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Zest
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« on: July 23, 2008, 08:09:12 AM »

So my friend and I had a bit of a debate last night. He claimed that some study had determined that video games were proven to destroy creativity in small children. I called bull on it, and argued that certain games not only inspire creativity, but depend on it. Since we were arguing about games for young children (as young as five years old), my first example was Animal Crossing. A game with no real set goals means that the player has to devise his own, choosing which activities he/she will take part in. The MS Paint-style programs also encourage creativity by allowing the player to adorn themselves with their own designs. I also mentioned games like Graffiti Kingdom and Drawn To Life, which depend specifically on user-created content to be entertaining. I also mentioned Spore, for the hell of it.

My friend then argued that those creations are naturally restricted by the parameters that the game's creators envision. That is, very few games allow the player to make content that the developer had not envisioned. I countered with the thriving mod community, as well as the availability of cheap game development software such as Game Maker. With more tools than ever, a child could try and make a game of his own. He argued that a child wouldn't really be interested in making his own games, and would just be content to play the ones that were already available. I countered with my own personal anecdote: Even when I was in elementary school, I wanted to make my own games. I fiddled around with GameMaker (way back when it was first released in '99) and wrote hundreds of concepts and characters down; I still have all of my old doodles in an overflowing box in my basement. Granted, a lot of the ideas were rip-offs of movies and other games, but you gotta start somewhere.

Somehow we also debated about the merits of the medium. I claimed that games were still trying to become a mature art form, noting that it still borrows far too much from cinema- indeed, most games today are spliced with cinema. Therefore, a game with great cutscenes can't really be called a great game narrative; it's just a game that has a great movie stuck in it. Titles like Half-Life are trying to utilize the strengths of an interactive medium, I proposed, but just like every medium before it, games are still too reliant on the tricks of the other art forms.

To explain this, I presented the very beginning of cinema. If you look at the earliest of films, you'll notice that they are extremely simple. They are almost always looking straight ahead at the action, as if you were merely looking through a box at a stage. Films used the tricks of live theatre to develop itself. It wasn't until filmmakers began utilizing the strengths of the medium- camera cuts, pans, close-ups, etc.- that film became an art form all its own.

I noted that film has been around for about 100 years now, to which my friend cried out, "Fine! Let's wait a hundred years for games to mature." "Not necessarily," I responded. "Games are developing at a faster rate than film because it is basing its storytelling skills off of cinema- albeit sometimes too much. Every art form advances more rapidly because it builds on what other art forms have discovered. Just as film advanced more quickly than live drama because it took the lessons drama had discovered, so are games advancing more quickly than cinema did."

We eventually got back on track, as my friend asked me what games he would recommend for a child to inspire creativity. I argued that pretty much anything can inspire creativity in a child. However, I did decide that games with extreme violent or sexual content would probably be out of the question, at least until they were old enough to comprehend the material. I threw in Mario, Zelda, and Rayman 2, while my friend suggested that certain strategy games, particularly the Medieval series, could be educational, if incredibly violent. I also suggested adventure games, specifically the ones made by Humongous Entertainment. Spy Fox, Pajama Sam, and Freddi Fish were all (from what I can remember) well-done adventure games with puzzles that were actually fairly clever, and not too hard for a young child to solve on his own.

So, the tl;dr version of this: We argued about games. I say they can inspire creativity. My friend says no. If you believe a game can inspire creativity, then which ones? If not, then why?
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policedanceclub
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« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2008, 08:22:20 AM »

Edit: nevermind
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Zest
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« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2008, 08:28:47 AM »

It's funny how your friend said that "blaa blaa are naturally restricted by the parameters that the game's creators envision", considering other forms of media are affected by this as well, more so than games.

So, would you consider films (or whatever), killers of creativity?

Nope. Like I said, anything can inspire creativity. All the games that I mentioned inspired me when I was a little kid, and I know that the movies and books that I was exposed to also inspired me. My friend is the one who (initially, at least) didn't think so.
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« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2008, 08:31:13 AM »

Yeah I wrote something nonsensical there, ignore me please.





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0rel
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2008, 11:24:13 AM »

hm, maybe because games have no "holes" unlike every other medium...

as a kid i loved stories like fairy tales, stories about dwarfs and magic. - if you hear a story, you always make your own images, you set the mood. even with storybooks with images, kids tend to imagine overboard... comics are like that too in some way, cause you have to imagine all the pics in between, bring the character to life by yourself. compared to tv and computer games these experiences have *holes* which have to be filled out by your own imagination ( ( fragment media ) vs ( all-encompassing sensorial media-experiences == attrap realities == illusions == creativity killers )? ).

really creative media are more like seeds for creative play, i think. for example: little playing figures, selfmade puppets for example, which can fly around and tell countless stories in one single room. or more simple things... like water, stones or even without anything, just by imagining to be another person, somewhere else... kids can play basically with everything, everywhere. and that's such a wonderful thing! somehow it's also their duty, cause they should learn how the world works by experiencing basic physical/social laws and learn to think about them. so their strong creativity has a bio-function as well... in that respect: i think most (modern) video games are bad for kids. yes, they are real creativity killers! especially the high-end/photo-realistic ones, which leave no room for own imagination and creative intervention (no holes). - but kids can have big fun out of nothing... (the infinite hole Smiley ) which is so much better than simulation worlds full of highres dwarfs or even destructive weapons! i don't know, but i think, these games make kids addicted to simulation media in bad way, cause they often don't know how to play in normal way after they experienced the media rush for too long... (synapse overflow). the connection to the realworld can be destroyed in the worst case, cause normal playing connects kids to others and the physical world, and video games/tv only simulate this activity and replace it to a certain degree (stimulation by simulation).
on the other hand, some games can surly be inspirative in a positive way as well, somehow like modern storybooks or fairy tales (mostly without moral), but balance is needed for sure... too much computer/tv for kids will never be a good thing in my opinion.

(okay, besides all that general idealism: i was crazy about 'super mario world' on nes too when i discovered it as a kid. or early shooters on amiga2000 a neighbour of mine had or 'monkey's island' later on (and many more). now, some years later, i don't know if it was really a good thing to spend my time with, even though it was quite harmless compared to most games of today, mainly because they had some holes too (technical limitations). one of the good things was, that these old games were really inspiring for me, cause they were so simple graphics and gameplay wise. kids can handle that and have still room for their own imaginations. so, i always wanted to make games and even made some "levels" out of little slips of paper (linked dungeon corridors with torches and jewels :D )... so these games let the players imagine overboard too in some way, and can make them creative outside the game world maybe. i don't know if that's still the case with most games of today (e.g. hyper-speed sega sonic compared to lovely 8-bit mario).
kids are very curious and want to discover all they can all the time. they won't deprive timeselves of anything before they experienced it. so, when it came out, we were crazy about 'Doom' and 'Duke Nukem 3D' instead... we played it for hours, just because it was there. - and now, there's GTAIV. killer city simulator in hd. - really, really *not* a good thing for mentally healthy, creative youth, i guess)
(btw: sorry for my english :/)
« Last Edit: July 23, 2008, 11:44:37 AM by 0rel » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2008, 08:39:54 PM »

So, the tl;dr version of this: We argued about games. I say they can inspire creativity. My friend says no. If you believe a game can inspire creativity, then which ones? If not, then why?

I think the massive amount of insanely great stuff that indies are making out of nowhere should be proof enough that games can inspire creativity.  Not to mention mods and people designing levels for existing games for the heck of it.

The games that inspire creativity are the ones that either encourage you to create directly (moddable, or user-content focused like Spore/SimEverything/etc), or the ones which have such a simple but unique gameplay twist that it throws your concepts of game genres and expectations out the window, leaving you dreaming of what other crazy stuff might be possible.

Or, I dunno, shmups I guess because everyone and their dog makes a shmup eventually.  :D
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2008, 02:53:29 AM »

As the amount of games I play goes up, I don't think my creativity goes down, though I might not be in the age group you are thinking of, but as a teenager I don't see the correlation between games and creativity in myself or my peers. At this age, A lot of people I know that don't like to spend their time doing creative things play games, so the increase in game time is due to not much creativity, as against creativity being killed because of games.

0rel, you make a good point and I can see where you are coming from, but I think the main problem of a kid getting addicted to the game would be the fact that they are addicted to the game. Of course, I could understand if a kid that would usually be creative does not develop that because they spend all their time playing video games, but there are plenty of people that spent next to no time playing games as a kid, but don't consider themselves creative, and don't partake in the making of things creative.

Quote
My friend then argued that those creations are naturally restricted by the parameters that the game's creators envision.
Nothing saying you can't be creative with limited and restricted resources, I mean, you can make creative pixel art with only 2 colors, so why can you not be creative with only a set number of actions?
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2008, 05:28:17 AM »

He claimed that some study had determined that video games were proven to destroy creativity in small children.

Footnotes or it didn't happen.   Cool
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muku
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2008, 05:49:35 AM »

He claimed that some study had determined that video games were proven to destroy creativity in small children.

Footnotes or it didn't happen.   Cool

Right. Also, http://circleversussquare.com/?ID=56.

Plus,

. (This is *very* fun.)
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2008, 07:08:09 AM »

Okay, let's assume for the sake of argument that there is some study that proved the claim that video games reduce creativity. To do so we'd have to believe that there was some quantifiable way to measure something as insubstantial as "creativity." Further we'd have to somehow measure creativity before and after playing video games. And to be a complete case we'd need a control group that was denied playing video games, but that both groups, the control and the experimental group, had access to everything the other did except video games, so we'd need to conduct this experiment in a controlled environment. We don't need any Square Pants mucking up the data. And to be sure when the experimental group was playing video games the control group would necessarily be doing NOTHING else, because if they were it could invalidate the data. During video game time the only thing the control group, in our controlled environment, would be allowed to do is sit there and stare at the walls until video game time was over, at which time both groups would be allowed to do whatever else it was they would otherwise do when they weren't playing video games, but they would not be allowed to play together. The last thing we need is the experimental group re-enacting their video game experience with the control group and cross contaminating the results of our fictitious measurement of the insubstantial "creativity" that is the point of this experiment.

If you can't be arsed to read all that let me jump straight to the point here: A study of creativity is unfeasible at best. It can't happen.

Now, let me give you my observations. My 4 year old son loves to play video games. He's pretty good, too. Plays Zelda on the N64 and can change his inventory items, tell you what he's grabbing, and use it properly. He loves the grappling hook. He plays Lego StarWars and aside from some complex platform jumping he can clear a room of robots (which he call "Washu-washu" because of the modulated "Yes-sir, yes-sir" they're always saying) pretty effectively, use the force when appropriate, switch characters in freeplay mode, and unassisted make it through many of the levels. It's impressive to see and I should mention doesn't speak well of the complexity of my favorite past time.

(Gawl, I'm really going off here.)

When my son isn't playing video games I'll often find him acting out his video games. He'll take his legos or styrofoam building pieces and build space ships and robots and lasers that sometimes bear no resemblance to anything I've seen and sometimes capture the essence effectively, but to him they are complete and he'll fly them around the room. We got him a tee-ball stand and he took it apart so the base could be his shield and the stick his sword so he can be Link as he spins slashes and tuck and rolls around the back yard. (He makes link's little grunt sound convincingly too.) Is this a lack of creativity? Looking at tee-ball stand and seeing a sword and shield. Looking at a block of legos and seeing a "swoosh" (he calls his spaceships by the sound they make).

Isn't that the very essence of creativity?

Now, lemme do a little self banter here to make a point. The argument can be made that he's not making anything original. I'd counter that by saying he's making original spaceships and robots with his legos. But, comes the retort, they are in fact spaceships, thing he's seen in the games he's played, he's not creating anything original. But, I'd respond, does anyone creative really ever create anything truly original or are they, like my son, drawing inspiration from other sources, combining, extrapolating, and making it their own.

So again I say, isn't that the very essence of creativity? Video games don't kill creativity, they fuel it.
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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2008, 08:52:16 AM »

Though I mostly agree with the rest of your post, I think this assumption is just bunk:
And to be sure when the experimental group was playing video games the control group would necessarily be doing NOTHING else, because if they were it could invalidate the data.
One possible argument against video games is precisely that the time you spend playing them could otherwise be spent on something else, e.g. creating. This is especially relevant since we probably all know how time-consuming and addictive games can be; I guess I'm not the only one here who has spent entire nights in front of the screen, helping my settlers expand or my civilization develop or my heroes fight evil or whatever. And that wasn't only when I was a kid, it still happens to me from time to time (actually, with no parental supervision, it's probably more common now...). So, if I had spent all that time practicing guitar, or drawing, or making games of my own, I would probably now be better at those things than I am now. On the other hand, those games that completely draw you in are often inspirational, I think, and have often motivated me to pursue my own ambitions especially with respect to game making. Then, I guess, it comes down to the question whether games are a worthwhile pastime at all or whether the whole gaming/game making thing is just another vicious circle...
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2008, 09:19:11 AM »

But then again, couldn't you say the same thing about most entertainment? God knows how many artists spent time watching movies or reading books when they could have been working on their own craft. Not that games can't be 'addicting', but there's always been the balance between viewing other people's creative work and working on your own. It's just a lot easier to upset the balance now that we have entertainment at our fingertips everywhere we go.

And if games aren't a worthwhile past-time, then why should any other medium be considered as such? After all, it's arguable that games actually encourage more creativity simply by the notion that the person experiencing the finished product is continually asked to provide input, even if it's as simple as pressing the jump button at the right time.

And as for my friend, he likes to push my buttons a lot, especially when it comes to games. We had an argument over the value of Guitar Hero and whether it encourage more players to learn music that lasted for days. I'll give you three guesses to figure out which side I was on. Wink

On a side note, my AP English teacher held a 'Four Corners' Debate on video-game violence. Four Corners, if you've never heard of it, asks the participants to stand at one of four walls, each labeled "Agree", "Strongly Agree", "Disagree", or "Strongly Disagree". The majority of the  boys in my class were in the "Strongly Disagree" section (i.e. we stated that video-game violence did NOT cause real-life violence), while all of the girls were in either "Agree" or simply sat in the middle of the room (supposedly neutral- not totally sure if that was even allowed).

I stood up the most to argue, though I often got off track and ranted a bit about the depiction of games in mass media and such, but I did my best to persuade the non-believers. One of the girls recounted her experience watching her guy friends play Call of Duty 4, and said that she couldn't understand why we thought killing each other would be fun, even in digital form. I retorted by asking them if they watched any sports. They mentioned that they were all big football fans. I then asked, "Why do you enjoy watching real people hurt each other?" I went on to describe how football was essentially a scaled-down representation of war, with the two teams representing opposing armies and the yardlines representing territory gained and lost. I argued that the vast majority of gamers don't see FPS games as the violent bloodbaths non-gamers assume them to be; rather, they see them as a sport- a game, if you will. The avatars may die, but they respawn in an instant, as if they were simply tagged out or were sent to the bench.

We also had to provide a single article providing evidence for our opinion. I brought in a copy of the Byron Report. Another girl brought in  an article covering the Virginia Tech massacre, claiming that the killer had trained himself on Counterstrike. I later told her that the article was wrong; according to reports from his roommate, the only game the killer played was Sonic the Hedgehog.

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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2008, 10:22:26 AM »

the only game the killer played was Sonic the Hedgehog.

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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2008, 01:49:12 PM »

An unexamined premise here: why is "creativity" even a goal? It's not an end in itself? Creativity alone is neither good or bad, it's how you use it that matters. Being creative means nothing if you create pointless things.

Another thought: how is playing games *less* creative than other forms of art? Is reading a book or a poem or a comic or watching a movie or listening to music "creative"? If no, how is playing a game any less creative than those things are? I'd think playing a game would allow you more creativity than other forms of art, since it's, you know, interactive.

That said, a lot of games do take time away from a person being creative. Time I spend playing WoW or whatever is time I don't spend making games. But that's not really the fault of WoW, that's my fault for choosing to use my time in that way.
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2008, 02:06:21 PM »

Being creative means nothing if you create pointless things.
What do you mean by 'pointless' here?
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« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2008, 02:09:31 PM »

Something which has less value than other things someone could have created, or something which has negligible or even negative value. For instance, creating more efficient weapons rather than more efficient cures for diseases in peacetime, etc.
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« Reply #16 on: July 24, 2008, 03:25:40 PM »

why is "creativity" even a goal? It's not an end in itself? Creativity alone is neither good or bad, it's how you use it that matters.

creativity can be the key in children's games. it is not a product or goal to reach, it's a way to be, a mental state which is simply good for children. it doesn't matter if it makes not much sense what they play, it's mostly "pointless" stuff, we know, but that's not the point anyway...

i'm not sure, but i think interativity in computer games is too often not creative at all. it's too obvious what's to do all the time, there's not enough room for self-defined paths, or they wont have no effect on the game score-wise. it's more often just input->output, than input->create->output.

'Sims' is probably one of the most creative game i've ever played. basically all sandbox games (are there any good ones?). maybe strategy games too. or the upcoming 'Spore' and 'Little Big Planet'...
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« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2008, 01:25:46 AM »

A distinction needs to be made between stimulating creativity and functioning as a space for creativity to emerge. Movies in general do not invoke creativity: the viewer is passive, they are not creating, but they might be stimulated mentally to act creatively at a later time. This happens in certain games too (I'll get to that in a bit.) Some games, on the other hand, can be canvases for creativity, where the player can be actively creative.

I've thought about this before, and I posit that games can be divided into two diffuse groups, or between two poles of an axis: games can be creative or they can be reactive, the latter of which is what I call where the player is asked by the game to overcome obstacles, clear goals and in general just respond to the stimuli delivered by the game. In creative games, it's the player who is the more active part in the feedback back-and-forth: it is them who add, substract, create, modify, strategize, etc. So games like Super Mario are mainly reactive, and games like SimCity mainly creative.

Clearly, if the premise and the execution are imaginative, even a very reactive game can stimulate the player's creativity; conversely, a very dry creative game might not encourage the player to act creatively at all.

(Big lab experiment.)

OR you could test kids of roughly the same age for their creative capability; a gamer group and a group that rarely plays games. There ARE tests for creativity; their validity is a matter for another discussion.

why is "creativity" even a goal? It's not an end in itself?

Creativity is a value. Stimulating it is relevant. Abraham Maslow (psychologist) claimed that it was necessary for today's society, for adaptability; Howard Gardner (also a psychologist) believes that there is no intelligence without creativity.
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2008, 01:03:42 PM »

I think the discussion was too much about creating, while creativity can be used even while not creating anything - but still coming up with creative solutions.

Life is often a  trial and error exercise, and games are too. Can we get better at trial and error? Yes.

Super Mario Bros. example:
The character I control dies if I walk into that Goomba. What else can I do? Jump, wait or run faster? The question is formed by walking into a Goomba by trial and error. The answer can be formed by logic.

Do something wrong, and you can form a question that can be answered by logic. Video games allows a big number of "wrong" actions, while life allows less. Video games allow practicing logical thinking.

Also:
Books - Killer of creativity?
Football - Killer of creativity?


Think of it carefully.

Books encourage imagination. Very much. Words have to be transformed into images and sequences of events to make any sense.

Football is a team sport. Team members and opponents are unpredictive and requires following strategies to accomplish something in a team. And only following ordered strategies can become too predicitve, so creativity is highly valued.

video games are very spatial, especially if playing platform jumping games and those kind of genres.

What I want to say is; actively doing anything can be creative.

I argued that the vast majority of gamers don't see FPS games as the violent bloodbaths non-gamers assume them to be; rather, they see them as a sport- a game, if you will. The avatars may die, but they respawn in an instant, as if they were simply tagged out or were sent to the bench.

Good point. Games are in a way metaphors, were the apparent look attracts a group of players, but the game play itself is about something entirely different than that surface. And if you play a lot of games, you know, that look doesn't really matter, so it's easy to step from "friendly" games to war games, ignoring the "war" aspect and focusing on the "game" aspect.

Movies in general do not invoke creativity: the viewer is passive, they are not creating, but they might be stimulated mentally to act creatively at a later time.

Very true.
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« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2008, 03:48:09 AM »

Agj, I think you misunderstood -- I didn't mean that creativity was bad, just that it's not always good. Obviously it's important and valuable, but is it so good that it trumps every other value? Should it be the goal of life, the purpose for existence? I kind of doubt that. I think creativity is valuable, but in the context of its use, and like a weapon it can be used in bad ways as well as good.

So saying that Maslow and Gardner (who I both admire) valued creativity isn't addressing what I said -- yes, they're valuable and necessary, I'm not disagreeing with that. I'm just asking if the primary goal of games should be to make people creative, or if stimulating someone's creativity is the only thing one should aim for when one makes a game.
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