World of Warcraft and Reading

WorldcraftNY Times posted an article today about gaming and reading. When reading articles about this subject, I always have to ask myself, what do they mean by reading? Reading images on a screen? Or in a book? One example in the article talks about a boy who avidly reads websites that have information about the World of Warcraft game and cheats too. Is this the kind of reading we want to encourage?

Reading, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “The action of perusing written or printed matter; the practice of occupying oneself in this way.” Perusing is often a synonym for reading. In perusing books, a reader should be looking for an understanding of the printed words on a page. Hence the numerous assignments teachers give revolving book reports, response papers, and term papers. Reading designates a sort of comprehension.

Video games, however, utilizes a different aspect of comprehension. It isn’t so much a comprehension of storylines, ideas, or characters, rather it is an understanding of surroundings. Like James Paul Gee’s quote in the NY Times article, “Games are teaching critical thinking skills and a sense of yourself as an agent having to make choices and live with those choices.” While these games may teach critical thinking skills, they teach it in a fantasy world and sometimes these lessons do not translate into reality. Looking at video game players, I don’t see an effort to engage the world, but to leave the world and play in their fantasy. Books however, do the opposite. They push people to engage and confront the world around them. The more they read, the more people often take action in their own world and often to change it.

I don’t think that video games are horrible. In one way they are the same as books in that they allow for the user to escape, which is not necessarily bad and is sometimes good at the end of a stressful day (no matter the age). But I do not think that they will help encourage better reading habits. Several studies are being done to see whether or not playing games like World of Warcraft encourages better reading or more reading and it will be interesting to see what the studies conclude. However I predict that it will prove that gaming events at libraries will be very popular and have large turnouts, that there are similarities in the comprehension, and that while there are large turnouts for library gaming events, there is not much of an increase in books checked out at libraries.