Sunday, February 21, 2016

Why Video Games aren't Enough, Hooray for Boardgames

I have a theory.  It is only a theory. Video games are less able to create strong minds and memories than board games and similar sorts of games.  Growing up my brother and I knew an enormous number of people, friends, acquaintances, who read history books, read from books about what people had done in the past, either in fiction or non-fiction.  The chance thereafter to play board games that reenacted a war, or simulated the event in question, wasn't based upon imagination, but rather, upon the facts of history.  This isn't necessarily saying that it was perfect, I lost battles that the Allies in WW2 had won.  But it allowed me to see the risks and rewards of various strategies.

Video games of the last 30 years have absolutely progressed beyond belief.  A kid born, such as me, in 1963 could never have imagined what people can do, online, and in the video games of the present.  That the alien planets of the imagination, that cities of the future and past could be recreated, are all exciting, fun to visit settings.  I have no question that the people creating them are talented and far brighter than anything I might achieve in a similar field.  This is not, then, to say I hate video games.  It is that the games I played relied often upon your ability to understand strategy, and your familiarity with the past, and the great leaders, tactics and events of the past.

In one situation the player is essentially led through an adventure.  On the other, a person has to be able to understand the information he has learned, and translate that to action, and pour it out upon the maps and game fields of the board game in question.  I have absolutely nothing against role playing, either in the form of video games or pen and paper, dice and books, but the difference to me is, one requires acting, random chance, and fiction, while the other ends up being an outgrowth of your deepening understanding of the event in question.

The game I am sharing is RAID ON St. NAZAIRE by Avalon Hill.  The game simulates an amazing event, when the United Kingdom's Commando force developed and carried out a raid to destroy the only Dry Dock's large enough to repair the Tirpitz and other attacks meant to destroy the submarine pens and other facilities.    The fear of the dry dock not being put out of action was that the enormous sister ship of the Bismarck would be able to repaired, and released back into the Atlantic, wear convoys were fresh targets to the hungry U-boats and commerce raiders of Nazi Germany.

The more one knows about the plan versus the result of the raid actually helps the player play.  Repeated plays of the game replay the random events, and a perfect  mission/raid is nearly impossible to achieve.  But in the end, the player is well able to appreciate the enormous courage required, the planning and intelligence used, and in the end, the amazing consequence for the war of stoppering up the Tirpitz to ports north, and without the ability to fully hold the behemoth ship Tirpitz, the battle of the Atlantic was won by the Allies.

There is a lot to be said for video games.  But I do not know how they further ones intellect, understanding, or wisdom.  They seem to me to be fun, but there is nothing, or very little beyond that that I find of deeper interest.

This sounds, of course, to the players of video games, that I am saying, your games suck, and you are stupid.  I really don't mean to say that.  What I mean to say, is, games from the past were born from books about relatively important factually knowable statistical events.  Games from the present focus upon fiction.  Board games and the books and ideas that fed them, were not "geek" oriented, you could find professors of history or military men feeling entirely comfortable playing them, in a form of war gaming.  There was always fun, but, the fun was based upon a depth of knowledge, interest, and a growing knowledge and understand as a result of playing.   My brother, referred to earlier, and myself, read books, all kinds.  We had friends, in the same peer groups, reading the same kind of works.  History books, battle books, and more were normal reading.  The average person I knew, read and was interested in similar matter.  The internet and video games,  does offer a vast array of information, areas of interest, hobbies, fictional universes, movies, and fictional concepts to deal with.  But to the extent that I agree with that, the issue is not with the variety of information, but how it is used

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