Animals at play
Who hasn’t been entertained watching young animals at play? Puppies will play by stalking, pouncing, biting, shaking objects from side to side and, of course, running and fetching. Zoologists believe that when animals play, as well as having fun, they are practicing the skills that they will need in their adult life. Along with their hunting and predatory skills they are developing social bonding with the ‘pack’ and their communication skills.
Are human beings so different? Our young have the longest juvenile period in the animal kingdom and are certainly no less playful. Chasings, Hide-and-Seek and wrestling are children’s games that go back into pre history. How important have they been to the hunting, social and communication skills of human beings?
The development of manufactured games
Two and a half thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato believed that Greek children should be provided with toys that would help develop the skills they would need in their adult life. In all early civilisations, as well as weaponry, architecture, literature and science, games were also developed for both children and adults. Backgammon, Checkers, Chess, card and dice games are all over one thousand years old. Snakes and Ladders came from India, Dominos from China, Backgammon and Checkers from Iraq, Chess from Afghanistan, card games from somewhere in central Asia. The basis of each of these games was a reflection of the society from which it came. The types of games that people played said as much about their society as their art or literature. All these ancient games have been modified in form and structure over the centuries.
The twentieth century saw the mass production and spread of modern board games including Monopoly, Scrabble, Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit. A multitude of these and other board games still exist today for the home market.
It was in the 1930’s when the coin operated fun parlours began to spring up across the United States. Pinball machines appeared not long afterwards and dominated this type of entertainment for the next three decades.
The most rapid development in games arrived with the electronic age. In the 1970’s the essentially mechanical games of the fun parlours were transformed into a new generation of arcade games led by Pong and later Space Invaders. Soon after, with the availability of personal computers and home game consoles, the floodgates were opened to what was referred to as video games.
The developments of the next three decades could be summarised by the names of milestones like Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Sim City, Super Mario Bros., Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, Ultima V, Unreal1, Final Fantasy VII, Grand Theft Auto, MotoGP…
In 2005 the game industry in Australia turned over $100 million while, in the United States, it was estimated to have an impact of $18 billion on its economy. Are games just an extremely expensive waste of time? Are they producing a generation of robotic Serious fun
screen gazers? What would Plato say? If they are an embedded part of our society, how do we identify those with the most positive impact?
What are the benefits?
There are more games and a greater range of games available today than at any other time in history. If we make the best possible choices from those available, what are the benefits? Clearly the games that we choose are those that give us the most fun. It is unlikely that we will try to analyse what is ‘good’ for us and then choose accordingly. But it may well be that those games that are the most fun are those that also benefit us the most.
Fun games are not passive activities. They engage us and stir our competitive spirits. They challenge us to solve problems and entice us to attempt solutions with increasing levels of difficulty. Fun games appeal to our sense of adventure and stimulate our imagination. They sharpen our hand-eye coordination and our reflexes. In the real world we...
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