Stop demonising video games

Kate Russell

Kate Russell, journalist, reporter and author

I’ve been a gamer since 1984 and get fed up with hearing people say gaming is a waste of time and that gaming communities are toxic and full of hateful prejudice. Through my 30+ years as a female gamer I have had the pleasure of being involved with some of the nicest, most caring and diverse communities I’ve ever met.

As a teenager I didn’t engage with formal education, but I loved playing Elite on my brother’s BBC Micro. Through this game – a space trading game with over 2,000 star-systems to explore – I learned many of the academic principles I was failing to be interested in at school. Through trading I learned basic economics – buy low, sell high. The politics in Elite was modelled on the capitalist boom of the day, and I learned about diplomacy and the cause and effect of civil unrest and things like economic boom or famine on the populations of various planets. I also learned things like problem solving and navigation and a lifelong interest in physics and astronomy was ignited. Most importantly though, a by-product of excelling at this game was that I became comfortable with computers and was inspired though the rest of my life to explore how else I could use them.

I’m not alone in this. A significant number of the people I meet a similar age to myself who are working in technology today were also inspired to tread that path because they played Elite as a child. Today there are so many more educational games that capture the imagination and teach academic ideas in a fun and engaging way. All gamers know this, and recognise their ability to engage and inspire young people. But the trouble is non-gamers (often parents and teachers) only read what the press has to say – and I’m afraid the headline ‘Group of mixed gender, culturally diverse gamers had a really fun weekend together’ is never going to appear in The Guardian. So I challenge the media to look at gaming through the eyes of most regular gamers, and help the world see the potential gaming has to inspire the next generation of technology professionals.

Journalist, reporter and author, Kate has been writing about technology and the Internet since 1995. Appearing regularly on BBC technology programme Click she also speaks at conferences and digital policy meetings and lectures in schools and universities inspiring the next generation of technologists. Her website, KateRussell.co.uk , won the 2015 UK Blog Awards for best individual digital and technology blog, and in June 2016 she was voted the Computer Weekly 13th most influential woman in UK IT. She also writes sci-fi and fantasy with two published novels now available.

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