Johnson's "Everything Bad is Good for You"

“tyranny of the morality play.” P.13

Every medium has gone through this. In the 1970’s, the violence in Bonnie & Clyde touched off a debate about violence in Hollywood. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, N.W.A. and Ice-T’s Body Count kicked off another debate about violence in lyrics. Even crusading lawyer, Jack Thompson, got started on the national moral stage with his fighting 2 Live Crew and Body Count’s “Cop Killer.” And now violent movies and games are accepted as part of a larger body of work in each medium, and neither medium is judged solely on it’s controversies. So I guess video games get their turn.

But Johnson argues that it is not the morality, or lack of, that make video games valuable. It is the cognitive effect they have on the players. So much time and effort is spent discussing the content, that little time is given to the context. The act of thinking, planning, and playing is valuable. Some of the content is most certainly not suited for all ages (that is why the ESRB exists and rates each game), but the skills the games can teach provide the foundation for learning. Yes we as parents, educators and the public need to be aware of the ratings and the content but we should not eradicate them and cast them off as meaningless wastes of time.

Video games thrive on “seeking” as Johnson states (p.37). There are many layers of activity (both on screen and in brain) going on as a player moves through a game and that “seeking” is what keeps players playing. What’s next? What’s needed? How do I move forward, complete this goal? Johnson states that video games are “ultimately all about filling in that information gap (p.30).”