... my friends and family-you know, the people you so wrongly assume one does not intereact with in playing the games-have a lot of fun and definitely get a good sweat worked up)
Edited to add: I find it rather ironic that you chose this thread to place the criticism of something that involves imagination.
It does take a considerable amount of imagination to create a game like this, but that doesn't necessarily say much for what it's doing to the consumers, sweating or having fun as they may be.
pg. 30 -
Contemporary life happens within walls; for the first time in the history of the human race, most people will spend most of their lives indoors. Therefore we must prepare the young for such a life. But as Robert Frost writes in "Mending Wall,"
Something there is in us that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.
So we must replace the great world about us with an artificial world, where not the imagination but the stray nervous tics of the brain may roam for a while and then rest. We must give the walled up child the illusion of the hills and plains. We must replace air with virtual space ...
It was a cool day in late August, the sun sometimes shining through the clouds sailing along in a stiff breeze. Perfect for hiking, biking, playing touch football, or just getting lost, which is what I was aiming to do that afternoon. In the library were children taking part in an indoor summer reading program. A nice young lady was reading them a story about animals. Sitting next to me were two boys, soft-bodied and vacant in the eyes. They were watching video clips from professional "wrestling," the images of men overmuscled, stupid and sleazy.
It seems to obvious a question to ask, but why weren't they outside wrestling themselves? If they had been, they would have introduced into their memories the spring of the wet grass underfoot, or how it feels when you grapple for a shoulder and lose the hold, or what happens when your leg gets hooked underneath your opponent's leg, or what grunts and laughs and growls you make when you are in a good fight with a friend. A couple of kids doing that, for a few minutes, are almost a world unto themselves, a world of good humor and sweat ... across the room came the cheerful sounds of the young employee, teaching the children how to say simple words in French. "Vache," she said to them. "Qu'est-que c'est que la vache dit?" "Mooooooo," said the children.
Take for example one of the activities that seems most harmless: they got together to play ball. Do we not see how many things they needed to do in order to achieve that goal?
First, they needed players, and that meant rounding up the usual suspects, rousing them from bed, or cajoling them from their chores, or reminding them that they promised they would play and threatening them with ridicule if they did not. That already is a complex social activity: they had to organize themselves.
Then they needed a field to play in. Finding one was not always easy. You had to take what the neighborhood gave you - you had, most of the time, to "make" your field out of a half of a yard and a street, or a clearing beside a hill that wasn't too hilly, or the back end of a parking lot with a wall and fence on one side. That meant seeing how the game could or could not be played there. If you had a big tree behind what would be first base, you might declare anything caught in the tree to be an automatic out. Or, if there was a short wall in right field, you might declare anything that hit the wall to be in play, but anything over the wall to be out ... You are envisioning what a good competitive game might look like, and are fitting the field with ground rules designed to make the game possible: steps, trees, fire hydrants, ditches, garage doors, garbage can lids, embankments, sidewalks, some old man's porch, the car parked across the street, all come into play, all become part of the world you fashion. None of this, it should be noted, is in the spirit of self-esteem and nebulous exercise that an adult-organized activity, say youth soccer, provides.
So much for the field, but you also need equipment. That too is not always the easiest thing to procure. Some fields aren't right for a hardball and bat. Others aren't even right for a tennis ball and bat. What to use? You use what is at hand, and alter the game accordingly: rubber balls, superballs, wiffle balls, the dead core of an old baseball ... But how to play? The rules will have to depend upon the field and the equipment and the number of players. Here you'll see kids using all kinds of treacherous ingenuity. Is there an odd number of players? One will be the Official Pitcher for both sides. Are there only six players? Declare one outfield "closed": left field for lefty batters, right field for righties. Is the ball plastic or rubber? Call "hitting the runner," meaning that you can throw it at a runner advancing from base to base, and if you hit him when he's not touching a base, he's out. Are the bases too close? No leads allowed ... Is there a flat wall for a backstop? Tape a strike zone on it and throw the ball hard ...
But then, how do you choose the teams? Here we venture upon catwalks and rope bridges - a false step, and the game is shot. When adults organize children, it is all taken care of, and usually inattentively. But to create a game that will be at all enjoyable, you have to consider who the big kids are, who can hit and who can catch and who can throw, how many girls there may be (distinguishing those who can throw from those who can't), who "needs" to be on the same team with someone else, and so on ... Now you actually have to play the game. You have to keep track of the batting order, or the downs, or the number of outs, or the fouls, or the score. Nobody is going to do it for you. But what happens when there's a disputed play?
Here again we see the wonders of organizing every waking non-electronic moment of a child's life. When adults are in charge, they will settle the dispute. Sometimes they do so preventively, by making sure that disputes cannot occur. That's what schools in Massachusetts did a few years ago, decreeing that for elementary school soccer matches, no one should keep score. What a remarkable teaching device that was! It prevented the children from using their wits to separate right from wrong. It shut off the opportunity for real appreciation of an opponent's case. It delivered the message, instead, that one's own feelings are paramount, and anyway, what difference does the score make, so long as everyone is having fun? ... But even if score is kept, when the dispute arises, an adult steps in, splits the difference (which is usually an unjust split), and orders the kids to proceed in their maturation.
But boys from time immemorial have fashioned their own "rules" for meting out sandlot justice. The batter hits a ground ball to shortstop and says he has beaten the throw to first. The shortstop says he's out.
"I had you by a mile!" A mile, in sandlot parlance, means five or six inches, the distance of the foot as it is about to come down upon the base.
"Are you kidding? My foot landed before I heard the ball in the glove! You're blind!" This is the Counterargument with Evidence.
"You never heard the ball at all, you liar!" This is the Direct Attack on Personal Integrity.
"I'm not going to let you get away with it this time!" This is the Threat to Personal Well-Being.
"Well, go ahead and try something!" This is Calling the Bluff.
... And if that doesn't work, the boys will not go home in a snit. What would be the fun of that? They will not cry, like babies. They will not sue. They will use the supreme act of their moral imaginations. They will forgive the baseball universe. They will Pretend the Play Never Happened. Everyone goes back to where he was, and the play is done over - and everyone will accept the result, for better or for worse. Anybody who still harbors hard feelings about it is labeled a Sore Loser, and is looked upon with contempt by his fellows; it is a deep character flaw. But anybody who can engineer a quick solution acceptable to all sides is labeled a Good Sport, and of him great and glorious things are expected.
We should always remember that such a scene as I have described is the last thing we want. People who can organize themselves and accomplish something as devilishly complicated as a good ballgame are hard to herd around. They can form societies of their own. They become men and women, not human resources. They can be free.