuffed fat losers that do nothing more than sit in those theaters wasting their lives away, the vast majority of the people in there are just like you and me. The movies aren’t rotting their brains.

  111. I had a lot of trouble reading when i first started school. My elementary school gave us politically correct, safe readings that bored me to tears.

    The two things that helped me learn how to read were video games and comic books.

    I’m now an A student at my university.

    The fear that video games hurt youth is the same irrational fear that sprouted in previous generations. Before video games, it was rock and roll, before that it was comic books, etc. It’s an irrational fear of a new art medium.

  112. Poor Boris

    Lets ban games altogether and get boris to deal with all the extra kids (and adults) roaming our streets. What a poor ill informed, idiotic, naive fool this man truly is.

  113. Hi Boris,

    I would just like to point out the fact that, as with music and movies, you should police what games your children play and what you buy for them. This includes checking ratings, reviews as well as playing the games with them. That way, you have an effective process of screening games to see what value they can have for your children. Doing so may also grow your relationship with your children because you do something with them that they enjoy.

    If a parent just buys games for his or her children without reviewing them or checking the ratings, then he or she is a bad parent. The games are not bad for enslaving children, it’s the fault of the parent for putting their children in that position.

  114. Boris,

    If what you state is true, then let me make a small statement (in programming).

    if (“Brain Training (Nintendo DS)” == Computer Game)
    return “Brain Training rot the brain”;
    endif;

    somehow this doesn’t look correctly…

    Next, let me ask you the following…
    You’re a writer too… Suppose(!)… You’re writing a book, and call it quit for today… you’re pressing CTRL+S to save… exactly on that moment your Computer Crashes, rendering the file invalid because you were saving… you would need to get the backup from a day ago… (possible situation – Proof: Murphy’s Law) Meaning you’ve worked a full day for nothing… How would you feel?

  115. I am an avid gamer at the ripe young 16. In my GCSEs last year I managed to somehow scoop together 5 A*s, 3 As and 3 Bs. I even got the A* in Maths a year early!

    Oh wait, no, I didn’t scoop them together, I worked hard and it paid off. I’ve been playing video games since I was2 or 3 years old, and I’ve turned out fine. Sorry Boris, but don’t have a vendetta against games or gamers… you’re still my favourite MP though!

    For now…

  116. To be honest if anybody believes this then they are a fool. There has been almost no research into the effects of computer games, so [Ed: inappropriate section]

    Has Boris in fact ever played a game like that which he is critisising? I guess not. Perhaps he should. Being a historian, perhaps he will be interested in the Total War series of games, which are fun and informative at the same time.

    Video games are the same as any other form of media with the difference of being interactive. Thus, as the person (not necessarily child) plays they are participating, and as long as the content is informative:
    I hear…I forget
    I see…and I remember
    I do…and I understand

    Games also boost reaction times and eye-hand co-ordination among other things.

    So, if Boris feels this way perhaps he should debate with those that oppose him? How about arguing with those that actually play these games? Rather than simply providing a sensationalist argument with no evidence. I’m sure those at the PC Gamer forum (http://forum.pcgamer.co.uk/) will be glad to debate this with you.

  117. I am gravely sorry sir, but I must disagree. If the idea of reading is so sacred in schools, is it sacred in the home, as well? I am 18 years of age, and an AVID video gamer. BUT, I also read, and voraciously at that. Can you guess why? Because my parents had me read at first. If a child, and the parents of said children, are to encourage reading, it must be UNILATERAL. It cannot be pushed at school, and shunned at home.
    Parents: start early with having your children read. Read to them, read with them, let them catch you reading! Some of my fondest memories are of my father reading something, and my entering the room to cuddle with him, and read, in essence, over his shoulder.

    And back to you, good sir: have you ever actually PLAYED a video game, or do you simply know what it is you know second-hand? ALL GAMES REQUIRE READING!!! There are the manuals, the text in game, the conversations of the characters, if its a shooter, there is the HUD, which you have to read and know to survive! If it is a role-playing game, the story in and of itself is told by voice, with accompanying text as well!

    Also, the games themselves require me to use math, to up my reaction time, and, I must note, I have the best reaction time of any of my friends. Because I play video games. They reinforce my thought processes, my math skills, my reading skills, my knowledge of history, in some cases challenging my notions of what-could-have-been, and what-yet-may-be.

    Please sir, do not make comments on something you yourself have no firsthand experience with. It is on the same level as any citizen of the world making assumptions about a culture he has never seen.

  118. Mr. Boris Johnson, do you ever defend your point of view? A gentleman should either defend his ideals, or admit defeat; turning a deaf ear to others, running away from arguements is a sure sign of cowardice.

    Or is there somekind of netiquette that prevents you from doing so? I’m not really the type of person to read (or for that matter, reply to) blogs, so if thats the case, I humbly apologize.

    [Ed: inappropriate section]

    First, (although it have already been presented by others) there are living subjects to deny the brain rotting properties of video-games, one being myself. I’ve turned 19 this September, and I can’t even remember when I’ve started playing videogames. I don’t know if it was the effekt of said games, but I always had top scores at math and literature. I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve never had to opend any of the course books, only listen and take notes during the lessons. I also spoke/read english fluently at the age 8 (english is not my native language, if you’re wondering why that is such a great achievement). Which, by the way, made playing games such as Zelda a lot easier. It also got me interested in reading books. While I have to admit, most of it was pulp-fantasy, it made me able grasp the joys of reading, which made absorving pieces of (often sour and not the least appealing) literature that I was forced to, a lot more beareable.

    So lets get on with my second point, which is much more logic and less “see, I told you so” reasoning. Can you define what a “game” is? I’ve always thought that a game is something that requires the player to use one of his traits to achieve a goal. For example, chess makes use of your understanding of strategy, while a game of football requires good physicall condition and team-play to win. I think that we can all agree that playing a game makes you better at said areas. Playing chess will make you better at strategic decisions, while playing football will keep you fit. So then, why would be a game of chess different in this aspect from a video-game? You could come up with violent video games, but… What is the player actually doing? Is he killing someone? No, he is pressing buttons at the right time, so he can actually win. Are you killing the rook in chess? No, you just put it away for the next game, else you cannot win.

  119. Come on Boris, lets hear from you… ? … hello?…

    You’re either a coward or didn’t realise people can reply! One or the other, can’t decide which… probably both.
    Can’t hide behind a presenter and a well timed change of subject right now can you?

    Also, come to think of it, why did it cost such a colossal amount of money to set this blog up when it could have been done in about 10 seconds for free?

  120. Knight – Boris always has a heavy work schedule, and a family, but please be assured that he does read the blog. We must not be too selfish and demand his immediate response to our every question but Boris has provided a mechanism, with this blog, to ‘listen’ to your comments and if you look at the Forum (link above right) you will see an ‘Ask Boris’ facility there also. Alternatively you could write or email him direct using the contact information (link above far right). However he does respond, from time to time, on this blog so if the topic is here then your question is best here also.

    Tom – Boris may be many things but he is not a coward, as I think he has shown by the existence of this blog. I am intrigued by your knowledge of “such a colossal amount of money to set this blog up”? Ah, perhaps you tested it’s defences before Xmas, and failed.

    Happy New Year Simon, you star!

    Keep the comments coming folks – I particularly liked the Chess comparison. Perhaps we could persuade Boris to answer an online set of questions.

  121. Boris you think video games rot the mind???

    Sorry but I’ve heard some of the unsubstantiated things that you have said in the past and again I’ll have to disagree with you on this one……and by the way, some of the books I’ve read have more spelling mistakes in them than a 6 year olds English essay.

    Not educational?? Might be right but I guarantee you that video games help improve you hand-eye coordination and navigation.

    The hand eye improvement is due to the fact your hands are controlling what you are seeing on the screen. Navigation is helped by the fact that as you play a game you build a mental map of the game, this technique can be brought across to everyday life (let’s just say I’ve never got lost in my life).

    As for the Violence aspect of games….
    Let’s just say I learned more about violence from the Government than I did from Video games. (Ex Forces)

  122. Firstly where does he get his evidence? It seems probably that he is basing this simply on that he sees some children who like to play, and get absorbed, by videogames. And he sees that literacy rates are falling and he makes a massive assumption based on his own prejudices and ignorance of videogames. Still, what more can we expect from a ‘Conservative’.

    Simply because the UK has the highest console ownership per household in the UK does not mean that this is a credible link to falling literacy rates. I would expect the UK to have the highest proportion of tea-drinkers in the EU – but I wouldn’t blame this on the price of fish. There has always been a reaction to new technology and social trends – radio, film, TV, rock music, the internet etc which have in their time been whipping boys for the social issues of society. In my experience, those who don’t grow up with the particular thing they are complaining against, normally hold these reactionary views.

    Kids, along with their parents, have many distractions these days. Should parents remove televisions, computers, CD players, DVD players, ipods, and mobile phones along with videogame consoles? Maybe their rooms should be Spartan and only have selected approved classics neatly placed for them to read? I grew up with videogames and I also enjoyed reading books as kid. It is possible to do both. No doubt reading does encourage literacy along with imagination. Apparently some academics in the late 19th and early 20th century hoped reading of literacy would encourage the masses to have ‘sensibility’ and intelligence to replace the falling belief in religion. Fat chance there as can be demonstrated by the World Wars, which was started by nations with high literacy rates.

    At the end of the day we should know that something maybe purely educational and something maybe purely entertaining but most things are somewhere along the middle. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with enjoying a hobby, which is mainly entertaining if it doesn’t harm others. Unlike television and books, videogames are primarily a two-way interactive experience, which can be valuable in itself. Videogames, on the whole, are imaginative in that they take players to other worlds and situations where the choices they make count. This can include solving puzzles, dexterity and so forth.

    To improve literacy we should look instead at our schools and at parenting. In my experience at a comprehensive school in the 80s, literacy wasn’t pushed particularly and wasn’t made interesting enough. Politicians continually spout about the importance of the three Rs but why do they continually fail to ensure that this is put in place? I would say Thatcher, Major and Blair have done more to damage literacy rates in their failed policies than Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have ever done. Over the last thirty years there seems to preference for empathy, group learning and coursework teaching methods instead of traditional competitive methods such as learning by rote, book reading and exams. Secondly parents do need to read to their kids when they are young and help them with their homework and regulate their kids recreational and homework time. So yes, that does mean ‘regulating’ playing videogames (especially if their kid are playing for 8 hours a day!) but that includes the other modern distractions I have mentioned.

    To say the answer to improve literacy rates is to pull out the Nintendo is simply knee-jerk and ill conceived.

  123. I personally have played games since the age of 5 when my father brought home the first console we ever owned. I have not stopped playing games since. I am far from illiterate. I don’t think games rot the brain, I would almost go as far as saying schooling goes a long way to that now. When I took my exams we would be marked down for spelling and grammer errors. As I understand it now, that no longer happens.

    I have a neighbour who is only 9 years my junior. She has never played a computer game in her life yet her spelling and writing is terrible. I know she is not a minority.

  124. Your comments showcase your ignorance. Many video games ENCOURAGE literacy; one of my favorites, Oblivion, contains hundreds of actual books for the player to read in the game. These are real books, the kind with words, written by professional writers. I’ve witnessed many kids reading for their own pleasure for the first time in their lives because they wanted to explore the world of the video game.

    The glazed look you see on your kid’s face may be the look of someone reading. The wail is exactly the same wail you would give if someone snatched a novel out of your hand just as you got to the best part. The look the kids give you is exactly the same look you gave your parents years ago when they flipped off the music you like and demanded you do something they like. Are books “addictive”? Is music “addictive”?

    A lot of kids today do have terrible social skills, that’s true. But in the cases I’ve seen, the reason was overworked parents spending only an half-an-hour a day with the children – not video games.

  125. Just read your rant about video games
    [Ed: unacceptable comment]

    Majority of gamers are in their 30’s, the AVERAGE age of a game player is 32 and when you think of so many younger kids playing games, imagine the immense amount of adults over that age that plays them to bring that average up. Kids who play games are a minority these days, get your facts straight

    2nd is that Playstation is owned by Sony, that mass Electronics company that thinks everyone (including you) will buy the Playstation 3

    The video game industry is a highly profitable and established entertainment industry which its total value rivals that of Hollywood, it has become an alternative to TV shows and Movies, and it is not going away any time soon

    You slag to Nintendo, yet Nintendo are the ones which games that improve literacy and simple math skills with titles such as Brain Age and Big Brain Academy and they are actually extremely popular. Nintendo is trying to make games useful and improve basic skills. You should be praising them

    [Ed: unacceptable]

  126. Jaq – It’s very easy to make big statements that sound high and mighty (Hitler rellied on the technique). I call him a coward because he has commented on something he clearly knows nothing about, and then does not respond demonstrating perfectly that a) he thinks this is all a little bit silly and can’t be bothered to respond (highly believable considering he’s a Con), b) doesn’t know how to response because he knows his arguments will get trounced and made to look like exactly what they are: tripe, c) some adviser of his and recommended he stears clear of a response knowing if he gets involved it may never end.

    Thing is Boris, and this is what’s really sad – you can’t actually see where all this is leading can you?
    You can’t stretch your imagination just that little bit and so fail to grasp just how important it is that kids understand how to interact with technology.

    You can sit there and say stuff like this, but in your life time you WILL BE made to eat your words.

    Over the next decade the way in which we interact and manipulate data and software is going to drastically change and evolve in to something that people who understand and enjoy technology and what it has to offer will be able to adopt easily.

    There are games in development now are basically the research that will be drawn on when our method of interacting with PCs comes under scrutiny, and changes, which it inevitable will. Gone will be the mouse of old.
    Do you have the imagination to think what might replace your mouse?
    There are people out there who have already managed to intercept the signal from the Nintendo Wii’s controller and convert it into something a PC can understand, allowing them to use gestures to control their PC instead of a cursor.

    [Ed: inappropriate comment]

  127. If video games rot your brain, I must surely be the smartest human being who has ever lived. After all, I’ve been playing the things since I was 4 years old and yet I have still managed to attain an MA. I also have the ability to read English, German and Latin.

    If you want to know why kids are so illiterate, Boris, it is because the education system teaches a child nothing except how to parrot the answers required to pass the next phase of testing. Considering that this system, a system which has strangled all excitement and innovation out of the teaching process, was put into place by your own party, I think its a bit rich that you blame these problems on videogames (especially when, after all, any decent parent should be able to limit their child’s time on the computer).

  128. All purpose ILG thread for “What are you playing”, Wii posts, and other misc. chatter

    here’s Tory MP ranting about computer games rotting the brain on his blog. Any of you live in Henley on Thames?

  129. PaulID: – Do shut up 😀

    Borris: – what makes you (or anyone else) think that when children have their games taken from them, they will just switch straight over too books, instead they will probably jump straight onto the streets and terrorise the cities (damn teenagers(!)) – and they’ll have you sobbing on the floor trying to glue those consoles back together again.

  130. I do not believe anyone expects public schools to instill a love of reading in any. I believe it is expected that public schools make an attempt to teach children, nothing more. Perhaps you haven’t paid attention to your history, but public schools have never had the effect of suddenly making children love to read. Before there were video games children would watch television, movies, or listen to the radio instead of reading. And before that they were more likely to go outside and do something dangerous (The true source of all outdoor fun.) rather than sit down and read a book.

    Currently, book sales are still a lucrative business. Therefore at one point or another they are beginning to enjoy reading. If you actually want to increase reading what you need to do is introduce children to a wide variety of books. And not just that pre-screen, G-rating boring crap school systems love to foist on them either. No one would want to read books if they thought the, “Hardy Boys” were an accurate indicator of the entire literary repertoire of the English language.

  131. Boris,

    Sorry, but I think you’re aiming at the wrong target. Those who ‘sit for so long that their souls seem to have been sucked down the cathode ray tube’ are those sitting in front of the TV night after night, passively watching the entertainment(?) provided. Those playing computer games are at least using their brains & often trying to solve problems (in the better games) & interacting socially and learning teamwork in the multi-player games.

    I spent a lot of my youth playing computer games, which dwindled significantly when I went up to Cambridge, though I do still play occasionally now in my late thirties. When I got bored of the games I learnt how to reverse engineer them, learnt assembly language & hacked them to make them do different things. I found this a great foundation for my future career in IT & in fact would complain that many entering my profession now do not have a good enough understanding down to the hardware level of exactly how a computer works, which I picked up as a kid inspired by playing games.

  132. What I find funny is that this whole rant is just and over exaggerated way in saying “Books are becoming disenfranchised by video games and I’m a technophobe”. I’m 22 years old and since the age of 6 played video games, and now I have a very large library of games. First off, why do you believe that Kids think that reading is a “chore”? Let’s remind ourselves that in this age there’s a set of generations that are total radical between those generations, and the differences is how fiction can be delivered. Kids today aren’t reading book because they are games, it’s because kids of this generation (when I mean “this” generation, I mean kids born in the 90’s and 2000’s) have got access of different media of fiction such as film, TV, animation and videogames. If we were to go back to the 50’s and 60’s, all that kids could access back then were books, theatre, radio, and limited amounts of Film and TV; and of course video games didn’t exist back then, video games started in the late 70’s when Atari released their Pong machine. This is a very similar scenario that they have in Japan where they ask kids, Teenagers and young adults why they’re not eating as much “Traditional” Japanese food as they’re parents and grandparents would, and it’s because of the bigger Varity of food made available to them now as American, European and Middle Eastern Cultures have appeared in the far east.

    Pretty much video games are the new “art”, you might not think it is, but you got to consider that the content of games is the same as a book, a Beginning, a middle and an end. Of course this doesn’t apply with all games considering that as long as you’re really good at Tetris, you could end up playing it until the batteries in the GameBoy dies. But what I’m trying to mention is that games that use a plot will often develop into a story. Those who have played Final Fantasy VII will know what I mean to this, in fact if you wanted to, the plot is so big that you could turn it into a book; and I would be surprised if it hasn’t be done yet.

    As for “Shoot’em’ups”, there’s actually quite a few different varieties of shoot’em’ups. There’s First Person Shooters that seem to be very popular these day. I own a few of these games but not a lot; I’ll agree that some of these games don’t have as much story to them as FinalFantasy VII, but there are games that at least try to include a descent story such as Prey and Half Life 2. Then there’s the Side Scrolling shoot’em’ups, these games aren’t as popular as FPS games, but I’m a fan of them. These games don’t offer a lot of plot, and the majority of these games consist of “You’re a pilot and you got to save the world” scenarios. The only game of this kind to offer a deep plot are the Star Fox series and a gamed called Ikaruga, although Ikaruga may not tell it’s story in the game, there’s a library of books made available in Japan to describe the story during the game.

    Honestly though, I can banter on about what games have more “Story” in them and those that don’t, but I don’t think that’s the problem why Kids are becoming illiterate, I believe it’s because parents barely talk to their children and have a descent conversation with them, but this isn’t always the case, sometimes it’s because children and teenagers can feel insecure and can refuse to talk to their parents. Instead of spending loads of money on schools to bloat with books where the child would be swimming in them, come up with a campaign to get Parents to talk and do activities with their children, instead of just pulling out the plug and forcing a total ban of videogames find out a why to get parents to play videogames with their children. Ok that might sound like a farfetched plan, and as there’s always more technophobia up the generations, parents should make at least an hour to do something with their children, such as playing a board game, going out on a walk, or painting a picture each day. By doing this, the vocabulary of the parents will get to the children.

    However; (Yes I do go on a bit) this isn’t a fool proof answer to your problem. Considering that disabilities such as Dyslexia and Autism are easier to diagnose compared to the 50’s and 60’s. With this in mind it proves that all kids cannot prove to be the “Perfect, expressive people to earn a 1 on their future degrees”, I myself have learning disabilities: This by the way is not caused by video games because I was diagnosed with it before I started to play them. Why is it such a problem to say that “Hell we’re not all perfect”, there’s always bound to be kids with troubles and problems that prevent them from learning, and it’s not caused by videogames.

    In fact there are less children and teenagers aged between seven to fifteen who play videogames now compared with the early ot middle 90’s, and that it’s more of the eighteen to twenty five year old people who play video games the most; and believe I think why this is, back then in the mid 90’s had an amazing selection of games that have a certain calibre that games today do not have, even though we enter a new generation of video game consoles with improved graphics and specification, the early 90’s was the golden age of gaming, and those who played video games then, continue to play games now.

    In conclusion, videogames are not the total problem to Kids not reading, it’s to do with the larger variety of media with have today and the lack of communication parents give to their children.

  133. Boris, I find your post ill-informed and ignorant.
    On the one hand, children playing computer games are not out on the streets drinking and multiplying under-age, or being vandals.
    On the other, a lot of games promote literacy – many puzzles and plots require a fair amount of reading before the player can progress.
    Are you even aware of the quantity of text in modern and classic epic role-playing games? They’re comparable to trilogies of interactive books.

    The new Nintendo Wii technology even promotes fitness in youth.

    I think you need to be more specific to the type of games you’re targeting, as it’s clear you don’t know enough about the subject to make a post like this. Not every game available is based on sports or ‘GTA’. Visit a game shop to see the diversity.

    This bad publicity is probably not going to help the games industry, and I’m personally hoping this negativity towards it will result in you appearing as an interactive character to be fought in a game soon, for entertainment’s sake…

  134. still awaiting your response Boris….
    [Ed: we saw your posts but not sure what exactly and succinctly is your question]

  135. dear oh dear boris, most of the points i would have raised have been covered above, other than the average age of people who play videogames is 26. do try to comment on subjects of which you have some knowledge, thanks.

  136. Don’t blame the games! This whole mess is solely due to rock’n roll!

    If politicians hadn’t been practicing this satanic dance when they were younger, their brains wouldn’t be so badly damage and they would fight against the real issue (education) instead of so obviously blaming a scapegoat…

    Sincerely, an avid gamer AND reader

    And please, forgive my bad English ; it’s not my native language…

  137. No, Mr. Johnson, it is about time you should learn values of human righths, freedom of choice and tolerance, as this article is no more than an uneducated and uninsightful attack on those. The main purpose of video games is for people to entertain themselves, and people always had a need for entertainment to relax themselves (ever heard of Roman phrase “Panem et circenses”? – while Romans enjoyed gladiator fights, today we have more civilized forms on amusement, like sports, arts, even computer and console games). However, entertainment has always been a thorn in eyes of authocrats, as it doesn’t help them spread fear in people they rely so much upon. So whenever a new form of entertainment is introduced, such authocrats will do their best to invalidate, or even outlaw it – football, television, rock music – they all in their early days had a very hard time getting their place under The Sun.

    However, this isn’t only about entertainment but about intolerance, because politicans, pragmatic as they are, don’t want to promote differences in people as they don’t need votes from everyone, only from majority. That’s why I call Mr. Johnson’s text as intolerance – it’s no better than spreading racial or religous hatred, the only difference being it is targeted at different minority. Unfortunately, knowing a difference between good and evil is something people gain empirically, not something they’re born with and that’s why many people will support his words without being aware they’re spreading intolerance. If I wasn’t playing games, would that guarantee I would think differently than Mr. Johnson? No, but I have enough experience with them to know his perception is wrong.

    Also, why majority of game-haters always perceive them as something only children are interested in (other than to prove how they have absolutely no insight on the matter)? With computer technology being so evolved today, average gamer’s age is getting up and up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if games become more popular to old people who are in their retirements, as they usually have boring lives. I am aged over 30, I have a university degree, a regular job, but I’m also spending most of my free time by playing games. I don’t have any children, but if I had them, I certainly wouldn’t forbid them to play games, as long as they are aware some things, like school, are more important (although this could be relativized, as I’ve seen people gaining more success in life than me with less education, and some people earn for living by making, or even playing games – although the latter is much rarer) and as long they play games suitable for their age (games, just like movies, can have age rating, and even when their age restrictions does not imply it, they might be over-complicated for small children to understand).

    Also, not all games can be treated equal, just like a pornographic book cannot be treated same as the one written by Shakespeare – a game could be mindlessly simple, or it could require planning and thinking (for example, Mr. Johnson should’ve tried the game called “Planescape: Torment” for the greatest amount of text and dialogue in a computer game ever before blaming games for promoting illiteracy) – playing a game of chess or quiz on your computer still qualifies as a game and as such, falls under Mr. Johnson trivial accusations, even though the former promotes thinking and the latter promotes knowledge. But mindless or not, they always fill out one purpose: to entertain. Is watching 22 people on a large grass field running to catch a ball (a.k.a. football) less mindless than sending red soldiers against white soldiers on a computer? No, but it still fills than one purpose, so people enjoy it. There’s no reason to treat games any different.

  138. Dr. Mr. Johnson

    The very idea that anyone, let alone an elected representative of the people of great britain, would make such idiotic and baseless statements is just sickening to me.

    That you would blame the failings of the british education system on what is after all, just another form of entertainment, is crass, opportunistic, and irresponsible.

    What is worse, while doing so, you have referenced no actual research or data of any kind, and have instead simply drawn a completely random correlation between two things. Where is your evidence that the rise in illiteracy has any connection to video games, or is it supposed to be pefectly obvious to all educated peoples, as it is to you? What is obvious is your complete ignorance of the subject.

    I think I will go ahead and say the there is a clear link between the rise of new technology, and the growing incompentence of our elected officials. My conclusion has just as much basis as yours.

    For shame, sir.

  139. If I drop out of highschool, its not going to be because of video games; it will be because of the deeply flawed eduational system in which my teachers are relegated to mere graders.

    I also reccomend you check out the other side of video games before you judge them all as mindless violence. Many in the roleplaying genre, for instance, have plots as deep as any fantasy novel. And some are designed to stimulate “ratiocination”; Brain Age for the Ninteno DS, for instance.

  140. Hello Mr. Boris,

    I would just like to reiterate here what I have commented at another website where gamers of all ages keep up with relevant political topics.

    Here is what I wrote at GamePolitics:
    I just realized when I read his website that he’s blaming the wrong agent for the correct reasons. He seems to be complaining that boys hate to do book-related assignments in school (e.g. book analysis and reports). I haven’t read any studies to this effect, but it seems to be a natural notion that if two things go hand-in-hand that the brain affiliates them as a group. More specifically, schools attach work to book-reading, so children affiliate reading with work. That’s it.

    The solution is not to eradicate video games; that was never mentioned in my analysis. It might be something chosen preferentially over something affiliated with work, but it is not the cause of illiteracy. The correct solution is not even to stop the book reports and analysis. I have always hated those, but they are necessary nonetheless. The best answer is to find some way of making that particular work more enjoyable. I am not going to delve too deeply into that prospect right now, since any ideas I come up with would never become concrete. I’m sure that British school employees are not reading GamePolitics. However, the idea of giving kids some sort of reward for their work or perhaps making the work itself the reward should be considered.

    I don’t know whether you include USA in your assumptions, but I do believe that I am correct in a general case that children are merely choosing something fun over something that is not fun. The solution is not to remove the fun but to give the children a good catalyst for the desire to read. Pouring tons of money into making children do more work is not that catalyst.

    One last comment: I have learned a good amount from gaming. I recommend that you give a serious look at the following games and their educational value:

    Medieval: Total War
    (represents historical facts fairly accurately with just enough leeway to make a game. In one mode of play you must achieve what actually happened historically in order to win. Strategic thinkers will also generally do better in battles.)
    Hitman: Blood Money
    (while this game is about a hired killer and is very clearly designed for an adult audience, some real thinking is necessary to correctly carry out hits. The game could only be truely interesting to a gamer who wants to think through everything he does before he does it, and a careful analysis of your surroundings and others’ reactions at all times is highly encouraged. You must also think through each action very carefully.)

    I could name many more but I have already written enough. Once again, I encourage you to look at those games, possibly even play them yourself, and analyze the amount of planning and thought that needs to be put into them. Regardless of whether you like the story or the mature theme of Hitman, it does encourage careful thinking.

  141. Your generalizations about games and the kids who play them are quite disgusting.

    If we were to assume that a large percentile of successful college students didn’t play video games, assume that many of these games did not have artistic merit, assume that ALL games did not involve any reading whatsoever, assume that nations such as Japan and South Korea, nations which consider gaming a part of their mainstream pop culture, were not among the most literate in the world, assume that thousands of people that call video game journalism their profession did not exist, assume that games aren’t used by surgeons and physicians to train their hand eye coordination, assume that video games don’t help kids make friends and form bonds, and assume that games don’t keep kids away from alcohol and drugs . . . your article MAY have been worth reading.

    [Ed: deleted comment]

  142. Well… I must say. He does make a decent point. 7 to 15 year olds shouldn’t be playing that many games these days anyway. Most of the games for these next-gen consols are for ages 18 and up. I’ve been playing games scence I was 7 years old. My parents never really had rules as to when I could play, or when to stop playing. I am a pretty well educated person, and I feel that it might not be the games that effect people from being able to express themselves thru literature.

    Playing video games does keep your mind active. Reading in most video games is needed in order to find somthing out, or accomplish a task. Creative minds are what video games establish in my opinion. They even help some people with there jobs. I read a study on some remote controlled surgeons having to play a video game before an operation, making it easier for accuracy, speed and reliability. Now I know that this is one of the few skills related to video games, and if your not going into become a remote surgeon, it’s kind of pointless.

    Literature on paper… I think everyone has an idea as to why people are losing there ability to be able to use there literature skills on paper. It’s simply cause of computers, I hate writing on paper, I could do it, but my hand writing is really poor looking, wich is because I type the majority of the time. Ever scence I was introduced to the computer, I’ve been using this great tool to type. Now I know that pretty much every school contains a computer lab to complete there projects and essays, but I feel that they should inforce more literature to be completed on paper. Doing so will make test day less stressful toward the students.

    Some life experience I also feel has somthing to do with why kids and young teens are not doing so well with there literature. I feel that parents should need a license to be able to raise kids these days. I’m not calling anyone a bad parent, I’m simply saying that enough parents sit there kids down in front of a television set, and let the television raise them. Or in some cases the video gaming console. I find this really sad. There are so many fun ways that you could teach your kids to learn. If they like video games so much, get them to write a little before they get to play. Get them to explane why they like this game so much, and what would be the next best game that they would like to play, and explane why. They will only get better at expressing themselves, spelling and expanding there vocabluary will be inevitable. As long as you correct there spelling and grammar of course. They will get the chance to express how they feel about somthing they like. It doesn’t always need to be about video games, they could write about a trip that the family went on that week, or whatever you choose. If you get them doing this at a young age, then you shouldn’t have a problem with wanning and fussing.

    So there are my thoughts on how in my opinion, video games don’t really have much to do with literature. I’m 22 years old, and I’m a hard core gammer, and have been scence I was 7 years old. Getting at lease an hour a day of gamming in. I’ve had as much as 8 hours go into a day of gaming too, and here I am writing my thoughts, and doing an alright job at it. Rules and order I find have much more to do with kids not haveing poperly developed literature skills, not games.

    Post this anywhere you would like, cause I feel everyone should know this, thank you.

    Eric Lamothe.

  143. At 17, having played hardcore games since I was at least 4 years old, I can safely say you are ignorant. Your studies and statistics, unfounded, misconducted, questionable at best, you are merely acting like all the old men who fear what they fail to understand… you could more safely correlate this to lack of school funding which exists because of ignorant fools like you wasting money and time pursuing a harmless entertainment medium.

  144. It’s telling that while Britain’s children may have trouble being able to write an essay, at least some of their members of Parliament appear to be equally unable to interpret statistics.

    In case nobody told you, unrelated statistics prove nothing. No matter how many you may trot out.

    (As an aside, I’d suggest that you actually try playing one of these games. You may discover an odd thing: many, if not most, require literacy to play.)

  145. “still awaiting your response Boris….
    [Ed: we saw your posts but not sure what exactly and succinctly is your question]”

    but surely this is a debate and not Q&A?

  146. Exactly Tom – it’s a blog, not letters to the editor. But if you have a question you most fervently wish to be communicated to Boris then post it here, clearly labelled. The site moderators will be glad to help you. Alternatively, post a question on the appropriate thread on the Forum.

  147. Wait…

    “And if they still kick up a fuss, then get out the sledgehammer and strike a blow for literacy.”

    Are you sugessting that parents bludgen thier offspring with sledgehammers?

    Oh my.

  148. “They become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious.”

    Gee Boris, do you read books while doing handstands and solving complex physics equations on a nearby blackboard? I pretty much sit still, absorbed, only the turning of the page showing I’m still concious.

  149. You say you’ve watched an 11-year old play one random “fairly historical” game you fail to mention by name and he didn’t learn anything, and you say some games “may cunningly pretend to be educational”.

    What about these new-fangled book thingies? I watched my sister read Cosmo the other week. She didn’t seem to learn anything so I’ve concluded that letting my son read To Kill a Mocking Bird will turn him into a dribbling idiot.

    I challenge you to complete Rome: Total War and learn nothing about that period’s warfare and politics. Try playing through Armadillo Run while learning nothing about mechanical physics. As to literacy, I challenge you to play through an RPG like Torment: Planescape or Baldur’s Gate without reasonable reading skills. Good luck!

  150. My favourite subject is English. During primary school I was one of the few males in class who enjoyed the prospect of studying or writing short stories and poetry. In fact this love of creative writing was instrumental in my desire to become a Game Designer (Which has taken something of a back seat now, due to the difficult technical issues involved in Game Design, which is no obstacle for literature).

    I often scored very high in my English classes in both Primary School and High School, I was one of the few to take English for my full stay at High School (It is no longer compulsory after Year 11) and my writing would often receive Excellence under NCEA Achievement and at one time I achieved a mark of 100% for a short story in Year 9 (Which was actually a story about a Video Game alias of mine).

    My other passion is Video Games. I have been playing Video Games since before I was five years old.

    I’m not going to have you turn around and say they’re making me illiterate. No. Just no.

  151. so i were to into the forums, copy this entire article and all the reponses in to it, and then ask for Boris’s opinions on the responses he’s recieved, he’d answer? Is that what you’re saying?

    i doubt it somehow…

  152. I disagree with this article quite strongly. Although I’ll admit there is a disturbing drop in the number of children reading for pleasure, it is not the fault of videogames but of a society that praises the notion of instant gratification that videogames can provide. Compared to the ten plus hours it can take to read a decent piece of literature for example Machiavelli’s The Prince to the near instant enjoyment of a shooting game, it is easy to see the attraction.
    I do hope that this is not merely bandwagon jumping-remember the furore over video nasties in the 80’s? or the Moral panic over cinema in the early 1900’s?

  153. Please use something like statistics instead of anecdotal evidence that has no real names and sounds hypothetical if you want a valid argument. Your arguments are unsound and the last part of your rant it seems that striking a blow for literacy with your sledgehammer is advocating child abuse. How’s your literacy if you fail to make it easily understood you intend that they strike the console.

  154. Video games are just the same as any other form of media, while some games focus on random violence others edge towards narrative and puzzle solving. Interestingly in general the one point even anti gaming organisations agree on is that video games stimulate the brain regardless of their genre. The only difference is that anti gaming organisations follow the idea that violent video games stimulate the “wrong” part of the brain.

    I must note one personal experience regarding literacy, my own father was illiterate till a late age only attempting to learn to read in order to join the army. In the many years since then he has become an avid reader of books relating to his area of interest – military history and fiction. The reason i bring this up is that my father has never shown any interest in any form of video gaming of any genre.

    In contrast to this i myself was both an avid reader at a young age and a fan of video games, currently i am learning chemistry with the aim to become a teacher.

    while children become agitated if you remove their video games is not the same true of any childs possession. When i was younger for example i had several books that i considered to be my favourites. On learning that my parents had dissaproved of some of these for being “too childish” and thrown them away behind my back i proceeded to spend the rest of the day sulking.

    This kind of thing isnt uncommon it just happens that video games are the prized possesions of children these days not standard toys.

    This increase in the number of children who dislike books despite “literacy hour” is just another example of children’s well known disposition to reject any idea that is forced upon them, if more of an effort was made to find non insulting ways to engage children into reading instead of forcing it down their necks or insisting on making them read the kind of garbage that is usually written for children. It seems like a lot of people make the mistake of underestimating children’s intelligence and try to find other reasons why their initiative’s are failing instead of realising that children are quite discerning.

    As a counterpoint to that it is quite amazing how many parents complain about video game violence affecting their children after buying 18+ rated games for their ten year olds. Obviously a ten year old is going to be affected by a game that centers around sex and violence, thats why they are not made for ten year olds. Games like that are meant to be played by adults who already know the difference between shooting a virtual character on screen and joining street gangs.

    As i mentioned in the beginning of my post video games are just like any other media, while there are good books and bad books, horror films and romantic films, there are many types of video game. We already have age restrictions on movies which are enforced, we don’t do this for books but there are ratings on games which clearly are being ignored by the very people who complain about the problems caused by them.

    The popular video game comic and news site Penny-Arcade while filled with swearing and references to violence or worse things is run by two video game enthusiasts who have been caught in this argument for several years against a US senator with exactly your view. The man whose name i forget challenged video games developers to make a game about killing game developers claiming that if it ever happened that he would pay an obscenely large amount of money to a charity. Of course the game was made and the charity has yet to recieve a donation. meanwhile penny arcade has been spearheading the child’s play organisation calling for all people who play video games to donate to them in return for donated items of video game merchandise, all proceeds of these events (including the auctions as well as a charity dinner) go towards childrens hospitals. Once again showing that not all people who play video games are bad people for it.

    As a final point i ask you how many video games have you ever played? How many of those did you find engaging and what kinds of games were they? What age rating were they?

  155. Even those of us way over in America like to check out what kind of anti-gaming arguments are mentioned overseas.

    Here in the States we have a guy named Jack Thompson. Mr. Thompson has the same fire-and-brimstone attitude toward games that you seem to, Mr. Johnson, but he is among company that claims that video games caused the September 11th terrorist attacks. Keep in mind that he’s equating a flight simulator–y’know, that program they train jumbo jet pilots with for a JOB–to a video game, and while they are in many ways similar, video games are GAMES designed for entertainment. Even Brain Training (released in the US as Brain Age) entertains by giving you different methods of training your brain, from sudoku puzzles to memory-related games like counting how many people come in and out of a house.

    Video games are entertainment, plain and simple. While there are many games that have educational qualities and require much more of the gamer than you claim them to, Mr. Johnson, in the end games are just entertainment. They’re meant for you to have fun (and for companies to make money off you wanting to have fun).

    Doesn’t the idea of “having fun” come down to personal taste? One who isn’t physically active may not find going outside and playing football with friends to be fun, but they may find reading a book or–GASP–playing a video game to be fun. It’s how they pass their time.

    Then again, TV, movies, and rock-and-roll music are entertainment, and apparently all of these rot our brains and/or turn us into mass murderers.

    The problem with decreasing literacy is not just because kids aren’t interested in reading. It also has to do with the fact that PARENTS buy the games for their children and won’t regulate how much they play or what they play. Back when I worked at a Blockbuster Video, a woman wanted to rent Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for her child. I mentioned to the woman that it was a very violent game, and it might not be okay for her kid, but she assured me (rather dismissively) that it would be all right, it was “just a video game.”

    A couple hours later, she comes back and tears my head off about how I let her rent the “filth” she had earlier approved.

    If parents, and subsequently politicians who want parents’ votes, are going to complain about games, maybe they should actually listen to the people who are knowledgeable about the topics they’re attacking BEFORE actually attacking. Funny, that sounds a lot like the Iraq situation.

  156. I believe that blaming an entire industry for the case of whiny children is not only imature, but irresponisble. To say that these children are being corrupted by the video games that they play because they lack literature would be a dismal failure of a debate considering that any good video game reviewer takes story into great consideration. Saying that shooters make up the “meat” of the industry wouldn’t be far off, but that’s like saying most films and books have shooting in them. It’s most likely going to happen, because it is exciting.
    You say that children sit in front of a screen as if in a comma, but have you ever watched someone read before? Yes, they are quite active while reading aren’t they? To say that vocabulary doesn’t increase while playing a game is also a distant shot from the truth. Witty and often intelligent/nerdy diaolg is included in the plot and most certainly provides the player with some new English to look up.
    I also find it insane that you would blame video games for the lack of education that some type of learning system isn’t catering to. I think that these are opinions that you have created before you have sat down and enjoyed some of this “brain rot”.

  157. Video games allowed me to explore my imgination and relieve stress in a safe way that didn’t harm anyone. They also taught me several new things and ideas. Things like how violence isn’t always the answer, expect the unexpected, taught me to use logic to answer puzzles and more. They are not addictive and are a healthy way for children to explore the world of technology.

  158. [Ed; deleted]… focus on what the real problem of the world is, then some lil kids playing there lil games, what about the 100’s of millions of people watch tv everywhere everyday.

  159. [Ed: deleted]… How can you just come out and say,”Video games rot the brain”.
    Please, let’s be realistic. There are so many wrong things going on in the world today, that you can look into. Instead of wasting your time.
    [Ed: deleted]

  160. The opinions and views posted in this blog seem to make a very loud and clear ‘cry’ of misunderstanding. For it has always been known that one fears what one doesn’t understand.

    We are now in a generation where entertainment and media can be used just as educationally as text and written words, yet refusing to accept a fundamental technology shift is very disturbing for a legion of polititians that make every effort to appear ‘in touch’ with modern youth.

    Away from games used as education, the majority of games are used for entertainment purposes. Many gamers spend an hour or two each night unwinding by playing a game, the same way that the older generation may sit and listen to music, or enjoy a glass of wine – in the same way we find out relaxation by playing computer games.

    Let us not forget that with the modern age of computer gaming being based more and more around the use of online gaming, that most modern games and systems revolve around communication between players – physically talking to them and communicating strategies, advice, or simply to enjoy a chat with their friends whilst they unwind. It is a very social aspect now, which I believe Mr. Johnson is profoundly unaware of.

    It is a sign of the times that sitting to enjoy an alcoholic beverage as a passtime is accepted, yet a young person sitting to talk to his or her friends whilst playing a computer game is deemed unacceptable. Also, with today’s youth suffering Anti Social Behaviour Orders, and being moved on from gatherings in the evenings, what does Mr Johnson recommend? Obviously sitting and reading a book is his preference, but what I am asking is ‘how is it different?’.

    With television, the viewer has very little brain activity – the programmes are not interactive and the viewer simply sits and watches. However, video games actively stimulate the mind in different ways – whether logical, strategically, or reactionary. The player interacts with the game, meaning that they are concentrating, actively making on-the-spot decisions, and improving co-ordination and reactions as well as imagination – in this sense, it is more brain enaging to play a computer game than to read a book! A book provides an imaginary experience but does not engage any other part of the brain – I know it’s a trite comparison, but then again Mr Johnson’s comparison is not exactly a shining light of relevance.

    I am now 21 years old, and currently employed with one of the largest Steel Companies in the World, as their business analyst. I completed my degree in BSc Computer Science with a high 2:1 grade, and have been predicted nothing but a fantastic future career. I have also been playing video games, day in-day out, for the last 15 years.

    [Ed: deletion]

  161. Yes, it’s the old ‘misunderstood’ case again. This is coming from a 17 year old who grew up with a Commodore 64 since he was 3 by the way:

    I agree with Chris Walker above, Legend of Zelda and such games wouldn’t make much sense if you weren’t able to read the tutorial or get stuck in a puzzle 15 minutes in or whatever (i’m not a fan of Legend of Zelda, just stating facts based on a friend’s opinion).

    But, growing up with the C64 had its plusses, yes there were educational games then, but there was no Modern Technology then, so no voice-overs for characters. Speech bubbles and text-adventures were the norm and everything was just peachy.

    Sure PlayStation, X-Box and GameCube and their successors are starting to dumb games down, but I still blame it upon parents who have no time for us kids so they leave us in front of the TV, the virtual babysitter as such. First-person shooters are okay iguess, ‘m not a huge fan of them, but I ended p playing Tom Clancy’s “Rainbow Six” so much I went into the bookshop a month or two ago and went out and bought 2 or 3 of his novels (upon which the games are based upon) and they’re quite good and i’ve read cover to cover.

    It’s not our fault that the human brain is devolving, it’s the fault of the adults, if they played along with us they’d know how good some of this stuff is.

    And in light of everyone jumping on the Grand Theft Auto bandwagon I’ve got to say one thing and one thing only, a quote by Mr. T [citation needed, i saw it in a magazine somewhere]:
    “If these young fools are too busy terrorising streets on a screen then they’ll have no time to do it for real”

    So here’s my Last Word: Don’t knock videogames until you’ve tried them. You, and Jack Thompson should sit down and have a good old session on Tony Hawk’s Project 8. If games like that can get kids like me to go buy a board and get out of the house and get active, how can that be bad?

    Note to Mr. Johnson: Use your loaf before you start making commentsabout things that you know nothing about. Because when my generation grows up and we are the parents that likes games, they’ll be uncool then and there’ll be some other trendy gizmo that’ll last 15+ years, then you’ll have won your nonsensical war. Happy now?

  162. Excuse the typos above, that is NOT the work of the apparent brainwashing of modern technology, that is the work of a tempermental keyboard that sometimes doesn’t recognize a key being pressed.

  163. You know what I love about this? Is that it has no liable evidence. Yes children do spend time playing video games, which does take away from time reading. But then again so does sport, art and general socialising. does than mean we should all be inside reading books just to know the meaning of antidisestablishmentarism.

    I think that video games is connected with the problem, but don’t think it is the root cause of it. My personal opinion is that working in parliament rots the brain, of varying opinion (instead of jumping on the anti-gaming band-waggon) and ability to use fact, rather than just blaming something just because you don’t understand it!

  164. Mr. Johnson, I’m not familiar enough with Britain to comment on the brain rotting effect of video games on British boys. But here in the United States, your brand of ignorance-meets-hubris might just land you a job as our president!

  165. Anyone with even the most tenuous grasp of the state of the videogame industry today can tell immediately that BoJo is talking, essentially, tosh. He’s made sweeping generalisations, suggested links where none exist, and is self-admittedly talking from a position of complete ignorance on the topic he intends to address. What’s worrying is not that someone believes what he does – someone has to, I suppose – but that a member of Parliament, supposedly a highly educated, informed and literate man, is capable of producing a polemic as misguided as his. Is he incapable of seeing the parallels between his inflamed spoutings and the similar articles published in past decades decrying TV, videos, and essentially any new pastime which is predicated on technological advances? The common thread from these is that those in positions of power were forced to watch the expansion of the new medium but without any familiarity with it, or any real understanding of what the appeal of these things might be. Fundamentally, the effect of the bile sprayed at TV and video nasties in the early years has been utterly negligible – market penetration is almost universal, and these have become the most mainstream and popular forms of entertainment. There is no reason videogames will be any different, and BoJo’s unfortunate rantings must go down as the last desperate struggles of a drowning man, unable or unwilling to swim with the tide.

  166. From observation and experience I am quite certain that obsessive computer game playing is bad for the brain; and that reading is good for it. I take particular issue with the commentator above who claimed that Legend of Zelda teaches problem solving skills better than Classics. I have not done a Classics degree, but I did Classical Civilization at A-level, and if one applies oneself properly to the subject it does a lot more for your brain than you’d think.

    I always advocated classical education when I was young because I was a traditionalist at heart; only having done Latin and Classics up to A-level have I really understood their value.

    I grant that computers do teach certain skills – but the addiction itself is often damaging to academic success, reducing time spent on work.

    All the references to wikipedia and the BBC site are quite off topic – that’s nothing to do with PC games. I myself read Hansard online. What of it?

    I occasionally give in to an impulse to play Age of Empire: Conquerors Expansion, usually to design scenarios on; likewise Medieval:Total War: Viking Invasion, with the Total Realism patch and a number of edits to increase historical accuracy still further.

    But what Total War is doing for me is simulating a board game, in a sophisticated way, which I would be happier playing with a real-life person.

    Games are good for you, they do increase the powers of your brain, but board games/wargames/etc can do the same as pc games, without most of the negative side effects. More sociable and with more freedom for ones own imagination. I used to play warhammer; before that I made up various games with model knights and so on. I used to make up games with my younger siblings in the garden: and what taught me the football related maths referred to by one earlier poster was poring over genuine premier league tables, which proved to be effective enough.

    A point I would like to make is that it all depends on what sort of person you actually want to create at the end of it all. “Intelligence” is pretty broad.

    Also, as with many things, computer games are not necessarily so terrible “in moderation”.

    One problem with spending ages on the PC is that it reduces your ability to concentrate. It also damages inhibitions; it is also very easy to sit on the computer and never leave it, and let your body fall to pieces. It disturbs sleep patterns, and communication with other people is all very well, but it’s not good for you if they speak in abbreviations and emoticons and textspeak.

    I don’t have any evidence here: I’m going from personal experience, which has been mixed, and observation of my friends, who were very a fantasy/wargames/computer games group/rugby/football/history/writing/art group in terms of interests shared by more than one person, all of whom I knew/know very well.

    I used to run a warhammer rules development website, called The Hammer and Anvil. I don’t know how it’s doing now, because a few months ago I finally cut myself off from it. This has done me an enormous amount of good. Even though, whilst I had it, I ran a site on fairly sound business principles, organized people, wrote stories, improved my critical faculties, and so on: and we had a lot of very educated sorts of people – I learnt all sorts of things about Arabian poetry for example. But I could’ve learnt that same stuff from a book. I could’ve practiced those skills with real people. And without the negative side effects.

    So – I’ll stop rambling now – my point is that Boris is, as usual, exagerrating to say that PC games and computer use, etc etc, can have no benefits, but there are other much less harmful/potentially harmful means of enhancing said skills. Moreover, console games are worse than PC games from observation/experience, and, addiction to them is bad for you – and I would also say that being absorbed in them at too early an age is probably bad for you.

  167. After reading your article describing the negatives of video games and they’re effects on the youth of today, I have compiled the following argument.

    Where I live, in Shipley, West Yorkshire it is normal for a girl to have a baby aged between 14 and 16, it is ok for young boys to drink underage and when a teenage boy is addicted to heroin, nobody bats an eyelid. In fact right now in the block of flats I live in there is a drug addicted 17 year old, who also has a child and is a single parent, due to her 19 year old boyfriend being in prison.

    Why then must you point the blame for today’s decline in youth society upon video games? How can a harmless piece of hardware which brings a small portion of happiness to millions of people be a bad thing?

    Would you rather I was a drug addict?

    I live in a rough area; I am a student at college living on a pittance (£30 a week), I get no financial support from anyone yet I have never had the urge to do drugs, alcohol or be ‘anti-social’. You see video games and my home computer provide me with an escape from this rat infested hellhole, my alcoholic mother, and my drug addicted older brother.

    It is through these video games I aim to escape this all, by passing college and earning a decent and respectable living. I am studying game development

    So we come to the point. The blame doesn’t lie with video games, it lies with the government. They encourage teenagers to live for free on jobseekers allowance. They pay students less than the unemployed thus discouraging the idea of becoming enrolled in education. They offer recovering drug addicts equally addictive drugs which apparently help them recover.

    And finally, I put a question to you.

    Of all the things mentioned above, would you rather YOUR child be addicted to video games, or drugs?

    I face this choice every day…

  168. thanks for deleting my ENTIRE COMMENT! my opinion counts too ya know, even if i accidentaly DID have caps lock on the full time. The least you could do is slightly modify it. It’s not hard to do with MS Word and a big “Change Case” button ya know…

  169. Do you believe half the things that are coming out of your mouth? Video Games are not bad. They give jobs to many people, a problem right now, and they increase coordination and help vocabulary. In something like a Role-Playing game, an RPG, sometimes in a quest or mission or whatever have words that you may have never seen before. They are anything but ileteracy.[Ed: rele?] I play video games all the time, i actually learn a thing or two once i get on. I like to play World War II games. They teach what it was like back then in history, equally to a book. I just took a high school Placement test, I had a better score than 92 percent of the people that were there. That test earned me a scholorship. Some of the history I learned from video games. Video games broaden your imagination and spark creativity. So if you think video games are bad, you are sadly mistaken. Even violent games can have some positive aspects. Vocabulary, history, current events, anything. So please email me back i want to hear your response.
    [Ed: first correct your misspellings mate]

  170. A gamer – out of interest, would you tell us how old you are and how the motivation of a history lesson compares with that of a video game? Do you find them both equally stimulating and informative?

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