04 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You (Summary)

Good overview of the concepts Johnson explores in his book Everything Bad is Good for You. It's the longest video I'll ask you to watch, at about 40 minutes. It does not focus exclusively on video games, but it does do an excellent job of explaining what we can learn about ourselves when we study popular culture. 

After you've watched the video, identify two or three passages that you find especially worthy of further attention (perhaps because the statements are surprising, or controversial, or confusing).  Identify the statement with a timestamp.

For instance, "At 11:50 he introduces the concept of 'telescoping' as his term for the difference between passive thinking the kind of active problem-solving that you need to employ when playing a game.  At 12:40, he introduces Pac-Man as a game with simple and rather uninteresting content, comparing it with the much more complex problem-solving of Zelda."

If you don't see the video loading in the window below, you can go directly to the source on the Handheld Learing 2008 website.



I found it interesting when he suggested at about 38 minutes the use of Spore as the basis for a school course. I think it's a pretty inventive and cool idea.
Also, I thought it was controversial of him to question at 30 minutes whether algebra was more important than videogames. I think that the answer to his question isn't necessarily as obvious as some might think.

At timestamp 13:55, Johnson states that kind of thinking (i.e. figuring the game out on the fly) makes the game and not the actual objective of the game. I never thought of playing video games like this before because at first I was thinking that card games and video games are similar in Johnson’s terms of telescoping, or nesting series of objectives in one’s head. That occurs in both types of games; however the rules do not change in card games. I found that idea interesting.

At timestamp 16:25, Johnson begins to talk about the TV series “Lost.” I am a huge fan of the show and agree that it is structured like a video game and demands participation, but at what cost because I am seeing friends now become disinterested in the show. It has reached the point of too much complexity and layering for them. I think that it was smart for the producers of the show to end it after five seasons and not continue it on and on. It was fun to see the freeze-frame shot of the hatch building (timestamp 20:00) and Johnson relating it to video games because that is exactly what I used to do when I was younger, especially with Zelda.

The issue of interfaces versus algebra at timestamp 30:00 has me confused. I am a strong believer that math is important and we need to learn it, so I did not like statement. I also think that children are encouraged to use interfaces and recognized for it even if they are not being tested. Think about the advancements of science and medicine. They require advanced and original thinking with nesting numerous objectives in one’s head. I do not think that we could have made those advancements without first understanding the basics.

Timestamp: 2:30, Johnson introduces a vacation he took with his family, neices and nephews. Seven year old Wyatt was invited to look over the SIMS 2000. As he studied the graphivs, he told Johnson that the reason for all the run-down factories was due to high industrial tax rates. Now how would a seven year old come up with that? He was being educated visually as opposed to sitting in a classroom learning about industrialization development and taxation. Graphics on screen taught him a tough subject. I am a firm believer in visual learning. I feel that one is able to learn more from pictures and sounds rather than trying to memorize what another person is saying. That seems to be a trend in the 21st century, visual leasrning. That is why schools are intorducing children to computers and other learning devices early on in life.
Another interesting subject Johnson touched on occured at 5:12. With the innovation of TV, the Internet, and Web 2.0 there is a definite progress happening. There is an increased complexity and engagement in popular culture. The way I see it, look back 20-30 years ago. Vidoe game popularity consisted of Atari, which was a major invention for its time. But games were cheap. They came in square cartridges, which most of the time didn't run well if dust got into them. The shapes of any game subject(s) were square-like. Jump ahead to the 21st Century. Vidoe games,and the Internet have transformed to the 'norm'. With these mediums one is able to communicate with people across thew world. Transcend themselves into places we(society) could have never been taken in the 19th Century. Society has definetly been taken through a technical renaissance.
Timestamp 8:01 Johnson stated that there are three kinds of complexity: content, participation, and interfaces. As mentioned in the latter, I feel that the 21st Century abosrbed a simple, traditional culture from decades past. Society has learned that by advancing technically and digitally was a way of keeping society modern. Without the advancements of centuries past, the future would not be able to progress.
Although Johnson did not discuss video games in-depth, I feel that his talk related to any currrent medium which is able to interact with society.

While there are an increasing number of videogames being released and marketed as "educational tools"- particularly for younger kids- most videogames in general can teach or at least demonstrate very basic parts of life and I think that Johnson does a decent job of illustrating that point in the video. At 14:35 into the video, he addresses the "nested structure" to problem solving that most modern action/adventure games implement. While this structure does not directly teach the player anything, it still makes the players' brain work, having them come up with solutions almost on the fly. I also enjoyed at 15:00 into the video when he talked about the experience of a parent trying to play one of their children's videogames. "What do I do?" asked the parent. To which the child replied, "You have to figure it out." This kind of un-obvious problem solving, as Johnson goes on to talk about, is exactly how we as humans have to think about our lives. Johnson gives the example of thinking about having a snack before going into a long meeting. In essence, videogames prepare children and can help adults with problem solving and time management skills... a kind of experience that a book or a movie could not offer because of the lack of reader/viewer participation.

Cody raises an interesting point about time management skills learned through video games. Most people would argue the opposite, since some people can play for hours and hours and forget to go to class, etc. There are many games that require timed tasks. I disagreed that books and movies do not also offer problem solving skills. I like to try and figure out the mystery before it is revealed, and if not, then I will reread or watch again to note the clues given. Therefore the next time, I may guess the mystery faster. Does anybody remember the books that offered two choices throughout and the reader went to different pages thus creating different endings depending on the choices made?

At 4 minutes, Johnson talks about the little boy telling him to lower industrial taxes. This shows two things: 1-kids pick up on things pretty quickly when they're interacting and 2-even a complex game like SimCity can be understood to an extent by children. It's easier for kids to understand this way than it would be in a classroom.

At 7 minutes, he talks about the upward trend in complexity of understanding television and video games. The amount of thinking required for SimCity is incredible. This idea backs up what we were discussing on the Civilization 3 page, because it shows that interaction allows us to understand and learn easier/better.

At 19 minutes, he explains that Lost is the first show structured like a video game. It forces its readers to dissect each episode with friends after viewing. We could argue that this makes us wonder what future technology holds for video games and television. Virtual Reality anyone?

At 6:24, i completely disagree with the quote by George Will stating "... adults are decreasingly distinguishable from children in their absorption in entertainment and the kinds of entertainments they are absorbed in... This is progress: more sophisticated delivery of stupidity." I remember playing Age of Empires II, which is an RTS set in the Middle Ages that had a large variety of different civilizations to choose from, and then learning about those civilizations in school. The game gave me a mental image of what the Mongols, Vikings, and Celts looked like when we talked about them in class. Playing the game enhanced my education. Is that considered "stupidity" Mr. George Will?

At 30:43, i find it interesting that Johnson says the ability to master an interface will be more important than algebra. I have a few questions about that idea however: Does knowing algebra help someone understand a new interface? Are they related? If someone who knows algebra and someone who does not know algebra attempt to use a new interface, who will be able to use it better?

At 7:30 Johnson begins to talk about the sleeper curve and he mentions the Woody Alan movie "sleeper" where he wakes up 150 years later and everything that is supposed to be bad for you is now good for you. He begins to explain how things are much more complex now and thats what the sleeper curve is. As jessie stated Civilization 3 shows that games that are much more interactive are helpful and can help students learn complicated ideas much easier.
At 9:30 Johnson begins to talk about Civilazation 4 and how kids are playing this game for fun. This game has to do with recreating the entire economic, political legal and technological aspects of the world. This is how intereactive and productive games have gotten for the youth of today.

Jessie raised a good question about what future technology holds for video games and television. I also think it raises the question about what affect it will have on our culture. Also how will more traditional entities (i.e. government) change their structure in response?

First off, I totally agree with the statement "Everything bad is good for you". Well, except for a few select things, but still it's so true. All we every hear growing up is no tv it's bad for you, but you learn from it so how could it be bad. No video games, same thing. Well said Johnson.
Ok, the passages I thought I'd mention are: the first one starts at minute 2:13 or so and goes through until 5:00 when he is talking about his vacation with his wife's family and the 7 year old Wyatt figuring out something like needing to lower industrial tax rates. He talks about how without even knowing it Wyatt learned something like that, just because it was in his language, it was in a video game, he was familiar with it. And he learned something huge without even knowing it. It's amazing, and it's what I've realized through my years of game playing. Given, I've never learned something as big as that, I hardly know how the world works, I cant believe this little guy figured this out, but its really great the things you can learn that people would never think you could with a video game. Also at minute 15:00. Johnson mentions the difference between a child playing a video game and an adult playing a video game. It reminded me of that commercial (I think it was a Christmas commercial) when the mom is playing the kids' PSP I believe, and she gets it right or moves on and she YELLS with excitment. Haha, not many kids do that, because well, we know what we're doing, it's not that hard for us/them. But when a parent is given something like that, that may seem so simple, they read too much into it and in turn stunts their thought process and they get nowhere. Haha, so I really liked that part of the video, because it's so true. The Parent asks what you do in the game, and the kid says figure it out. That's literally what you have to do, the kid isn't trying to be mean haha. Great!

I completely disagree with the line "This is progress, more sophisticated delivery of stupidity" just as much as Matt Takacs does. I have a 3 year old daughter who watches all of the Nick Jr. shows. She is not the stereotypical child who zones out in front of the TV. She interacts and is involved. She mimics they're dances, and loves the music. She remembers and sings their songs all day long. She also knows Spanish and Chinese because of these shows. Sometimes I don't even know what she's saying because I don't know Chinese. She knows her numbers, colors, and basic directions thanks to Dora the Explorer. She knows how to treat her friends, not to bite, fight, or be mean thanks to Yo Gabba Gabba. She knew her shapes when she was 18 months old, and could recognize each letter before she was 2. But apparently, she's stupid. Well then, I must be the dumbest person on the planet, because at her age, she's more advanced than I was. I don't use TV as a babysitter. I use TV as a learning tool, where she can learn more than I can teach her, or think to teach her. She explores her imagination and is extremely creative when she plays. Mr. Will, maybe you need to pay attention and learn from real children instead of studies that do NOT show a proper representation of most children.

Leave a comment

          1 2
03 04 05 06 07 08 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30