Feeling Like a Digital Native

I sometimes bristle at the digital native/digital immigrant divide.  I feel like I can stand toe-to-toe with any 20-something, and I do every semester when I teach undergraduates.  They know what they know about Facebook and email but are surprised by much of what I show them.  They even look at me apologetically when they get out their analog agendas and spiral notebooks.

But when the conversation turns to gaming, at least on a game console, I feel like a digital immigrant.  I have never spent hours playing video games on a game console like a Nintendo. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a console game is the Wii that I’ve had for a few years, and, in my middle school/high school days, an early Atari.  In between…not so much.  In college, we played arcade games at the laundromat.  After college, I was too poor to buy a game console, and since I didn’t have kids, I never had an easy excuse to buy one later. I tried one out with my nephew but never had the time to get any better during our short visits.

Jane McGonigal is 34 years old: closer in age to my nephew than me by at least a dozen years.  She was 10 when Nintendo was introduced.  I had just graduated from college.  It seems to me, that at least in terms of gaming on consoles, age matters.  Unlike email and word processing and other computer applications, I did not have to learn how to use a Nintendo in order to do my job.  Gaming was entertainment and thus optional.  A generation later, it seems like having a game console is equivalent to having a television and homes with kids probably have them.  I suspect that most homes had a game console before they had a computer.

There is some data on gaming but it tends to lump all kinds of gaming–console, digital, mobile–together.  This report from the Entertainment Software Association suggests that some 49% of homes have at least one game console. I’m wondering if that includes me since I do have a Wii.

And then I’m also reminded that digital native is in the eye of the beholder.  I have an old friend with who I have a friendly Trivial Pursuit rivalry.  During one visit, we decided to play on the Wii.  I won and my friend, who is about 10 years older, suggested that because I was a techie, I had some kind of edge.  In her mind, I was the digital native.


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