I remember when my father showed me one of the first Atari gaming consoles.

Those red and green blocks bumping into one another to the unnerving but fascinating chip soundtrack; Somehow the world would never be the same again.

You could literally sit back and watch as new things started popping up over the years: Screens were getting bigger, soundtracks more symphonic, visuals more immersive and so on and so forth.

We grew up as witnesses and active participators in the evolution of video gaming and computers.

I just read a blogpost by Zen teacher Doen Silberberg saying:

“In my reading I come across so many people who thoughtlessly criticize video games as a waste of time. They’re often all too willing, beer in hand, to watch other people play games and don’t consider that time a waste at all.”

Now here’s something funny. I found that even people who play a lot of computer games consider it a time-waster, and – when asked “What did you do yesterday?” and the answer is: “Gaming.” – if you listen carefully you’ll hear a sense of resignation or even guilt.

This, interestingly – holds true only for people in an age group that is old enough for having known a pre-digitized world but young enough for seeing how their whole lives became incrementally computerized. They experience a vague mixture of horror & fascination regarding Tech that is virtually absent in previous or following generations.

Generational Differences

People from Silberberg’s generation often do not have one word good word to spare about gaming, yet they do not game, as he correctly points out. (I guess those are the same people that blame video games for youth violence and “degeneration of society” in general)

Younger generations on the other hand that grew up in a world that was already digitized seem to play a lot – yet neither judgement of self or others is present.

They play. They grow. And they don’t make much of a fuss about it.

When I look at the way they relate to technology I experience the same shock and awe that is so characteristic of my generation. And I remember the guitar virtuoso Omar Rodriguez Lopez relating in a Wired interview how his younger brother’s friend asked him: “Why play guitar when Guitar Hero is easier and so much fun?”

Why indeed?

Learning an instrument is a great way to grow (similar to learning a language). It’s open-ended, non-linear and as much fun as it can be frustrating.

So, if we can accept learning an instrument or a language as ways to grow, why not include video games?

To quote Silberberg again:

“Games are simulation. Games challenge you. Games develop your emotional and intellectual abilities. […] Games are experiential. They train you.”