Sunday, 30 September 2012

Next-Gen Gamers

This article was originally posted on Forces of Geek on Thursday 20th September. Since then, I've seen kids with iPhones everywhere...

You know that toddlers have an intuitive ability to pick up any piece of technology and seem to instinctively know how to use it? - be it the TV remote, an Xbox controller or their Mummy's iPhone? Well, The Village of the Damned and the twins from The Shining have nothing on today's kids...
Absolutely Terrifying

They scare the crap out of me!

They learn so quickly, it's as if they just know stuff already - try talking in a 'cutesy voice' to a baby the next time you see one and pay attention to the look on their face. It's says "Don't patronise me adult. Stop embarrassing yourself."

When it comes to the inevitable apocalypse, forget Skynet or zombies... I have visions of under-5s taking over the world. Seriously, ever wondered why Japanese ghosts are almost always little girls?

It's worth noting that as well as being cute, kids today are smarter than you and at some point they will overtake us all in terms of knowledge, specifically technology. These kids are part of a newer generation, born into an already established technological world where everyone is connected via technology, social network sites and games consoles; not just in our homes but in our cars, our places of recreation and mobile devices that we cannot leave the house without.

Remember the time you ridiculed your mother for not understanding how her phone works? Or when you had to set up your family PC at the age of 10 because your dad had no idea what a modem was? Well now I've found myself watching tutorials for complicated editing software recently (After Effects) and the thing is hosted by some squeaky pre-teen! What the hell, world!? How and when did this happen?!

As the years pass, people have less time to commit to gaming due to boring adult stuff but as someone who actively strives to fit in gaming time, I'm still alarmed when my 8 year old cousin who lacks my 20 years gaming experience, can beat me at Mario Kart the first time he plays.

Not only is it embarrassing but it causes me to question my own skill, no more can I pretend to let a youngling win a game of Wii Sports Bowling because they'll win anyway! There's only so many times you can lose to a child before it just becomes demeaning and you find yourself blaming the fact you lost on your ever deteriorating, aging body. Either that or the controller.

Like technology, every year we grow older we become outdated. We're the equivalent of a Nokia 3210, our main selling point being that not only can we make calls but we can play the game, Snake... while every kid in a five mile radius epitomises an iPhone 5 with it's shiny new apps, swanky user interface and myriad of games - damn, kids.

I can understand why parents let their children play games from a young age. Letting a five year old loose with an Xbox controller or iPad is good for their learning, at least I'm pretty sure when my time for spawning little'uns comes that I'll be encouraging the little whipper snappers to play games (as well as read a book, go outside etc,). Of course, there are fear mongering types who will try to convince us all that gaming is turning children into violent sociopaths or dribbling idiots but there's a lot of positive press out there too.

An article from The Telegraph in 2011 suggested that children who play video games were more likely to grow up to be creative, regardless of the type of games they played. Based on how many talented creative people I know who grew up on games I'm inclined to agree.

But I digress... I'm not writing about the pros and cons of video games for kids, I'm highlighting kids who can learn and pick up technology quicker than adults. How can they be so good at gaming when they've barely even left the womb!?

Toddlers are so quick to learn that it's hard not to watch in amazement as they interact with games. Part of the reason they pick up these skills almost immediately is that they don't have the previous experience we do.

Luckily for them, they never lived in a world with slow dial up modems or floppy discs. Those relics are now found in museums or reserved for the elderly who still use a clunky mouse and an over-sized keyboard bigger than their computer screen. My point is, without this previous knowledge children are able pick up touch screen technology and video games much quicker than us because technology is so much more intuitive than it used to be. Either that or Abstergo were right and it's in our DNA after all.

An iPad only has two buttons, for a child this is simple - for us, it feels slightly suspect because we expect things to be more complicated, surely it requires seven buttons to operate a simple command! How else would the wiring and micro processing chips and bulbs know how to react!? Hmm!? (That's how it works... right?).

A two year old likes nothing better than to explore, look around and touch everything - hence why parents childproof their homes - so something like an iPad or iPhone full of all it's colourful apps and games is pretty easy for a child to navigate. They will touch the screen and react accordingly.

There's also the fact that many nurseries and schools have introduced games consoles and iPads into their classrooms as learning aides. My sister is a teacher and has recently been given access to iPads for her class to use. I'm still surprised by this.  When I was at school, we had to take turns to use the lone PC to play text-based adventure games and even chalk on a blackboard is now considered ancient.

As much as I'm suffering from retrospective envy, grumbling "You didn't get that in my day" like an OAP. But I guess I ultimately see it as a good thing. It's a sign that we're still evolving, that we are growing as our technologies and sciences are constantly advancing. Who knows what kind of accomplishments these spoilt little kids will be responsible for or major advancements in gaming perhaps? It's all rather exciting!

So, next time some snot-nosed child beats you and then mercilessly derides you for it, try to remember that they will no doubt help further our species and create stunning new games for you.. that and they'll suffer the same fate soon enough.

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