Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Virtues of Video Games by way of Shohei Ohtani

Do you play video games? Did you spend an inordinate amount of time playing them in college? Read: Do you believe you would now be a medical doctor if you had not? Do you know someone who is gainfully employed, married and raising children and still plays them? Have you expressed your concern? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, fear not. The purpose of this posting is to suggest video games might not be the moral enemy. In fact, they might have a worthy purpose. Video games might have virtues, too. The Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani has helped me understand how and why.
If you haven't already participated in Think ND's on-line course, The Good Life, stop reading now and check it out. (During the COVID-19 hiatus, this might be one of the best things do do!) Dr. Meghan Sullivan a professor of philosophy asks her students to consider, reflect upon, discuss and share their thoughts and responses to the big questions we should be asking.

One question my students have been spending some time with is "What is a my purpose?"

Sullivan proposes virtues—those good moral habits that constitute our character can help us discern an answer. As a high school ethics teacher, I take age appropriate steps toward these questions. With the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm in mind, I enter into their world, connect to their interests, reference their culture for a more lively and spirited question. Fortunately, I found one in the place and space I often do: the wide world of sports. 

Right now my favorite podcast is ESPN Sports Daily, hosted by Mina Kimes. Shohei Ohtani was the subject of the March 5 episode. As reported on their website: 
Shohei Ohtani is one of the Angels' biggest stars, who, at the peak of his game, excels as both a pitcher and batter. Last season, Ohtani was only able to contribute at the plate, as his recovery from Tommy John surgery kept him off the mound. Will the 2020 season see Ohtani participate in both phases of the game, and why is that so unique in MLB? ESPN's Alden Gonzalez traces Ohtani's career and explains what makes him an exceptional talent.
Ohtani has been dubbed the most interesting player in baseball. I find who he is and what he does outside of MLB to be interesting too.
Standing 6'4" and weighing 210 lbs, Ohtani pitches with his right hand and bats left. Carrying the nickname "Sho Time," he hails from Ōshū, Iwate, in Northern Japan. He threw a 99 mph fastball in high school and was drafted from there by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters'. In December 2017 he signed with the Los Angeles Angels and had his MLB debut in 2018. Angels' fans anticipate his return to an active status and the impending start to the 2020 baseball season. 

It has taken Ohtani some time to adjust to American culture and his new clubhouse. In the podcast, Gonzalez said, 
He is a reserved guy, but gradually his teammates have come to know that he's a pretty funny guy, too. He can speak more English than he lets on and Spanish comes easier to him than English does. For example, there are times when he'll blurt out a Spanish cuss word. He's got this subtle humor and he's got some really good comedic timing.  
The big thing that allowed him to fit in with his teammates was that game Clash Royale. It's a video game. He's AMAZING at Clash Royale. Teammates started to see some of his personality come out. He talks trash while beating his teammates at it. Sometimes he's playing the game and beating somebody while multi-tasking. Clash Royale became a tool for him to interact with his teammates more. 
When I heard this anecdote, I knew I could use it for the good. The next day, I returned to my lesson plan and asked my students: Wha is the purpose of video games? What is the purpose of a friend? Sometimes when I ask students to start writing, it takes more than a minute for the pen to hit the paper. Not this time!
They noted that the purpose of a video game is entertainment. It's a way to have fun and to relax. Others admitted that it's a distraction. They said "it distracts me from what I need to do and what I am supposed to do." Many agreed. I responded with a question. What if I told you one purpose of a video game is to  connect you to others? Could that be true? They sat upright. 

I asked them if anyone had heard of Shohei Ohtani. I shared his story. They loved it. With their attention in mind, we returned to our philosophical conversation with vigor. Tell me the purpose of a friend. To support you. To be a person you can trust and rely upon. To help you be a better person. To care for you.... the list went on.

My friend Alex Montoya's personal motto is "See the Good." I know the frustration that too many parents (friends? spouses?) feel about video games. They can be addictive and kids spend far too much time in front of a screen, rather than reading, playing outside, doing chores, completing homework and so forth. However, one of the four classical or Cardinal Virtues is moderation. Video games, in moderation, might actually lead to "the good life."  As with Shohei Ohtani, we see that video games can bridge a cultural and linguistic divide. They can reveal our unique personality and help us to see others in a new light. Sounds like a good purpose to fulfill.

And don't forget "all things in moderation, even moderation."
Photo Credits
Think ND
Clash Royale
Head Shot
High Five
Two-Way Player

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