Steven Poole: On videogames and reading

Mark James Hardisty

Republished from the Games Britannia 2012 newspaper:

As George W. Bush nearly asked: “Is our children reading?” The answer appears to be no, according to the 2006 report of the International Literacy Study. As the Guardian summarises its findings:

“England has plummeted from third to 19th in an international league table of children’s literacy levels as pupils replace books with computer games.”

Imagine the headline 100 years ago: “Children Spending Too Much Time Playing Outdoors with Hoops and Sticks, Says Minister; Should be Forcibly Enclosed to Read Improving Literature.” There’s always some apparently pointless youth activity to scapegoat.

As has always been the case, though, the adult paranoia expressed here about the supposedly harmful influence of videogames depends on a sublime ignorance of the form. In fact, you’re not going to get far in most modern videogames if you can’t read. And some of them make you read an awful…

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