"Passive" entertainment

Okay, I can see TV watching as passive entertainment–relative to bicycle riding or card-house-building or chess.
I can see that watching television is a little more passive than reading. But only slightly.

The stories in both media are written already, the plots mapped. The characters are developed and will only do what is written for them to do–written, incidentally, by someone other than the viewer (usually…).

Both media do require one to pay attention, to analyze for quality, plot details, validity and others. Both can inspire one to make all sorts of connections.

Yes, reading requires one to acquire a skill in order to perform the act. And, in another significant difference from TV viewing, it requires one to imagine the visual details of the story/content.

So I am willing to concede that TV viewing is slightly more passive an activity than reading is.

But I am NOT willing to concede that video games are passive entertainment.

As with TV (lumped together are all the entertainment sources viewable on a TV) and books (lumped together here are all print media), video games can be further categorized into varying degrees of quality and validity and difficulty and cultural significance (and many other categories). I acknowledge that there are games and books and TV shows and many other things in this world that may be inappropriate for children or less-than-mentally-competent-adults.

However, video games, just like all games, require the participants to make decisions, to judge their choices and those of the game or other players. In video games, problem solving opportunities abound. Those problems may be in a single or in multiple dimensions. For example, in puzzle games one must solve a visual or aural puzzle perhaps, fitting pieces together or matching a pattern or the like. In simulation games, a player is actively involved in flying an airplane, driving a car, raising a family. These are hardly passive activities for the brain, even if the simulations are sadly lacking the textures of reality.

I hate that a huge portion of our population has been led to believe that they should not partake of TV and video games and if they choose to anyway that they should do so in secret and feel guilty for it.

It is the same argument that applies to sex education: do we tell them to stay away from it and leave them unprepared for the eventuality of it? Or do we encourage them to make informed decisions and prepare them by assisting them with those decisions before they leave home?

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~ by merialiss on November 6, 2006.

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