I have opposing thoughts about the topic of today’s assembly. On the one hand, I enjoy the challenge of this particular activity and the skills it teaches. On the other I dislike some of the softer skills it doesn’t. Today I want to talk about gaming and computer gaming in particular.

I am old – much older than you are. My generation’s games were mostly outside but we did have classics such as pinball, Pacman and Donkeykong that were our version of what many of you do today. I am tired of my generation chastising yours with snide comments of a dismissive nature on the indoor games you play. On the other hand I am tired of your generation saying we are old and don’t understand. So let’s look at what you do, where it can benefit you, and what you need to watch out for.

Assuming most of you play computer games sometime, usually online, let us look at the positives:

  1. You interact with people from all over the world and learn about them and their cultures.
  2. You learn to form teams quickly, to group together with people you have never met, in order to succeed in what you are doing.
  3. You engage in learning – experiential learning as each experience teaches you how to cope with the next one. You build on your knowledge base all the time. You learn to master one skill before going on to the next.
  4. You have no fear. If you get it wrong, there is no consequence except perhaps having to begin the game from the level you are on all over again. This one combines with my previous point because your generation never knew the delights of the “manual”. I refer to the thick document that used to come with every electronic device that my generation read religiously before using their VCR, cell phone or Walkman. You just play – you press buttons, click on things and learn what works and what doesn’t. You have no fear of failure in this world.
  5. You improve dexterity and skill as you have to manipulate multiple controls and buttons to do what needs to be done. Many surgeons need your skills as robotic surgery becomes more and more prevalent. My pinball machines had two buttons – that was all. You have so many controls I wonder how you manage!

So if all these things are good for you, what is it that my generation wants to warn you about with them?

  1. Interacting with people on the internet that you have never met is dangerous. You do not know much about them and yet you treat them as a compatriot. They may say they are your age – who knows?
  2. Forming teams quickly implies a granting of trust – to someone you have never met. Relationships start, without any face-to-face contact, be they romantic or platonic. This worries us because you do not see the person in the flesh to verify that they are indeed who they say they are.
  3. Life becomes a series of challenges – just to get from one level to another instead of really discovering and analysing the level that you are on. Deep contemplation of something is lost in the desire to move ahead. The end point becomes the obsession instead of the journey to get there.
  4. In life, if you get it wrong, you may die – literally. One of the hardest things I do as a parent is to watch my children leave my house driving a car. If they drive with the attitude that they can simply re-boot their character, they will die. They have to drive like there is no second chance and there isn’t.
  5. The skills you learn are very specific, very focused and very narrow. Life isn’t always like that and to be able to converse with people from all backgrounds on diverse topics requires a general education, no one highly attuned.

You can choose to take the pros or the cons – it is up to you.

The Greek Philosopher Aristotle, who lived from 384 – 322 BC, said famously “moderation in all things and in all things moderation”. By this he meant live a balanced life, gaining experiences from a variety of sources. Our school ethos and philosophy can be aligned to this. We encourage diversity of activity, we encourage boys taking part on a wide range of activities, we pride ourselves on producing the all-rounder who can fit in well and can succeed. Don’t get drawn into one activity but expand your world view. Acknowledge the good in things you do but don’t become obsessed with them to the exclusion of other experiences. Balance your life – work, play, business, personal, culture, sport, religion and so on. There are times when we need intense focus in order to succeed in short term goals but a good maxim to live by came from 2500 years ago: “Moderation in all things and in all things moderation”.