(Video Game) Play and Nature

Video games are very popular in today’s society. While they are often blamed for being one of the reasons America’s youth is obese, and causes of violence—there are many positives to video games .

Last semester, I took a class here at the University of Michigan called EDUC 222. This class focused on the educational elements often implemented in games—sometimes without gamers even knowing. At the beginning of the semester, we each had to pick a game to play and study over the course of the semester. I chose a game that appeared rather simple, seeing as I am not a very experienced gamer.

The game that I chose to explore is called Diner Dash. Diner Dash is a game focused primarily on strategy. Because there is a timer going throughout the game, you are quite limited on what you can and cannot do. Flo needs to get all the customers out of the restaurant happy, full, and on time, so that you as a gamer are able to freely move on to the next level. Many different strategies play into Diner Dash, allowing you the help that you need to get through even the toughest of levels. One of the most helpful hints that I came across while playing is called “color-matching.” The people that come into Flo’s Diner are wearing a certain color outfit, and if you match the color of their outfit to the color of the chair at a table, you will receive bonus points. While this may become more difficult when multiple people come in wearing the same clothing, but you get extra points regardless.

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Being an athlete, not only is competition important to me, but so is time management. Having to balance school, volleyball, and a social life has been a wild ride this first year of college, but I eventually got a grip on everything, and began to figure out a system for myself. In Diner Dash, I had a similar experience. While I grew up having to manage my time as an athlete, I have never been much of a gamer. Diner Dash was a great pick for me, because the idea of it all is basic and simple, but it still offers me the challenges I desire to beat in a game. In Diner Dash, I learned very quickly that I had to manage my time wisely, and work quickly through the tasks. I remember one specific time that I chose to preform my best on 3 of the 4 tasks required on that level, and I failed. This just reinforced the idea that has always been shoved into my head with sports—you must master all parts of the game. I am a Middle Blocker in volleyball, so I do most of my work up at the net, whether it be blocking or attacking. Though I am by no means a Libero (does a lot of defensive work and dicing in the back row), my coaches have always drilled it into my head that I need to be just as good of a passer as I am a blocker. Coming to this conclusion in a simple level of Diner Dash made me realize that I can apply that to my life as well.

Johan Huizinga expressed his critiques on functionalism in a reading we did earlier this semester. Merriam-Webster’s definition of functionalism is, “A theory that stresses the interdependence of the patterns and institutions of a society and their interaction in maintaining cultural and social unity.” Huizinga’s argument against functionalism didn’t necessarily imply that all aspects of functionalism are wrong. “Computer games, for instance, often help to enhance our motor coordination, visual perception and spatial reasoning. But the existence of biological, psychological or social benefits does not explain why players play. There is a difference between describing the functions that playing performs and describing the reasons why people play.” In my class, we learned a lot about how gamers preform, why they choose to game, and why they sometimes become addicted.

Reading an article on a website called Game Studies, I found some really helpful information on Huizinga, and his views on “play”.  “According to Huizinga’s critique of functionalism, people do not typically play because they have rationally inferred that playing is good for them. Those who emphasize the function of play often assume that playing is motivated by a rational assessment of its potential benefits. But play does not characteristically rest on utilitarian calculations. Players are typically motivated by the quality of experience that playing affords, not by the expectation of some future utility.” Playing tests the gamers strength, effort, and general skills regarding the game, itself.

Huizinga says that playing is considered more of an “irrational” activity, than anything. However, his assertion is false. Most games (video games, especially) depend on strategic thinking and other forms of logical thought. Is Huizinga’s claim on “play” irrational?

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