'The killbot factory'
Gee, it sure has been a while since any mental attention seekers tried to blame games for all the world's ills. In a weird way, I sort of miss them. Sure, Jack Thompson's brand of alarmist gobbledygook might've irked us, but his only real crime was to spout a madly exaggerated take on the views held by many non-gamers i.e. that to interact with a digital simulation of something is almost akin to performing the real-world act yourself. Never mind how radically, experientially different playing GTA is from driving a car or firing an actual gun. Never mind the fact that actors routinely pretend to kill people in much more convincing fashion. Video games are different.
The great irony here is that these sorts of views end up giving games waaay too much credit. Yes, we love playing them, but not nearly enough to go completely nutso as a result (I can assure you, those irate COD kids were crazy way before Infinity Ward gave them an outlet). Following the extremist logic, games really ought to be imparting all sorts of weird and wonderful lessons, and teaching us all manner of amazing skills. So, if we're all mindless kill bots, what else are we?
Surgeon Simulator 2013 would turn us all into top surgeons
Why it might work: Well for a start, top surgeons require many of the same attributes as the very best gamers - fast reactions, precise movement and nerves of unbendable steel. Surgeon Simulator 2013 even goes so far as to try and replicate the same limb-shaking anxiety suffered by many young doctors, except here of course it's less about nerves and more a case of your avatar's hands flapping around like a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man.
Why it definitely wouldn't work: Stellar hand-eye coordination may be a boon, but none of that's going to matter one jot the next time your best bud Billy slices himself open on an errant bean-tin. He'll just bleed out, right there on the floor, wondering what on earth they're going to stick on his obituary as you fumble around looking for a makeshift shock paddle. Hint: sticking his thumbs in a plug socket isn't the same thing.
L.A Noire would teach us how to be expert detectives
Why it might work: To be fair to L.A. Noire, it does just about nail the basics. Show up, scout the area, check the body for clues, maybe question a witness or two - then bugger off home for a nice big think and a second world war flashback. It's the interactive equivalent of a 'detective's guide for dummies', and do you know what? Those big yellow books sell like speed for a reason. They're an excellent little primer for all manner of professions. Sure, you wouldn't want to base your thesis on one, but like L.A. Noire they certainly have their uses.
Why it definitely wouldn't work: L.A. Noire might be the best detective game going today - and no, there isn't a lot of competition for that title - but that doesnt change the fact that it's set some 68 years in the past. Yes, the basics of investigation don't change, but all of the ancillary stuff most certainly does. Just you try walking onto an active crime scene, trampling through forensic evidence on your way to rearranging a corpse like some sort of fully articulated, meaty action figure.
Ace combat would teach us how to be fighter pilots
Why it might work: Well there's certainly a lot of buttons to remember in both. Hell, if you can handle the 17-plus inputs on a game pad then why not the 8 trillion switches lining the cockpit of a multi-million dollar aircraft? That makes sense, right? Right? And what about joysticks? Surely they can replicate the precision control required to pilot one of these hulking monstrosities. Hey, real pilots use computer simulators all the time!
Why it definitely wouldn't work: For a start, none of the buttons on your grease-stained game pad have the potential to violently murder you, or worse yet, cover the entirety of Glasgow in a thick coat of agent orange (the citizens' dependence on Irn Bru makes them immune anyway). As for the joysticks argument, well there's certainly something to be said for the big fans of serious flight sims being better qualified to fly than the rest of us, but not by much. Performing outside the comfort of your own home is never easy. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood swinger's association. And they rarely have to do it in the sky.
Total War would turn us all into five-star generals
Why it might work: Real life generals may not enjoy the full 360 degree field of vision that their TW counterparts do, but the required skills of reading, planning and reacting are the same for both camps. Yes, in the virtual version there's a slightly unrealistic 1:1 relationhip between orders being issued and having them carried out, but beyond that, it's still all about your tactics, troop use and timing. Total War aficionados would make for great leaders.
Why it definitely wouldn't work: Even assuming that we're talking solely about old school battles (modern combat is almost a completely different discipline), there are still dozens of reasons why video game tactics don't translate well to the real world. For one thing, a general's field of vision would often be blocked by the sheer amount of dust and debris being kicked up, meaning he'd have to depend on his lieutenant's reports for an accurate account of the battle as it unfolded. It isn't hard to see why The Creative Assembly would seek to downplay this element in their titles. Likewise the general's own sense of safety, something you can't really replicate without a hoard of angry barbarians on hand to chop you into little bits after failing the scenario. And that'd give the game severely limited replay value.
Tycoon titles would transform us into business moguls
Why it might work: If banks and/or building societies had any sense they'd be bundling a copy of RollerCoaster Tycoon with every new account. After all, nothing teaches people the merits of level-headed frugality like a title in which balancing the books represents the main conduit to fun. Fancy constructing a new ride? Well tough luck chump, you shouldn't have built the carousel that decapitated all those kids. Maybe next time you'll be a bit more switched on with your money. Ta da - lesson learnt.
Why it definitely wouldn't work: The problem with picking up business acumen from a game about mangling log flume enthusiasts is that no one really plays these games properly, at least not for long. Sooner or later you'll get sick of all that penny pinching frugality and decide to treat yourself - typically by asking the bank for a hundred bajillion dollars in cash - and most of the time, they'll give it you. Assuming your own bank manager would do the same - rather than say, scampering off to play polo with the sullen heads of the poor - inculcating the idea that 'loans solve everything' is pretty much the antithesis of good money sense. You might've (temporarily) saved Bumbly Beach from going bankrupt, but that doesnt mean you're equipped to start the next Microsoft.
Guitar Hero would make us all rock gods
Why it might work: Getting your left and right hands to work in perfect synchronicity may seem like a breeze. After all, you've been doing it all your life. But introduce a new instrument or tool into the mix and suddenly all bets are off. One starts to strum away while the other plays the part of the deadbeat rockstar, far too stoned to catch his cue and missing all his timings. It's a little like playing with another person's hands. Everything suddenly feels slow and unresponsive. Fortunately the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band can do a great deal to alleviate this issue, giving aspiring rockers a helpful hand-up on other learners. Tapping a big green button and flicking a switch at the appropriate moments may not feel like progress, but where beginners are concerned it most certainly is.
Why it definitely wouldn't work: Basic timing and synchronicity are one thing, but competent musicianship requires a whole lot more than that. Knowing where and how to pluck, pick or tap each part of your guitar, drum set or err xylophone is great, but knowing how to do so in an organic and creative way - i.e. penning your own stuff - that's just as crucial. Still, there's always Rocksmith
International Track & Field would turn us into gifted pro athletes
Why it might work: This entry works well with any sporting title, not just the thumb-nubbing, arthritis-inducing hellfest that is International Track & Field. As with real life sports, games based around an athletic contest often demand great timing, hand-eye coordination and a good deal of endurance to boot. You may be viewing the action from an all-encompassing angle, but that doesnt mean you're becoming any less ace at spotting the perfect pass.
Why it definitely wouldn't work: Skill and muscle memory may be an invaluable aid to athletes, but alone they're not enough. If you really want to make it to the top, then you're going to need some actual muscles too. Sadly, the average gamer looks an awful lot like the average human being. That is to say, somewhere vaguely between Arnold Schwarzenegger and a pot-bellied darts star. Games aren't transforming us into athletes any more than they're subliminally ordering us to shoot people. And that is to say, they're not at all.
Braid would transform us into time-spanning stalkers
Why it might work: Here's one that we're glad those anti-game groups never cottoned on to. Braid's tale of time-twisting tomfoolery may look like just another lady-shaped fetch quest, but it's actually a whole lot more disturbing than that. Late in the game, players become distinctly aware that their preppy-faced protagonist isn't all that he appears. 'Tim' is actually the game's de facto baddie, having convinced himself that he alone can safeguard the princess, while actually performing the role of her tormentor. By playing the game we effectively buy into Tim's delusion, even helping to forward that mad agenda. Somewhere, an anti-game lobbyist just had an orgasm "Cutesy kid's game is disgusting stalker sim - Ban this filth."
Why it definitely wouldn't work: And the award for most redundant paragraph goes to this one right here. After all, the whole point of this article has been to mock the difference between uninformed, alarmist conclusions and the rather more mundane reality of actually playing games. If you need to have it explained to you why a game about a pervert doesn't immediately spawn an army of copycat creeps, then the odds are you probably wouldn't understand it anyway. Hell, it's a wonder you even managed to dress yourself Oh I see - you haven't.
'Mario turned me mental'
These are just some of the examples of the skillsets that our delightfully 'offbeat' chums in the anti-game community ought to believe in. Got any other suggestions? Head on down to comments section below to make merry.
Looking for more edumcational content? Check out 10 useful skills you actually can learn by playing video games (opens in new tab), and then 13 important moral lessons as taught to us by games (opens in new tab).