Videogames Causing Attendance Decline At National Parks

Videogames Causing Attendance Decline At National Parks


An article in the Christian Science Monitor claims that videogames are one of the main factors behind declining attendance at national parks in the U.S.

While the article also cites other influences, including rising gasoline prices and increased parental concern over free-roaming children, videogames and gizmo-based activities such as text messaging, computer use and television are listed as the primary causes of "couch potato kids," who have little interest in going outside. "I think it's a generational change," said Yosemite visitor Susan Campos, who comes to the park several times a year with her two daughters. "We had more of a sense of adventure and we didn't have to have entertainment provided. Kids get bored much more easily."

According to the article, federal officials across the country are launching programs to fight what they call a "nature deficit disorder." The National Wildlife Federation is promoting a "Green Hour" program, intended to get kids outside for an hour a day of unstructured playtime, while the state of Michigan recently declared a "No Student Life Inside" day. The U.S. Forest Service has also launched a program, entitled "Kids in the Woods," which provides grants to support outdoor education programs and overnight trips.


Damn kids, get off my lawn.

Video games are behind a decline in a whole lot of outdoor activity among kids. I speak from personal experience. I'm 24, when I was 10-14, I spent a lot of time playing tackle football and basketball with neighborhood friends, and while I was competent I was no proficient athlete in either. We also spent time trudging through some woods and building forts on occasion, riding our bikes out there. I can recall on one hand the number of times we sat around a TV with controllers. And this was a group of 4-8 kids at any given time.

My brother, who is 10 years my junior, and his friends do nothing of the sort I did. They go over each other's houses to play video games, or more often they stay at their own houses and play friends - real and 'online friends' - over XBL. Of course, there are no woods to build forts or ride bikes in because that's all been developed into 350-400k McMansions but that's another story.

Just as much as there are many pretty places to visit outside, wild things to see and experience, many of them are far, and it costs time and money to go there.
I'm lazy. I'm not bored. I have money. Sometimes. But much less time.
I find the landscapes in certain games just as incredible. Imagination does a lot as well, and in the end, I find it mentally stimulating. I loved the open lands in FarCry. I'm probably going to really buy that damn Shadows of the Colossus. The price hasn't moved that much however. I've completed it, but it wasn't mine.
The advantage of where I like to go is that I can fight a bear and jump off cliffs without being concerned about the consequences.

Yeah but it's also asocial to stare at the foliage in FarCry or fight pixels in Colossus while sitting on a chair. Gaming is by and large an insular world, including multiplayer. And that is fine - but not when it also becomes a substitute for socializing and physical activity.

Doing stuff outside and going to Yosemite are not in the same spectrum of choices, and the problem is heavy video gaming leads to doing neither.

Without disclosing too much about my age (just keep off my lawn), I'll say that I agree with much of what the article says. I went through a similar stretch in life, although I can't justify it by saying I was just a kid - I was more than old enough to know better, I just didn't care. It all came to a head the year I took a week's holiday from work and spent the entire thing - the entire thing - playing Diablo. I don't think I've ever been so brainfried in my life, and when I finally recovered from the experience (about three days after I'd gone back to work), I realized that maybe this wasn't the smartest way to be spending every spare hour I had.

This isn't some kind of heart-warming story of life-affirming recovery: I'm still a hopeless game junkie who spends far more time on his ass in front of a monitor than is healthy or normal. But I also took a stab at camping the year following the Diablathon, something I did a lot with my parents when I was a kid, and it turns out I love it. It's put me in an interesting situation; when I'm inside, I have to tear myself away from the games to go outside, and then when I'm outside, I have to tear myself away to come back in.

We used to play outside becuase it was fun. what a concept, right. We had video games, NES, Super NES, Genesis, but we still played manhunt (the night-time tag game, not the video game) and capture the flag, football, street hockey etc...

We had video games but we enjoyed playing outside also.

The article discusses some very interesting issues about travel costs to reach the park. I'm not even sure why video games are haphazardly thrown into the mix.

Do video games keep kids indoors? Yeah, of course, they are played indoors. Video games are on the same level as TV and movies, though, and all this paranoia about what video games are doing to our youth is crazy. Parents should sign their kids up for baseball and soccer if they are so concerned (I remember doing both from very young, plus hockey when I turned nine). We went to summer camp becuase that's what we did, we didn't have video games as an option when we were at camp. There are ways to get a kid outside, doing fun activities, without saying "stop playing your games and get outside!"

Parents thats want to blame video games are being stupid and not looking at all the options.

When all else fails: blame video games.

School shootings? Video games. Increased crime rates? Video games. Obesity? Video games. Decreased interest in National Parks? Video games.

When things are going wrong in society, politicians and officials need a scapegoat. And video games are an easy target because they've gone from a niche media to an ever-expanding phenomena.

Gaming is no longer simply a past time of shy introverts and geeks. It is now a standard media type, like television, that is being absorbed by people of all ages, from age two to one hundred.

When something gains popularity rapidly, it is easy to make people paranoid about it's expansion and to manipulate the views around it to suit your own personal agenda (Jack Thompson, anybody?). Because the older generations still view video games with a skeptical eye, it's easy to shake and sway opinions about games and to make them seem like a threat.

Just like the Christian-Right used D&D's immense, and unexpected, popularity to accuse it of being a satanic rite of initiation and a tool of the occult, the politicians (both Liberal & Conservative) are using video games to fuel people's sense of fear for their own personal agenda.

Yes, but just because political figures grandstand and exploit a given issue, does not mean there are not intrinsically some solid points to make about it. Just like you can say some politicans exploited 9-11 to press their agenda and used it as an excuse for doing A, B, and C, doesn't mean that 9-11 was a government conspiracy, or that bin Laden is actually a cool guy - you get the drift.

Ergo, video games *can* be addictive. Without nitpicking as to specific 'scientific' definitions of the word, I will define for our purpose 'addictive' as 'an activity which one does to the exclusion of previously-pursued activities and potentially new activities for uninterrupted hours on end.' I've seen normal, job-holding, college-going, 18-35 year old guys admit it pretty openly and not infrequently on several gaming forums, to the effect that, 'Yeah I got my life sucked into WoW/etc. for 6 months/2 years before I realized this is crazy.'

So while the blowhards and opportunistic politicians do exploit and exaggerate, we shouldn't ourselves turn around and use their ridiculous behavior as an excuse not to look at the issues with a serious and sober, well-rounded analysis.

TV didn't stop our parents from going outside and getting exercise. Those of them who did go outside didn't have that problem. Those who didn't had a different problem than TV being entertaining.

Is the line between "taking the time to do something" and "not bothering" based on the existence of something being newer, fancier, and more entertaining than the last scapegoat? If we're going to throw excuses around, why not start with the way suburbs are packed tighter and tighter, like sardines, with nothing but tall fences and winding streets to play on? Or the rampant paranoia over child predators lurking in the shadows? We could blame the parents who, by and large, have the power to determine what their kids do with their time. Or we could blame the teachers whose bundle of neuroses over physical education prevents them from instilling kids with an enjoyment of doing things. We could even blame environmental pollution, and say that the only good places left to play are dirty and dangerous. It'd all make about as much sense, and be just as helpful as blaming video games: that is, the kind of sense a fool makes, and no help at all.

You think it's a problem? Make sure it's not in your own family before you squawk about what's making your neighbors act that way.

I think tossing videogames into the mix is valid. Gaming has impacted kids (and adults) in ways that television never did, or could. The interactivity of the entertainment, coupled with the social interaction inherent with online gaming, make gaming far more "addictive" than earlier electronic diversions. (Please don't give me a hard time about using the word "addictive," because you know what I mean.)

Videogames aren't responsible for the decline and fall of the American Empire, and the article isn't saying so, but I don't think there's any question that they're having an impact on the social behaviour of kids.

Videogames are fun.

For some kids, big parks are less fun than video games.

To be honest I'd be more worried if this wasn't the case.

Um... Who was it that was complaining a couple of years back about there being too many people in Yellowstone and other national parks?

(/sarcasm) Besides, what kid on a family vacation isn't going to be sitting in the back of that SUV with either a PSP, Nintendo Gameboy/DS, or even a full game system hooked up to the in-car video/DVD system. They're not going to look out the windows at the bears, deer, trash, junk, Adult Bookstore Billboards, Casino adds, etc... Well, maybe at the Adult Bookstore Billboards, much less roll down the windows to breath the smog created by the long lines to get into the parks. It's safer indoors at home! (/End Sarcasm)


Junaid Alam:
Yeah but it's also asocial to stare at the foliage in FarCry or fight pixels in Colossus while sitting on a chair. Gaming is by and large an insular world, including multiplayer. And that is fine - but not when it also becomes a substitute for socializing and physical activity.

Doing stuff outside and going to Yosemite are not in the same spectrum of choices, and the problem is heavy video gaming leads to doing neither.

That we agree on, but let's consider the possibility that even if a kid dropped the pad for a whole month, would that mean he would decide to go to national parks instead, even once, in that month?

Above all, why don't simply state that it's all the parents's faults. If your 8 years old kid isn't interested in seeing animals... nevermind, he'll see them anyway, because you've decided so.
But it's just easier to let the kids do what they want, and then complain that their self adopted activities are responsible of their isolation or whatever.
Kids have to be educated. Resigning from such a duty is the parents' fault.

It's easy to blame something that's popular. If DisneyLand made lots of cash, those Yosemite people would point at Mickey and claim that he and his damned entertainment industry vampirizes the kids, and pulls them and their parents' money away from parks.

Going to a national park has more to do with intellectual curiosity, while video games is entertainment. Video games are bound to win in that case. They're easier to turn to, and much like many more or less passive entertainment forms, it has bad sides. It's up to the grown ups to prevent the kids from getting sucked into those flaws.
That's why, anyway, it requires an effort to pull your kids off the sofa, and drop their bums in a park with a lolipop, and have them stare at monkeys, lions and sharks and be happy.
If it had not been the video games, it would have been another form of entertainment anyway.

But there are bears outside.
Thousands of them.



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