Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Faster! Faster!

Remember sitting down to a game of Monopoly with your family? Or Parcheesi? Or an hours-long game of Risk? Apparently we were a slower, better-focused group of people then.

Parents are lobbying game manufacturers to "shorten games" because, they claim, they take too long to play and kids aren't having fun.

Michelle Hastings admits she's sometimes cheated to get through a game of Candy
Land with her 5-year-old daughter, Campbell. The board game can take just too long, she said. Disney Monopoly is another big offender.

"A game like that, it could literally take you days," said Hastings, of Holliston, Mass. "A lot of times, you don't play games because they take so long." Board game makers are heeding pleas of parents like Hastings and introducing games tailored to busy lives and shorter attention spans that take only about 20 minutes to play

So the game-makers are releasing "express" versions of the games. Some have nifty electronics to speed things up, others are just simplified to make the game move faster and be easier to play. There have always been "fast" games (Uno, Go Fish, Crazy 8s), but not everything has to be at light-speed!
Best of all for busy parents and kids, the games are brief and they're packaged differently so they can be taken along in the car."It's analogous to a kid picking up his Game Boy for 10 minutes," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy consultant based in New York. "Yet it involves the whole family."

Easier. Faster. Is this really a good thing? C'mon -- not everything in life is instantaneous and not everything should be "easy". This trend actually kind if disturbs me. Everyone has made up rules to a common game to get it over quickly if you really don't have time; but to demand games that are shorter because they take longer than 10 minutes to play? Seriously, do parents really want to teach their kids that a) everything can be done quckly and if it's not fast then it's not valuable and b) they should always be able to "win"? This is where I put on my child-free hat and criticize parenting: kids really do need to learn that they don't always win, that some things do need work and practice and attention to do properly. It's not enough to try. You have to succeed. The world really doesn't give a damn about your fragile self-esteem. [turn off harpy-mode]

Methinks that the demand for faster games has absolutely nothing to do with the kids' attention spans and abilty to play. It's the parents who think things take too long. (As evidenced by the opening paragraph of the article.) Kids can sit and do the most inane things for hours on end, they are perfectly capable of playing a game lasting an hour. Or at least, I certainly remember doing so. I remember playing cards with my dad for a couple hours (he taught me cribbage -- great for math!) and spending the afternoons playing Monopoly or Life with my friends. Scrabble should not be a 10 minute game. Well, maybe it can be, but that's an entirely different mode of leisure, in my book.

And books! If everyone is used to 10-15 minute bursts of entertainment, how on earth are we going to teach them to appreciate books? It takes most people a few days to finish a long novel...if their entire childhood is spend on fast-forward, will kids every learn to enjoy that?

I'm one of the highest-input-requiring people that I know -- I have to have something to read while sitting the carwash or waiting in line to get the mail. I read while I watch television (how's that for a bizarre twist?). I have a ton of hobbies that are tedious and time-consuming in a way that only a zen master can appreciate (a 24x36" cross stich piece on 36ct linen, anyone?). I multitask by default. I feel let down when movies are only an hour and a half long. I really don't get the weird "must be connected must be amused must be entertained" vibe that I get from alot of people. I really have a hard time being passively entertained. Sit in front of the tv and just watch? Not likely.

Apparently, I'm weird.

1 comment:

The Tiger said...

Looks like an interesting post, but could you make it shorter? Thanks!

... you saw that coming, I hope ...