Screenshot from Call of Duty: Black Ops.
I’ve been talking a lot with the parents of teenagers lately, and one common thread among them has been their distrust and distaste for violent video games. Many parents ban these kinds of games in their households on the grounds that no children, even young adults, should be exposed to them. But clearly not all parents do this — and not all the parents who let their kids play these games are ignorantly looking the other way, either.
Take Pam Marks, mom of Sheboygan, Wisconsin teen Michael Marks. Michael spends three or four hours a day playing first-person shooters such as Call of Duty and Halo, Pam told the Sheboygan Press. The hours he spends engaging in simulated warfare doesn’t seem to be harming him. In fact, it’s given him the skills necessary to compete next week in a competition that could earn him a $10,000 scholarship.
Marks has already competed in two rounds, earning him a shot at the finals in Florida. The competition was created by Angela Tartaro of ScholarGamers.com, who recognizes that there are certain skills gamers develop that not only can be measured, but rewarded.
“It occurred to me kids can get scholarships for playing basketball, they can get scholarships for being very good at a specific subject in school … they can get scholarships for being very good at designing video games,” Tartaro said in a recent telephone interview. “Why can’t we recognize the skills of the students that play video games as well?”
In the ScholarGamers competition, participants play a number of new-to-them games, testing their ability to adapt quickly to a new gaming environment and beat the game — better than their competitors. This is proof of the kinds of skills gamers develop when they play regularly — even when they play games some believe aren’t healthy for them. Not only that, but it offers a real-life reward in addition to the feelings of achievement and heroism that come along with mastering a challenging video game.
This scholarship is the latest in a series of realizations made by educators in recent years that video-games are a large part of kids’ lives. That realization has led to the inclusion of video games in school curricula. In New York City classrooms, for example, students are studying how video games are designed — and then designing their own. Many educators are beginning to come to the conclusion that video games are so engaging for kids, and are such a large part of their lives, that it makes sense to co-opt games as a learning tool.
We’ve been told that first-person shooters turn young men such as Michael, into aggressive teens desensitized to violence. Michael seems anything but. More competitions like this one would allow more teenage boys to prove that they, and their hobbies, aren’t the enemy.