Seeing TV and video games as passive stimulation is becoming a very
foreign concept to me.
My husband majored in Communication Arts and Sciences, with a focus on
Video Production when he was an undergrad. From our early days
together, he was always pointing out *how* TV shows and movies were
made—how the perspective was framed, how the editing decisions
worked with the overarching philosophy, as well as "how did they get
that shot?" questions. That's part of our everyday conversation when
my family watches TV together.
As a writer, I'm always looking at the story behind the story as
well. How is the story structured, what are the creators
accomplishing by giving this action to that character, and so on. We
talk about those factors whether we're playing video games and while
we're watching TV shows and movies. Our understanding is complex and
is focused on the whole story system, instead of the details and the
Recently, I skimmed through a book on the video game industry. That
got me thinking more about the process behind putting together video
games—how the graphics are rendered, the project management aspect,
how the dialogue is written to be flexible enough to sound relevant at
various stages of the game, how the process of creating the story is
changed by adding interactivity. Fisher (almost 10) has a couple of
those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, and we were talking about the
ways in which video games would be much more complex to create than
those books are.
Our whole family loves music. My husband scours the library and out-
of-the-way places for new music and brings it home. He makes
compilations of the best stuff that he finds. We play the
compilations in the kitchen while we're all hanging out together, and
there are some songs that Fisher is just taken with. He dances, he
hums—I can see him thinking about how the music is put together,
and why it speaks to him.
Given this interest in music, we recently took Fisher to a Blue Man
Group concert—his first real "grown-up" show. Again, I could see
all the connections being made—he watched how the instruments were
being played, listened to how the sounds and the rhythms came
together, jumped and bopped his head and let it all come together
inside of him. His knowledge and awareness of music is growing deep
and wide—it's not about "the basics," but about a gestalt, a
holistic, systemic approach.
When you ask what component you are missing, this is what I keep
coming up with. Are you looking in the wrong places? Are you looking
for the basics when in fact, your son's knowledge and understanding is
deep and wide and whole? What you see as "basic" are just a few Lego
pieces that he'll fill in as he goes—but in looking for those, are
you missing the incredibly large, whole creation that he's built up?
For us, the adults in the house blend our own experience and knowledge
with what our kids seem to like doing. We start where they are—we
get into it and appreciate it and enjoy it. Is it possible that your
son thinks he doesn't have hobbies and interest and passion because of
your attitude that what he was doing didn't count as such? Because
*you* saw it as passive?
For us, right where our kids were—loving music and TV and video
games—was a great starting place for more. Going to concerts,
finding out how different bands have influenced each other, figuring
out how people have made the movies they've posted on YouTube,
researching FAQs, talking with other gamers, looking up weapons that
are used in the video games, playing the music we've heard in video
games, pretending and finding new connections through our pretend
games, talking through the logic of different strategies, looking up
actors on IMDB—all of this keeps leading to more and more learning
about how the world works, about how the creative process works.
I just keep looking for where "passive" comes into this—and I'm not
finding it. There is an aspect of observing, of letting the
experience fill us and wash through us as we consider how to use it,
how to store it and bring it into our worldview. But it's not at all