Through Rose Tinted Lens

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is a piece where the good aspects of video games are explored


A Peek Through Rose Tinted Lens


 

Imagine if you could witness, first hand, the breaking of the Berlin Wall. You can see the joy in the faces of the people on both sides as they enthusiastically take sledgehammers to this ugly testament to Germany's surrender at the end of World War II. You can sense in the air the hope of these industrious Germans, hopes that had been repressed for the better part of fifty years, now finally being given voice-a new Germany was born that day, an old empire that had found its feet again, and a World Leader today. Or, imagine standing on the as-yet unlevelled limestone hillocks of the Giza plateau of Egypt, roughly 5000 years ago. You watch, day after day, as these labourers flattened this hillock the size of eight soccer fields and on this site erected one of the most beautiful monuments ever built-the pyramids of Giza. You can see the boats from upriver the Nile unloading granite blocks, the blocks carved into shape and dragged on wooden logs up a ramp and fitted into place. One block after another, 2 million in total, ending with a golden capstone at its peak. An architectural masterpiece that has withstood the ravages of time (its outer casing notwithstanding).

As a bit of a history buff these are just some of the things I wish I could see. But of course I can’t, since Stephen Hawking has emphatically outlawed time travel machines. Yet, I do have a substitute. Video games.

Hear me out. The vast majority of you think it's a waste of time, a distraction that can potentially suck in unbelievable amounts of otherwise productive hours. Yes, it is a possibility, yet so too can movies or social networking. Ah, but social media and the right kinds of movies can actually be educating, you respond with a condescending air. Video games contain nothing but mindless killing, they might addle your brains and make you violent, deranged and will whittle your attention span to no more than thirty seconds, you protest.

That's where you're wrong.

Right now I'm Commander in Chief of the Seleucid Empire, one of the smaller kingdoms that fractured off Horseman Alexander's monstrous empire stretching from Macedon to Afghanistan. My task is to knit together this dead king’s conquests.

I see you smirking. This is an activity for children, you explain. You are much too old for this elaborate make-believe world. What a waste of time, all this sitting around and clicking. Your time might be better spent browsing online about the actual fates of these Successor Kingdoms of Egypt, Seleucid and Macedon, you muse. Go read them and leave these games to babies.

No. You see, gaming is as good as, and many a time better than, reading about or watching videos on these topics. I'll try to briefly explain how.

Wikipedia or history books might detail the dates particular kings ascended the throne. They might tell me about some of the social, political, economic or military policies of these kings. They will inform me about the time a plague or famine struck, and might even outline the probable causes for these famines. Yet, the video games go one step better.

In-game, I am king. I can raise taxes but this action, while yielding tons of gold, can also start. I can conscript my farmers, train them as soldiers, go to war and defeat the coalitions to the east of the Seleucids, thereby gaining control of a larger part of the Silk Road. Taxation of these lands will make me rich beyond imagination. Assuming I do this and win the war, the peasants I had just made into soldiers were sorely needed last harvest season to wield ploughs. My people are near starvation and my supply lines are overextended. An unexpected raid from the barbarians to my north will see me lose all my gains, and might even spell the end of the Seleucid empire in its weakened state.

Through video games I will understand how important farming and fishing was, I will appreciate the scarcity of horses for use in both agriculture and war, so I will consider building stables to aid their husbandry. I will understand that funding public libraries can periodically give me a small technological advantage because now that knowledge is more easily obtained, it facilitates invention and improvisation. Even something as ordinary as a horse collar can snowball into massive grain yield improvements, meaning, bigger cities and happier people. Public dissemination of knowledge combined with past records of diseases can combat the rise of an epidemic in a metropolis by, at the very least, containing the epidemic to a small portion of the city. These are the kinds of games that take a location and environment, long buried in the sands of time, and bring it back to life. You'll see why charging cavalry into a thicket of spearmen is a tad unwise. Soften the enemy up with arrows, or lead your cavalry around them to outflank the enemy formations. Have soldiers march in disarray and get your enemies to believe you are about to rout. Lure them thus to marshland or an area with tall wild-grass. Watch as the men you hid in the grasses suddenly let loose a bloodcurdling war-cry and smash into the enemy's flanks. The hunters turn into the hunted, yet to their credit they try to stand and fight, but this sudden clamour can shatter even the strongest nerve and smother the staunchest champion's valour, and one cohort after another of the enemy's breaks and flees, till suddenly their entire army turns tail. All this you watch seated on your favourite horse atop a nearby hill; a victory that would make Sun Tzu proud.

You get where I am going with this. I would never have thought of all these just watching videos on YouTube. And the story doesn't end with history.

Realize your childhood dream of becoming a pilot-there are flight simulation games that let you take planes to the skies, in such a realistic fashion that even pilots and flight instructors recommend these games to learners. Or Take charge of an NGO whose primary concern is a particular species of bird native to the Sunderban forests, teetering on the verge of extinction. Find allies in other lobbyists and environmental activists urging the government to stop felling trees and start protecting the river delta. Fight to make your voice heard as you struggle to spread awareness among the public on topics of deforestation and unique ecosystems and even national identity while asserting the importance of the Sunderbans, a national treasure. Deal with the accompanying frustration as your message just doesn't reach home. Then, a growing tide of people start voicing the same views as yours, and you sense a shift in fortunes. Watch with growing content as the public outcry forces cessation of logging and swamp reclamation, and slowly the lone species of bird whose cause you championed have their numbers grow year after year. You tried to save this bird and ended up helping preserve millions of acres of priceless wilderness.

 

History, geography, team play, coordination and communication, politics, finances, anything under the sun can be translated into video games. Not all of them are worth your time. But a select few ones can sometimes teach you enough about a topic to write a thesis upon, given a few hours of diligent research. Like the impact of longbows in the Hundred Years War between the English and French. No, you might not be able to dream up innovations that can bring nuclear fusion reactors to within an arm's length, but you certainly will come away understanding the difficulties of nuclear power and the opportunities too. You can't ever be elected President of the United States, but videogames can help understand what a giant thorn North Korea can be, or how trade with China is a vital cog in your economy. This and more can well-made video games teach you by putting you in the shoes of people around whom these events, minor or world changing, happen.

 

Video games have the potential to bring forward a generation of people whose curiosity is as unbounded as a child's. They thirst for knowledge and actively seek ways to convert their knowledge into power. This crop of youngsters work together to eradicate and overthrow social evils and do away with petty power struggles in order to piece together the bigger picture. These people remember the lessons history taught us, and have experienced (virtually) the disaster that will be melting ice caps. Remembering, they go forth and change the world. They paint a bright future as they occupy positions of power and start a revolution, slow at first, peaking into a speeding sports car that peels past traditional politicians. Their open-mindedness and curiosity, their sense of comradeship and togetherness ushers in a golden era for humanity-world peace, eradication of hunger and illiteracy and famine and war, bringing humanity closer to the ideals of United Nations.

Atleast, I hope this generation emerges one day. I can't see any single cause for this golden crop of youngsters emerging other than us training our youngsters to play videogames. Online, as teams, if possible.


Submitted: April 08, 2018

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Comments

Barry Foster

Very good article.
Yes, I understand where you're going with it. Some video games can be good. I personally use certain video games for keeping my peripheral vision and situational awareness levels at a proper state.

Mon, May 7th, 2018 4:09pm

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