What do I think of James Madigan’s book published by Rowman and Littlefield publishers? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Just so readers know, I did go through this one on Audible. My books on Audible tend to be either about gaming or politics. Since I have started a channel on YouTube now called Gaming Theologian (Please subscribe) this kind of study is all the more important to me.
Each chapter here is a question and explored through not just games, but the works of modern psychology where even experiments done long before there were video games are still used to explain the impact of them today. Each of these could be read on their own if you wanted an answer to a question. Also, Madigan does not tow the party line where he makes sure games always look good no matter what. If the data is not conclusive or even goes the other way, well that’s the way the data goes.
The first section is about the gamers themselves. You get a discussion on why gamers can behave like jerks online and then when they play games, why do so many have a temptation to cheat? Also, why are fans so often ready for a fight? Back in the day, I know how many times I got into lunchroom arguments over if Nintendo or Sega was better.
The final one in this chapter was about why we’re so nostalgic about retro games. Many young gamers today do not understand this, but those of us who are older do. Who are services like Nintendo Switch online that have games for the NES, Super NES, and Gameboy for? Mainly, they’re for the adults. I can go back and play a game not because it was particularly the best one, but because I remember it and it brings back good memories.
The next section is about how games do what they do. Most of us don’t really care for studying for a test, for example, but we will do something we don’t like on a game for a long time and enter the game knowing we have to do that, and that is grinding. Now I will admit I am unusual in this in that I can enjoy grinding because I like being overpowered when I get to later areas.
For those who don’t know, grinding is where you go and fight basic enemies in an area just to gain experience or money. A lot of people don’t, and yet they do it! Why? We have to sit down and really force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do sometimes, like read and study, but we do sit down and make ourselves grind.
As some of you know, I’ve spent some time thinking about the educational system and why it doesn’t seem to work like it should. We’ve all seen people who are “highly educated” but are morons. We’ve also seen people who haven’t gone to college or have jobs many people look down on, such as you could get at a trade school (Note. I am not looking down on them. This is just the way society often portrays them) and yet these people are brilliant.
I took many classes in high school and yet even in subjects I did enjoy, I don’t remember much of it. I am a math guy, but I could not tell you a bit how to do many of the formulas that I studied in Algebra ad Geometry, and yet just recently, I sat down and found I was able to go through the original Legend of Zelda, both quests, and Link to the Past and still find everything again, and I never had to sit down and study those!
What this means is that somehow we do learn games better. I suspect most children have never sat down with a copy of the Pokemon type chart, but they can sure remember what type works well against what for the most part. It’d be a mistake for their parents to think that that’s something simple to learn. Oh no. It is not simple, and yet these same children could struggle with multiplication tables.
Something is wrong with how we’re teaching.
Games also keep us going with items like loot boxes and free draws. One reason this is exciting is not that we care about what’s in the box always, but it’s the anticipation of wondering what we could get. Once we get it, it’s done, but there is that rush when you get a new box. For me, I think of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. I never spend money, but sometimes you get quests that let you get tickets for new characters and there is always that initial excitement wondering what you will get.
The next section is about questions such as how games are marketed. As Christians, one aspect we could consider is how games keep us immersed in fantasy worlds. However, we could add we find it much easier to tell others about games, movies, etc., than we do about Christianity. Of course, part of this is some of us are naturally introverted, but is there something else here?
Finally, we get to questions about how our games affect us. When we make an avatar and they look like us, does it affect how we play? What about violent video games? We do seem to like them. Why? Does it matter? Finally, do games make us smarter?
One fascinating aspect of this was Daphne Maurer who was doing some studies on peripheral vision and at the university, decided to use as test subjects people who were always in the area, the video game club members. She found that when it came to the tests she gave, all of them aced it easily. This led to her studying first-person shooters and how they can improve someone’s peripheral vision.
After all, if you are someone who does well at a FPS, you have to be able to scan the field before you, identify targets quickly, be able to see them before they see you if they are hostile, and tell if they are on your side or not. Madigan also writes about the skill involved in Starcraft. Chess is seen as a good game for building up your mind, and I don’t doubt that. I agree with it. Yet with Starcraft, you have to know so much with so little and be prepared for a thousand different moves.
Overall, if you have an interest in games, read this book. If you have an interest in psychology, read this book. If you have an interest in psychology and don’t even care about games, read this book. Anyone can get some insights into human nature reading this and I highly recommend it.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)