Yet another reason why being a kid today is better

Compared to the games of today available for kids, Candyland and its ilk sucked balls.

The problem is true interactivity and the influence of chance. Games children play today — especially electronic or video games — tend to reward decision-making and paying attention and decoding the environment of the game. Games like Candyland are 100% games of chance, with no hope of mastery and no reward for paying attention or experimenting.

Super Mario Brothers is a vastly more interesting task, cognitively speaking, than drawing cards and rolling dice.

9 thoughts on “Yet another reason why being a kid today is better

  1. Whatever. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t have kids, and you’ve never played “Pretty Pretty Princess.” Spawn or get off the topic. >

  2. You know, originally I was just playing around, but now I feel like I’ve actually got to argue this, so here goes my half-assed devil-advocating:

    ***There is a building block theory of education (scaffolding, whatever) that suggests that some kids actually learn in steps, that you can “scaffold” them up to higher skills through instruction, and that gameplay helps kids learn rudimentary skills that build to up to more and more complex tasks. Now these skills can be as simple as “wait your turn” or “count the nibs on the dice” or, as in the case of Candyland, identify colors and follow the sequence. That the guy in the article didn’t find old school boardgames thrilling anymore doesn’t somehow make them valueless in a technologically advanced world. And as for games of chance having no value, sling that hash to the economy of Las Vegas. Furthermore, to counter his Mario Bros. point, the only truly random video game is Donkey Kong, and even it is governed by a pattern. Even with the “advanced AI” games, you are still limited to a finite number of possible preprogrammed moves, which means they all eventually devolve into twitch-wait-for-it-twitch-twitch. And having taught reading to high school students weaned on video games, I have a metric fistload of anecdotal evidence (yeah, I don’t have THAT much, just a fistload) that suggests that those fully immersive video games dampen way too many kids’ ability to imagine–and you know I’ve taught every kind of high school kid from uber-geniuses to illiterate migrant aliens. When a 16-year-old kid can twitch his way through GTA XXX but can’t comprehend the layout of the island in an easy short story like The Most Dangerous Game, we as a society have issues. So, my point: don’t discount boardgames intended for toddlers in favor of the Wii. Had the author found Candyland even more engrossing than ever–THAT would have been a better topic for discussion.

  3. I hear you, but I think you’re actually calling out a different problem (i.e., a lack of reading). From a gameplay perspective, perhaps there is a place, still, for “count the pips, wait your turn” type games, but I think the author’s POV is that this window has gotten much smaller, and ends much earlier than it did in the 70s, because the entertainments available are richer and more complex.

    It’s also not a slam of boardgaming in toto; he points out that plenty of boardgames don’t suck at all, since they’re not random and do in fact reward intelligent play. Maybe there’s a place with toddlers for playing a game that amounts to random chance like Candyland, but I think the message here is that now we have better options, and old shit like CL can get stuffed compared to the more cognitively interesting things you can do with your kids — some of which is video games, but some of which, for any responsible parent, would include less-random games, reading, museums, whatever.

  4. I hear you on the reading issue, but I was actually referring to a widening gap in otherwise normal student’s ability to imagine. I wish they would update Battleship’s title to something more apt like Indirect Mortar Fire, or The Satellite Image is Fucked–Just Fire, Man. At least then the title would address the issue of utility. As for Candyland, it has ALWAYS sucked balls, even when we were kids; however, when we were of the target age group, it was pretty cool. Think about it: most of a toddler’s life is, from their point of view, random. Things happen, some scheduled, but mostly all new things they haven’t seen before with seemingly arbitrary rules that change their lives (for example: shiny thing with pictures and small buttons–don’t touch; new, soft thing–only for bedtime; etc.). Go back even further in childhood–can you imagine what your life would be like if every time you woke up, you were in a different place? And yet, this is the infant’s experience. The problem with the guy in the article is that he’s outgrown the usefulness of childhood things, and he assumes that his lack of interest is universal. Here’s a better example of my point: I bought “The Goonies” on DVD. I loved that movie when it came out. I have very fond memories of re-watching it in high school and being just as amused as I was in middle school. I thought, “What a harmless, funny, exciting-but-not-too-scary ride this would be for my kids.” Then I watched it again as an adult. Now I see how we got to South Park. Goonies is about a group of foul-mouthed tweens making a slew of dick and fart jokes (very similar to my blog, but that’s another argument). It’s utterly inappropriate for my elementary school kids, and it’s too moronic to sustain my adult attention for long, even as a trip down memory lane. Had you asked me 25 years ago about the movie, my review would have been significantly different. My ultimate point: don’t look at childish things with an adult eye. They can’t stand that kind of scrutiny. Chalk this up to one of those mysteries of childhood like why kids often like playing with the boxes toys came in more than the toys themselves.

  5. ~ my 5 year old daughter loves board games. One point you all leave out is the interaction between moves. Most video games are not very social. Sure, there are subgames in most modern video games (shoot em up) but the reality is that the primary games are mostly for one or two players max. Most board games include up to 6 players, and the interaction between players is what makes them most interesting. She and I often play video games, but her attention is not held by most games for more than 10-15 minutes. we can play board games for hours. She does enjoy TV and videos as much as she enjoys books. One thing I do notice is that reviewing the best parts of the video, cartoon, show and imitating seems to be the highlight of most viewing events for both of us. Not sure if this is learned behavior in school, you know pop-culture cool, or if this is socialization.

  6. Oh, I agree that socialization is a part of the gaming process. I suspect ~ is too smart for Candyland at this point, though.

    I think, broadly speaking, the sharing of and revisiting of videos or cartoons or games is definitely socialization training, as you talk about the parts you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy, or why the characters did certain things, etc.

    I just came in from a walk, and I’ve been working my way through the This American Life archive as walking-entertainment. One of the stories in the episode I listened to today (#364, Going Big) was about a poverty intervention program in Harlem with a unique approach, based on the developmental benefits of what amounts to parenting bootcamp. The founder got the idea when he had his 2nd child 25 years after his first, and was confronted with the vastly greater understanding we have now of early childhood development, and the benefits that even slight changes can produce later.

    A statistic that really stood out was from a Kansas City study some years back: middle- and upper-middle-class kids hear VASTLY more words from their parents, and the words are overwhelmingly positive or reinforcing in nature, like your dialog with ~ about the movie you just watched. The poorer children heard many fewer words, and the balance was tilted absurdly towards harsh or discouraging language.

    Anyway, this program in Harlem is apparently rolling very, very well, and is already producing some pretty profound benefits largely by providing this parenting boot camp, helping the (typically very young) parents understand the benfits of things that you and I took for granted in our childhood, and providing early-preschools, after school programs, and the like.

  7. As I write this S is reading her ” Through the Looking Glass” which amazingly is more entertaining to her than all the picture books she gets with primer words she can read herself. Again the interaction between passages.

    I do think the toys they have now are way cooler than what we had. On the one had the noisy crap gets old, but on the other hand the engineering advances in design and basic chip integration makes many of these play sets pretty cool. Hell they even have magnetics that spring secret doors and chips that recognize voice commands for “Magic”.

    As for Candyland, it was good for teaching her the space movement concept and got her to the bigger games. But what it really taught, IMO was the concept of winning and losing. Her favorite game now is Dogopoly even though she can just grasp the counting money and values.