GamerDad.com is my vision and helping parents and kids learn which games are safe and which games aren’t, is my quest. Maybe that’s why a lot of people have asked me how I came to my conclusions. What books influenced my thinking? Here’s a reading list so you can become a “GamerDad” ™ too!
GamerDad was really the first archive to “go beyond the ESRB ratings” and I’m still the only videogame/children/media expert to come at the issue from a “pro-videogame” standpoint. Meaning, I think efforts to ban or blame games for crime, juvenile delinquency, and other society ills are false and pointless. I take a pro-active approach. I think games are here to stay. The violent ones are aimed at adults. And parents and children are best served by solid information – rather than hysteria and hyperbole.
But I’m admittedly not a Child Psychologist or an expert in pathology. I am a parent myself, and I’ve reviewed somewhere around 5000 games over the past 10 years. I’ve edited or written about, probably, 2000 more. That’s not an exaggeration. I came up with my views because I know games. I see them for what they are and I had a little help crafting my vision by reading the following books (in no particular order and, hey! If you want to buy them you could really help me and the cause out by clicking our Amazon link to the left and buying them there. We get a small percentage of each sale!)
Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Superheroes, and Make Believe Violence – by Gerard Jones
An invaluable common-sense approach that looks at the way kids were before the media and the way they are now. The author helped bring about the Pokemon phenomenon and is a noted comic book writer – but his work with disturbed children is what makes his anecdotal evidence so compelling.
What Kids Buy and Why: The Psychology of Marketing to Kids – by Daniel Acuff PhD
A dry but useful book that helps parents understand how those marketing professionals are trying to lure their kids toward their products. Knowing how they do it and why kids respond makes it easier to counter.
Ill Effects: The Media/Violence Debate – by Martin Barker
This book is fair-minded but mostly of the opinion that media and violence aren’t as connected as most people fear. A compelling read with points well supported and argued.
Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence – by Lt Col. David Grossman
I disagree profoundly with much of what this book concludes, but you can’t ignore Grossman’s expertise. He’s a Psychologist, a Lt. Colonel, and he supervised Army programs where they actively used videogames to help desensitize soldiers against killing. But he makes some huge assumptions about how retail violent games work. There’s very little of the desensitizing he describes in the Army games, and none of the additional psychological training Grossman supervised. The fact is we think most kids like violent games not because of the killing, but because of the story, the empowering, and the challenge. The Army simulators weren’t meant to be fun, they were only meant to train. Big difference in our opinion. Grossman coined the term “killologist” to describe his civilian role.
What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning & Literacy – by James Paul Gee, PhD
A UWMadison professor who is pioneering much of the study regarding Videogames and learning – particularly literacy. Solid and readable, it’s hard not to agree with this book. Especially if you actively play games with children.
Gaming Lives in the Twenty-First Century: Literate Connections – by James Paul Gee, PhD
Another book from Mr. Gee. This one analyzes how gaming has become more social and how people are learning from their use.
Pop Culture: the Sane Man’s Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood – by Christopher Healy
Healy’s book is gentle, hilarious, and a must for dads (the title is a pun). Plus there’s this guy named Andrew from Milwaukee and alternately called GamerDad quoted in it. Really! Color me biased but this is a fun book.
Everything Bad is Good for You – by Steven Johnson
A Wonderful look at how maybe the conventional wisdom is dead wrong and that living in the Information Age is educational – rather than detrimental. I wasn’t convinced, but I think he’s at least 70% correct in the conclusions he makes.
11 Myths of Media Violence – by Potter
They’re all here and you get to read about how these myths have been perpetuated over the centuries. This book is excellent fodder for a debate about what most people automatically assume about media effects on kids.
The War Play Dilemma – by Diane E. Levin and Nancy Carlson-Paige
A fair minded look at violent play that does cover both sides but is mainly written to help teachers steer kids away from violent play. Not extremist (these aren’t the people who think Tag must be banned from the playground) but people who loved Dodge Ball will disagree profoundly. I don’t disagree, but I also don’t agree with their conclusions.
I’ll add more as I read them. If you’re curious or concerned about games, please check some of these books out. If you need fodder to help you convince an anti-gaming person the merits of games, these are great places to see both sides of the argument.
If you can suggest more books I’ve missed – ESPECIALLY books that say violent media is BAD for kids. Let me know by clicking the email link in the right hand bar.