Over the weekend I was forced to confront my own snobbery about what is a good use of leisure time. As I mentioned, we have a Nintendo Wii, and given the adverse weather at the weekend (overseas readers – it snowed in the UK, causing national hysteria), we stayed in quite a bit. My daughter played with the Wii for a while, and then I asked her to stop and switch to board games (which she did happily enough). It made me think about why I have a mental equation which goes something like ‘computer games = mildly bad, board games = good’. Why did I feel that the computer games needed to be rationed in some way? I accept the claim about sedentary lifestyles and obesity (although anyone who thinks a Wii is sedentary has never played one, I am currently suffering from ‘wii shoulder’ brought on by some over-energetic stretching during a tennis match), but given that my daughter does ballet, horse-riding, gymnastics, swimming as well as playing a lot with her peers, she is far from sedentary. And board games are hardly active, yet they don’t come in for the criticism computer games receive. No, it’s more about other pursuits being deemed more worthy.
As many have pointed out, including Steven Johnson (who has also blogged about the Wii) in ‘Everything Bad is Good for you’, there are a lot of intellectual and social benefits to computer games. I’m probably the last generation to have this snobbery (I wonder what my daughter will be snobbish about? She’ll probably tell her children to stop confusing the android and go and play some virtual reality games). I remember being admonished by my parents for reading too much as a child, so maybe it’s just the old parental adage that whatever you’re doing you should be doing something else.