Boris Johnson, mayor of London, wrote idiotic game article

You will find this stupid article on Boris Johnson’s own website. And, oh dear, how ignorant and uninformed he is. This is just another one of those typical articles you get when someone doesn’t have the faintest idea what they are talking about and just spouts their prejudices. His premise is that “computer games rot the brain” when it has been proven that the opposite is true. And now that he is in a position of political power this is important.

His main contention is that children prefer games to books and that this is bad: “surveys increasingly show that children (especially boys) regard reading as a chore, something that needs to be accomplished for the sake of passing tests, not as a joy in itself. It is a disaster, and I refuse to believe that these hypnotic little machines are innocent.” What he does not seem to realise is that gaming and reading are similar activities. They are popular culture. But games are better because they are interactive, non linear and social. He shows the prejudice of someone who is too old to grasp that thing have changed and that for today’s generation there is a better form of culture than the one he had.

His graphic description “while in some other room the nippers are bleeping and zapping in speechless rapture, their passive faces washed in explosions and gore. They sit for so long that their souls seem to have been sucked down the cathode ray tube. They become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious.” further shows his misunderstanding. He should really compare this with someone engrossed in a book, oblivious to the world. The difference being that the game player is at least interacting and is probably engaged socially with another person or people whilst they play. Reading a book is massively more anti social than gaming.

One point where is is partially right is: “ So I say now: stop just lying there in your post-Christmas state of crapulous indifference. Get up off the sofa. Can the DVD of Desperate Housewives, and go to where your children are sitting in auto-lobotomy in front of the console. Summon up all your strength, all your courage. Steel yourself for the screams and yank out that plug.” Here he implies that parents should take responsibility for their children’s upbringing. But how he equates this with depriving them of video gaming is totally beyond me.

It really looks like what Boris needs is a Nintendo DS and a copy of Brain Training.



  1. Boris says;

    “It hardly matters how much cash we pour into reading in schools if there is no culture of reading at home; and the consequences of this failure to read can be seen throughout the education system.”

    I think the central point of what he’s talking about here is fair, and he’s close to the cause of the problem. So near, and yet so far…

    Marshall McCluhan talked about how “the medium is the message”; the idea that, contrary to what marketers would have you believe, content isn’t nearly as relevant to the impact a medium has on society as the medium itself.

    The real problem here is screen based entertainment. People get hung up on the idea that kids might be exposed to inappropriate content, but if you take a step back, it seems that it’s a powerful argument that it’s not the screens that the kids are sat in front of that’s the problem; it’s the screens that the parents are sitting in front of, staring at slack-jawed all evening (whether that’s at documentaries Discovery or videos of kittens falling over is irrelevant) while the kids are left to entertain themselves, rather than learning how to interact by watching their family interact with one another.

  2. Scott has hit the nail right on the head. What’s lacking in society today compared to previous generations is the breakdown of the ‘home’.
    Honestly, did no one think that the rise of gaming has caused by the ‘lets leave the kids alone’ mentality?

    You cannot blame the medium overall.

    You can blame some individuals within the medium – Rockstar – I make no excuses for any psychopaths spawned out of Manhunt. However, I WILL take offence when people poke blanket the industry as ‘mind-polluting’ …. explain to me the negative connotations of Super Mario Galaxy or Gran Turismo?

    Whether we like it or not, we’ve become a jealous and selfish society where gang culture is the feeling of belonging and attention. A society where your beauty is your governed by your weight or fame, and for kids, the park is not even an afterthought compared to being on the net.
    It seems so ironic then, that the very medium the press has attacked has simultaneously been promoted as ‘bringing families together’ via the Nintendo Wii.

    So if the problem is the family, how do we solve it? Simple. Keep the games – in moderation. Nobody benefits from an industry churning out mundane clone-titles to satisfy a hungry demand.
    Promote HEROES and HEROINES, like the 80s era. Heroes and heroines are role-models for children, a necessity in any culture. It allows people to respect moral values and give themselves pride.

    We must also encourage family bonds, friendship s and kinsmanship. Get rid of the music industry’s ‘murder advocating’ money-spinning lyrics. Bring in more after-school activities, teamwork and free ad-supported local events. We need to rebuild trust in each other and that’s not going to happen if it doesn’t exist in the home.

  3. I’m not quite sure why commentators-at-large perform such superficial analysis of juxtaposing family values with the gaming phenomenon.
    There were very few PCs in India, especially not at home, when I grew up in the 80s. My dad had bought a Sinclair Spectrum 128K for us (my brother and I) during a trip to the UK, along with game tapes of The Neverending Story and The Hobbit.
    He always encouraged us to play, and fired our enthusiasm by egging us on to discover, for instance, how the computer could understand our English-like commands (text RPGs rock!!).
    We grew up and soon there was a PC in the den, and we started playing Quake. Again, my dad tried to push us into finding out how the developers managed to render effective 3D images. And so it went.
    Now, the funny thing is he had no background in computers, and knew nothing about programming. But that didn’t stop him from encouraging us to discover more about these wonderful machines. He didn’t care that we were “gunning down people” in the course of the game – he knew fully well that we were not going to absorb the wrong lessons from our gaming.
    In short, I believe games are a convenient scapegoat for what is, in essence, the very different issue of a breakdown in intra-family communications.
    I’m quite afraid, though, that we are in for an extended period of “nanny-statism” and censorship across the world.
    As always, an interesting article! Thanks for this..

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