So, what’s the big deal? What is the matter with kids these days?
They actually prefer playing computer games and texting on their smart phones to watching TV! They’re missing Saturday morning with Sponge Bob Square Pants, Dora, Bart Simpson and Spiderman! It’s just not – well, American.
Why is it the new generation prefers computers and smart phones over television? How can they spend hours and hours squinting at tiny screens, listening to heinous, repetitive game music blaring through name-brand earbuds? What force compels them to play the same computer game over and over and over again?
After months of careful observation, (and unsuccessful attempts to drive my car on the racetrack) playing XBox 360 with the grandkids, I think I have it figured out. It’s because computer games are programmed to respond to a player’s actions, and present attainable challenges. Games provide immediate feedback. There are many levels of challenges with ample incentives and rewards along the way.
If a player presses the right button or follows the right clues, they are immediately compensated – a new life, a princess, bonus points–initials blazoned on the screen of the local pizza parlor pinball for all the world to see!
If a player presses the wrong button and scores too low, they can turn off the computer or cancel the game before it records the fiasco. No one ever finds out. Try again later when no one’s watching!
Facebook.com, an extremely popular social networking site, has captured the attention of an aging audience — grandparents. Facebook not only allows us to keep in touch with (and snoop on) our grandkids, but also find and reunite with childhood friends halfway across the country. On a recent 3-month roadtrip to Alaska, I used Facebook to post daily pictures of my travels and whereabouts. You can read my travelogues on www.kamueller.us.
In 2007, FarmVille by Zynga became accessible through Facebook. This free game was created by Mark Pincus who named his company after his (now deceased) bulldog, Zynga. FarmVille has over 48 million (yes, MILLION) monthly active players. FarmVille is a virtual internet village, where you and your friends meet to play poker, bake apple pies, harvest plants, buy tractors, loan each other shovels, and have fun connecting online. You can post your success stories on Facebook for all your friends to see. Immediate gratification and recognition!
Of course, playing games and surfing the ‘net is not something you want your boss to catch you doing instead of work–or your parents, if you’re supposed to be doing your homework. But, wouldn’t it be nice if parents and bosses realized that we all crave a little reward and recognition. Maybe, the only place we can find it is in the fantasy worlds of Facebook and Farmville.