The Game Believe in You (book notes)

Posted on December 18, 2015. Filed under: Books, Community, Education, Intergenerational, Media, video games |

A new book about video games, The Game Believes in You by Greg Toppo, a 2010 Spencer fellow at Columbia University Garduate School of Journalism.

Here are some rough notes. He encourages parents and teachers to consider the value of games in teaching children as they are infinitely patient with the child who needs more time while allowing those who grasp the basics to forge ahead.

For related posts see, specifically one from last year.

He also documents the power of Pokemon to teach some valuable basic math and reading concepts which reminded me that it was Pokemon that precipitated our son learning to read.

Here are notes I took from scanning the book.


According to Devlin, (researcher) teachers have a responsibility to learn about kids interests

And that if they are in a digital world, where they will invest many hours solving difficult challenging problems in a video game it would be wrong not to start from where they are and take advantage of the things they want to do. That’s the world they live in, that’s the world they’re going to own and develop. As teachers, our job is to help them on that journey.  Video games and other digital media are the new literacies. p. 12

play is how we learn

Computers give children access  to parts of the real world that are too expensive, complicated or dangerouse for them except through compuyter simulations  and to worlds of imagination where they can play with social and physical reality in new ways.

But computers have had a minimal impact on educational achievement. Critics say that schools never figured out what to do with the computers

Benefit of computer generated learning is that the machines offer immediate feedback and self-paced instruction – faster students can zoom ahead  while slower students are tutored slowly and with infinite patience.

Challenging games are energizing, life-enhancing, perseverance requiring. Kids like challenges.

Games show that real learning is always associated with pleasure and is ultimately a form of play, an idea almost always dismissed by schools

Pokemon taught kids how to read, analyze, classify more than 700 types of creatures dense with specialized, technical, cross-references text. No Pokemon gap among poor or minority children; the best literacy curriculum ever conceived

games make players think like scientists (hypothesize,, probe the world, get a reaction, reflect on results, reprobe for better results

conventional wisdom holds that video games are a mental dead-end turning brains to mush

Benefits of video games include attentional control and emotional regulation, decision-making, mental rotation, and the ability to switch rapidly between competing tasks, less exertion in staying focused, more attention

drastically improves the reading abilities of children with dyslexia.

voracious medium (music, comics, fiction, history, architecture, sculpture)

Toppo says we have to start rethinking kids relationship to media

He says that “decades of research have turned up no reliable causal link between playing violent video games and perpetrating actual violence” p. 194

He cautions against kids playing only solitary games, and not living in the real world – balance it with face-to-face conversations, exercise, helping in the home. 


We have been experimenting with  go-crazy days to allow our son to get a game out of his system instead of giving short periods daily which we find keeps the game in his mind more, making it almost obsessive.  We also continuously and consistently remind our kids that the games always want you to stay with them and will give cliff-hangers to keep them going on to the next level again and again. Also that the games don’t care if they are sick, hungry, tired, need a snuggle – and not to think of them as a friend.


Stanford research Nick Yee cautions against invoking the term “addiction” when talking about kids’ interests in video games which he says shuts down conversations about the broader issues from which gamers may suffer like depression or social anxiety.

Yee says that playing with aggression can blunt its real-life force and allow kids to face their fears.  

Another researcher quoted, Gerald Jones says that children need to feel strong in the face of a scary, uncontrollable world – something that video games allow them to do

The book encourages joint media engagement between kids and caregivers/parents in order to talk about what’s happening on the screen. Kids learn from how you play, react, fail. Kids who don’t have this kind of feedback loop from adults in other aspects of their lives may be susceptible to over-involvement in games. The feedback loop shows care and connection.

How involved your kids get with video games comes down to attachment, security, and community – many of the things that are missing from real life

Researchers caution against letting games become the only safe, reliable, and rewarding part of their lives

The Games-in-school movement wants to  engage students from the place where they are in their real world environments

Toppo says that kids are naturally, unpredictably creative and resilient and most of the time are merely tolerating our input. He says they live inside the magic circle (of imagination) and know how powerful it is. It is usually the adults who are holding them back.


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