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PEI falls off the map

Force your three-year-old to play video games

University of Wisconsin professor James Paul Gee thinks we ought to have kids playing video games by age three — to make sure they get a good education. In his new book What Videogames Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy, he identifies 36 “good learning principles” built into video games. There’s a great interview with him online now at Gamezone:

In my view—and I know it is controversial—kids should be playing games from early on, three-years-old, say. They should start with computer games like Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, Winnie the Pooh, Pajama Sam, and Spy Fox, initially playing these games with the parent. They can then move on to games like Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Zelda, and Age of Mythology. But there is a proviso here. Parents must ensure that kids play games proactively, that is, that they think about the design of the game, the types of thinking and strategies it recruits, its relationship to other games, books, movies, and the world around them.

And as for the violence-in-video-games debate:

I haven’t played every violent game, but I like Grand Theft Auto III (though a lot of the violence I did was to myself driving) and love Mafia. As I said above, there are two ways to play a game, you can play proactively and strategically or just become a good button-masher. If you want to be strategic—both in terms of the decisions you make and the ways you solve problems—Grand Theft Auto III is subtle and amazing. I found the gang fights distasteful, so I just didn’t trigger them. I went out of my way to see how little damage I could do while still earning my living through crime. Such choices make the game partly mine and not just the designer’s. Games allow you to accept a given assumption (I have to earn a living through crime) and then see how you personally would think, feel, and act.

Plastic had a headline for this item that made me laugh: “No, dear — no homework until you finish this level of Tomb Raider.” There’s a good debate going on there right now about this interview!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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