The Revolution of Kids Programming

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Thursday September 9, 2004.

I had anticipated the arrival of The Video Game Revolution since I saw it on the schedule at work a few weeks ago. Luckily, I remembered to tune into it so I could see what the fuss was all about. I was into it. I am not a gamer, so some of it did not make sense to me. I did, however, have a sort of knowledge of most of the games, either from playing them in the past, watching guys play them in college, or from my brother, who happens to be way too into the shit, so I did recognize a lot of it. It was a good show, but slightly different from the expected profile of revolutionary gamers from the 80’s and that stuff. But put that aside for a moment.

We had a staff meeting at work today. One of the things that was talked about is the new fall kids lineup, which consists of a sort of special section called PBS Kids GO!. The Go! section is designed to keep kids who are in the range of about 6-10 years old. The idea is that they ditch PBS shows for network-based shows like Spongebob Squarepants and, in my case, Yugioh and Pokemon. Hell, even my 4-year-old daughter is way into the latter shows because she wants to be like her brother.

As the education people from work talked about the change in the lineup, I thought that the money spent on research to find out that kids want other crap seemed really, really wasted. I have done whatever I can to instill the values of what PBS offers to my kids, and it just doesn’t matter. I always try to steer the limited television watching toward our programming, I don’t buy the shit the other shows are selling, and I prop my kids up when they do watch what I’m actually selling to them. I just don’t think that kids want to continue watching some sort of educational program until they hit 13 or whatever. I thought about this in the meeting, but refrained from stealing someone else’s thunder, so I kept quiet.

Then, in watching the video game show tonight, I heard Sid Meier, creator of the game Civilization, which I have played and liked, say that his games are designed to be learning games, not educational games. Those are two pretty distinct things. As soon as he said it, I was like, “Holy crap, that’s the problem with PBS kis programming.” It’s EDUCATIONAL, not designed for learning. Kids don’t want morals and values shoved at them, they want to learn life. For all of it’s faults (and if you don’t know, crass commercialism is just one of them) Pokemon teaches kids that there are ways to resolve conflict. They don’t do it with some hippy parent preaching peace, they do it with a battle between mythical figures that may result in destruction of something precious, then the two adversaries figuring out tat the solution sucked and talking it out to resolve it a better way. That’s how life works.

I don’t know yet if my kids will take those lessons to heart and use them to resolve conflict the right way as young adults. But there’s no question they’ll use those lessons before they’ll use the ones on the television shos they choose not to watch.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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