Games & The Gamer

Through reading Steven Johnson’s article, Games, I found his comparison of video games and books to be truly interesting. I have played video games and I have read books, but I have never thought to think to compare these two pastimes. While I agree Johnson’s argument where books are, in essence, better than video games, I do vehemently believe the video games can too teach valuable lessons much like books. More specifically, I believe that videos can be used in a similar manner to books—as an education tool. Reading books causes one to develop a richer vocabulary and comprehend plot lines, where is forced to critically engage with text. Yet, one cannot deny the fact that video games too teach individuals a valuable lesson.  More specifically, through video games I believe one learns tremendous problem solving skills. Reading alone is not the only task that bears one to focus and engage with the material at hand; video games warrant the same type of focus and engagement.

Gaming does indeed has breed tremendous benefits and should not be belittled as a past time. Much like any other hobby out there, I believe  it is about the individual and not the activity itself. Take wrestling for example. It is a rather aggressive sport, yet our society does not critique it leads to outwardly violent behaviors. So, why do individuals criticize video gaming so extensively? Personally, I belief American society has developed a negative stigma towards video games and believe the criticism it receives is largely unwarranted. While certain gamers may become violent individuals, I believe that is because they are predisposed to violent behavior. 

Obstacles in the Medical Practice

Last week I attended my fellow Octaves presentation on cultural and linguistic barriers in Latina obstetrics. I went into the presentation knowing nothing of the subject, yet Jackson’s presentation was enlightening. It was about a twenty page slideshow that combined research that he had completed and answer to questions he had formulated prior to beginning his project. What I found most interesting in all of this presentation was the discussion of doctor-patient trust. According to Jackson’s findings, patients who were able to speak English did not increase the chances of them comprehending what they’re provider could cover. I am very far from knowledgeable in any medical sense but it was comforting to see that doctors who could speak Spanish were able to garner a solid amount of trust over doctors who had to use a translator. This last statement increases my opinion that the doctor-patient relationship can be literally life saving.

Fun and Games

Reading Johnson’s essay, “Games” really opened my eyes to the argument about whether or not it is good for children to play games versus reading. His reverse argument saying that reading is worse than playing games and actually causes damage was very interesting for its use of reverse logic and made me think in a whole new way. I realized that there are many phenomenons in the world today with which we could use this sort of reasoning to think about why and how we consider something to be good or bad.

Secondly, while reading, one interesting idea came to mind. I realized that as a girl, I never felt I had much exposure to video games and that this argument might be slightly slanted towards boys and only male children. Not to say that only boys play video games, but I realized that I do not play video games and I don’t know any girls who do (or who did growing up), while I know many boys who play video games and who are interested in the gaming world. From reading this article I was reminded of how there can be a large gender gap in our world and how often arguments about what is good or bad for children contains a gender bias that would change the argument if it was applicable for both boys and girls.

I feel that there is a stereotype that only boys play video games because of an earlier–or preexisting– stereotype that boys are more interested in violence than girls. Many of the video games that children and young adults are exposed to deal with some sort of violence or rough play. I realized that a stereotype of young girls is that they would rather play with dolls and princesses, thus even if they did play video games, the argument that video games instill a sense of violence and anger would not be valid for girls. Overall, however, I found this article to be very interesting in its presentation of ideas about video games and reading.

Ubuntu and Rwandan Genocide

In class on Thursday, Symphorien Ntibagirirwa asked the class if we thought any societies choose to fail?  Although I did not get to answer in class, I believe that no society deliberately chooses to fail for obvious reasons.  However, I do think that a society can deliberately choose to ignores the tradition and cultural ties that hold it together and this can quickly snowball to bring about the destruction or collapse of a society.  In the case of Rwanda, it appears to me that the Hutu clearly abandoned the strong cultural presence of Ubuntu chose to isolate and attack the Tutsi.

“Ubuntu is often translated as ‘humanity towards others’, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’” (Wikipedia).  This strong, universal, communitarian cultural philosophy anchored the people of Rwanda long before the introduction of colonialism and the uprise of the Rwandan genocide.  Although I can not speak on the behalf of the Hutu people, it seems apparent that this defining ideology of the Bantu was nonexistent during the mass extermination of the Tutsi people and I believe that this abandonment was a choice. In short, I do not think that Rwanda as a whole “chose” to collapse into genocide.  However, I do believe that a large majority of its Hutu population chose to ignore the roots of Ubuntu and universal communitarianism and this snowballed into the genocide.

To game or to read? Why not both?

I have spent countless hours both playing Xbox and reading novels and never felt like enjoying one of those forms of entertainment intruded on the other.  I agree completely with Johnson’s argument that gaming and reading should not be confused as similar forms of media or competing against one another.  When I sit down to play a video game, I let the game do the work for me in terms of constructing an imaginary world, but I make the choices for how I want to interact with that world.  When I read a book, I am at full liberty to imagine whatever I please as to how the characters/setting look like, but the decisions are governed by the author.

I consider one of my favorite video games, the original Bioshock, to be somewhat of a playable novel in itself.  On the surface level, the game can be played linearly but the player is also left to discover the nuances of the world and its backstory on their own.  I found this to be equally as enriching as any novel I have ever read yet I do not relate the experience at all to reading a novel.  It comes down to this: when I want to make choices and express individuality through a form of entertainment, I will always choose a video game over a book.  Conversely, when I want to flex my imagination and let every aspect of a story unfold before me, I will always choose a book over a video game.  The two are entirely different experiences that deserve credit in their own realms.

Gaming Argument

I found  Steven Johnson’s argument on the usefulness of video games to be an interesting perspective and worthy of further/future societal discussion.  Johnson makes a good point: reading holds a traditional, untouchable  value in the general societal mindset. The written word’s longstanding place, purpose, and importance throughout human history make video games appear to be the antithesis.  Yet when we force ourselves to step outside of this mindset, Johnson argues, one might find that video games can be purposeful and beneficial to people as well.

I admired that Johnson clarified he was not diminishing the importance or value of reading.  There is some validity to benefits of video games (hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.).  Most likely there are unknown benefits that future studies will reveal.   That said, there are also certain  disadvantages to video games, and while I am not suggesting that disadvantages outweigh the advantages, I do think it would have made Johnson’s argument more complete had he acknowledged some of those more fully.  Furthermore, while Johnson pointed out people often make claims about video games without experiencing them first hand to see their benefits, he did not go into much detail about what some of these specific benefits might be.

Nonetheless, Johnson’s writing sparks a relevant and intriguing dialogue.  Perhaps people should make more of a conscious effort to approach new technology with an open mind, and look to explore both positive and negative aspects.


I thought this article by Johnson was actually fairly interesting. It really made me think that the time where I used to read for pleasure has really started to slip away. Most articles that describe video games today go back and forth between how games are the result of kids and teens being violent, socially inept, or struggle academically. However, Johnson takes a different approach and actually argues that video games actually do help those who are considered games because games are a story in and of themselves. I did like how Johnson set up the argument that what if games came before books and then all of the sudden there was this sudden epidemic where people freaked out that kids were reading more than gaming. It sounds absurd hearing it the other way around, but it makes for a good argument that something new always strikes up the reason for debate.

I myself am not a gamer and I actually prefer reading, but I also don’t agree with the idea that gaming is a waste of time or actually has a negative influence. Last semester I took a class on Media and War and we actually discussed the importance of the virtual world when it comes to video games such as Call of Duty. It gives people a chance to experience real life scenarios or themes and while I still prefer reading, it doesn’t give you the same experience that games can give you. I think the argument can be made that Johnson is biased in this argument, but I do agree with him in that reading requires more effort, concentration, and stimulates the brain more; however as a writer himself he proposes that games can actually be beneficial to those who play in this day in age.



It was so refreshing to read an article that wrote from the positive perspective of video games. Steven Johnson went into great detail about how playing video games increases your cognitive ability, but what reached out to me specifically was the idea of a virtual world. After hearing so much negativity on the release of GTA V, I was tired of arguing in the camp that video games do not cause random acts of violence in children across the World. After reading Johnson’s article, I see that there is scholarly material against the common misconception of violence in video games. His comparison of getting lost in a virtual world to getting lost in a great book is something that speaks to me directly. A good video game creates a world for the gamer to get lost in. Similarly, a great book brings the reader into another time and place. Thanks to Johnson, I am not alone in my argument for the necessity of video games.

Better than Reading?

Johnson’s article nicely illustrates how vidoe’ gaming does not need to “compete with” or replace reading and it is not trying to. By combating this misconception, Johnson focuses on how video games are beneficial in different ways and improve different sets of skills. This separate approach to the two pastimes allows for Johnson to examine each objectively and assert that individuals gain skills through both.

Reading aficionados do have a reason to be concered, as Johnson describes. Though it is difficult to imagine a modern society in which reading books is obselete, this decline does represent a societal shift. As newspapers are opting for online versions rather than print, and people write on blogs instead in journals, does the decline of recreational reading really represent a negaitve change? Perhaps the skills that individuals gain through reading, the information gathered and the mental exercises practiced, are just presented in a different way. As someone who loves to read, I am not trying to say that reading is not invaluable, however, to look at a decline of recreational reading as a negative without looking at other corresponding positive changes in society creates an incomplete picture.


I agree with Johnson’s argument that, essentially, books are better than games. Johnson poins out that reading requires “effort, concentration, attention, ability to make sense of words, to follow narrative threads, and to sculpt imagined worlds out of mere sentences on the page.” However, I think these same skills can be developed through video games as well. For me, playing video games requires more effort than reading. It takes all of my concentration and attention to finish a task. And video games to involve dialogue and words, which the user has to make sense of. The only thing video games don’t do is make you “sculpt imagined worlds out of mere sentences.” For me, that’s where the creator of the video game comes in. The creators of video games had to do just that.

I don’t think Johnson’s article addresses board games, word games, etc. I think board and word games do all the things he thinks books do, and thus have the same benefit of reading.

While I agree with Johnson’s argument (partly because I prefer books to video games), I found it hard to believe him. At points in the article, he admitted that he makes a living off of writing books, and he “worries about the experiential gap between people who have immersed themselves in games, and people who have only heard secondhand reports, because the gap makes it difficult to discuss the meaning of games.” The sense I get from the article is that Johnson has never picked up a game controller in his life, which leads me to believe he’s basing his arguments off secondhand reports. He admits that he doesn’t trust people who do that- then how can we trust his article?