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Born to be Wild (About Video Games?)
by Mickey Z.
October 31, 2004

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On October 28, 2004, the New York Times decided it was fit to print an article called “Weaned on Video Games” by Michel Marriott. In the piece—essentially a press release for the video game industry—we learned of a report last fall by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research organization, which “found that half of all 4- to 6-year-old children have played video games—on hand-held devices, computers or consoles—and one in four played several times a week. Of children 3 or younger, 14 percent have played video games.”

“Companies have found that there was an untapped market with the really young kid,” said Vicky Rideout, a vice president of the foundation.

“Some game analysts and developers also point out that children are getting older faster, meaning that very young children are developing more mature tastes for electronics, including laptop computers, personal organizers, portable DVD players and game systems,” writes Marriott, who continues:

“Daniel Hewitt, public relations manager for the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that represents computer and video game publishers in the United States, said that playing video games ‘comes really naturally’ to very young children. ‘It is something we see consistently as this generation grows: they have this innate comfort with interactive software,’ he said.”

Innate? I sincerely doubt it.

Hey, if you don’t believe me, watch any non-video-game-playing child in action. Uncluttered by societal pressures and adult hang-ups, a child eats when it is hungry, sleeps when it is tired, cries when it is sad, and sees the wonder in all things. A beginner’s it were. The child acts mostly on instinct and moves from moment to moment without the self-imposed problems that adults embrace and cling to like old, familiar friends.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

-- Pablo Picasso

My favorite illustration of the differences between children and adults is how they “play.” The genuine concept of play involves an imaginative, creative, bond forming approach—the approach taken instinctively by children of all species. Unfortunately, this most excellent form of innocence is purloined from us as we get older and is cynically rearranged and transformed into competitive sports and gambling.

Let’s consider these new, divisive (so-called) games:

* They have strict rules

* They take place at predetermined locations

* They take place at predetermined times

* They lack any true spontaneity

Then, the already traumatized child is suddenly told that he cannot play during work or school hours. He must play on his own time. His own time?

Check out the differences when it comes to a child’s concept of play (without corporate influence, of course):

* Not regulated

* Not goal-oriented

* Ever-evolving

Bears absolutely no resemblance to what twenty-first century adults have opted to call “play"

However, as the Times dutifully and gleefully reports, all this is changing. Today’s parents are willingly raising their children to be consumers by giving them computer games in which no imagination is necessary.

That’s right, children watch these modern games perform and learn how to “press the right button” from a pre-selected range of choices (just like shopping or voting). They never have to rely on creativity to win and they are trained to settle for the few meager choices they are given and to be satisfied with the modicum of freedom this entails.

In fact, to play without purpose is widely discouraged and is seen as “unproductive” (the most heinous of insults in our profit-driven society). Increasingly fewer kids are encouraged to cultivate their imagination and simply pursue pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Nope, they settle for what is permitted instead of reaching for what is possible...just as most voters will do next week.

Mickey Z. is the author of two brand new books: The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda (Common Courage Press) and A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense (Library Empyreal/Wildside Press). For more information, please visit:

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