Gaming is the end of real play

At night, after Patrick goes to bed, my wife and I enjoy watching some shows on (we do not own a TV). We tend to watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report most nights during the week. For the last few nights, one commercial during these programs has really bothered me. It is for SONY’s new Playstation Vita. I don’t know much about video games – except that I don’t play them – but apparently this new system allows you to play the same game on your home device and on this new portable device. “Never stop playing,” they say in the commercial:

SONY wants you to think that the mere thought of having to leave your home and be outside for a short while is unbearable without playing a game, specifically, without their new product. This is sad. It is sad because their slogan “Never stop playing” encourages exactly the opposite in those whom the commerical is intended for. While it says “Never stop playing,” I hear “Stop playing.” Even worse, the wallpaper in the man’s home, shown behind the couch from where he is playing the video game, is of a forest. Intentional? I’m not sure, but it became obvious after seeing the commercial a few times.

The commercial continues in a second ad, which I found online. The man, walking the streets on his way to work, goes through a public park, full of trees and grass. It feels as if it is intentional that we as the viewer see green right before the man looks at his device and imagines the gaming action happenening in real time, right there in the park on some steps.

Shame on you, SONY. Have your games, fine. But to encourage youth to feel the need to be connected to their gaming like you show in these commercials is irresponsible. I agree, never stop playing. But I guess I have a different idea of what playing means. The first commercial says, “Who says you have to choose?” Well, I will choose. I choose not to introduce gaming to my son.

I’ll show him a forest, full of green.

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8 Responses to Gaming is the end of real play

  1. mattdp says:

    I appreciate the sentiment you’re expressing here which seems to be that gaming shouldn’t impede on your enjoyment of nature. I’m a biologist and a gamer, and I concur heartily. But that doesn’t support what seems to be your intention from the title and conclusion which is that games are too limiting a format to justify the term play. You admit you don’t play video games so you’ll have no idea what amazingly expressive, emergent free-form, imaginative titles are currently available, especially by independent developers away from mainstream production. The best of them truly blur the boundary between gaming and art. Gaming can also mean activities other than video games – you going to argue that board gaming with real people, or mass-participation social games, or the narrative focus of an alternate reality game are not meaningful, valuable play?

    Shame on Sony for those nasty, opportunistic ads, sure. But shame on you for you narrow-minded dismissal of what gaming can be.

  2. Thony C. says:

    I feel the same way about all the people walking about with MP3 player earphones stuck into their ears.

  3. As a parent of a young boy, this campaign is pretty upsetting. I admit, I’m no absolutist – I believe in teaching my kids to enjoy all sorts of things (TV, video & computer included) in moderation. We set limits, discuss the reason behind those limits & spend plenty of time doing all sorts of other activities. But the slogan “never stop playing” combined with images of a hand-held gaming device are sending a message we don’t need to be promoting. To kids OR adults.

  4. Laura L says:

    I don’t think any one parenting style is right for every kid, but I definitely know that unlimited media is not right for my kid. There are a rapidly increasing number of studies that show that young children, whose neural pathways are still being formed, have significant neurological changes when they interact many hours a day with a flickering screen. Their brains are incredible things, and they literally adapt to that task. Then the outside world, and other people, markedly become less stimulating. The other concern I have is pitting my young child against multi-billion dollar media corporations that seek to engage my child with products. My son does not need to think that “stuff” is what will make him happy. It’s hard to engage with any type of media, be it television, internet, video games, you name it, and not encounter the message that what you need most is the newest and latest “stuff”.

    We recently carpooled with friends whose two children have a lot of media exposure. When my son is in the car with another kid, he needs no other entertainment. But they always get extremely bored without some kind of screen, even on short car trips, so normally there’s a movie on their suv’s screen that the kids all watch together. But this time, their mom handed them both handheld video games. By the time the car trip was over, my son was almost in tears. They refused to interact with him in any way and kept shushing him whenever he’d try to talk to them. I have another friend who does childcare for a living. She has a “no media” policy, partly because her own son has huge behavior issues when he has screen time, even for a short time. She had to drop a client after a couple of months because the 6 year old boy seemed almost completely incapable of engaging with toys, crafts, activities, and other kids. Nothing seemed to work. He only wanted media time, and was just going nuts in her care.

    I think if Mattdp chooses to enjoy spending time gaming, that’s a completely positive thing. He’s an adult and he can do what he enjoys. But I think parents encouraging young children to spend unlimited time gaming is a totally separate issue. There are quite a lot of things that are fine, even positive, for adults to do, that aren’t so great for kids to do. I’m sure plenty of kids play video games occasionally without harm, but the idea that they should “never stop playing” is pretty extreme, and it’s offensive to me. And it would be extremely naive to assume that just because this ad features a grownup, that it’s not aimed at all at children.

    • mattdp says:

      I feel compelled to note that moderation is vital, key in all of this. That’s what makes the undertone in those Sony ads so upsetting – I agree with the OP (whose usual science writing I enjoy & respect immensely) entirely on this. My eldest daughter, 6, is usually allowed no more than 2 hours screen time (video games, computer, TV) and she loves to play with other children and to play outside.

      But this is exactly what annoyed me about the post: it seems to be suggesting that the only worthwhile play is play outside, and that play in the form of video games is especially pernicious and damaging. Furthermore it makes no allowance for the fact that there are more forms of gaming than video games (I prefer board games myself, and I love being outdoors, being a regular hiker) or indeed that there are many different kinds if video games, some much more inclusive, interactive and imaginative than others. That’s not moderation – it’s the opposite extreme.

  5. Mel says:

    That commercial bugs me, too. I’m ok with a little video gaming, although we don’t have any and my kids have never played one… I figure when they are older (now 3.5 and 5) they’ll be exposed to it somewhere. Hopefully, by then, they’ll have such a love of the outdoors, and crafts, and reading and all sorts of things, that they won’t get obsessed with it.

    But, yes, out down the damn game and look around when you are outside.

  6. Mel says:

    “put down” not “out down.” I should proofread before I post.

  7. Pingback: “The Original Playstation” = Get Outside |

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