Brian Jacobson
Deep-Fried Romantic

Scouting and Modern Warfare 2

By - May 19th, 2010 04:00 am
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Back in my day (this part to be read in a Walter Brennan voice), we didn’t have awards and badges and whatnot for sitting in front of the T.V. with a joystick in your hand for hours and hours. When I was in the scouts, I was sitting in a makeshift lean-to whittling a Pinewood Derby car out of a tree I chopped down while fending off a bear. Then I would attend jamborees and sing songs around the campfire. We didn’t have Halo or Mario or electricity and we liked it!

There really hasn’t been much outrage over the new Belt Loop and Academic Pin awards that Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts may earn in a family, den, pack, school, or community environment. The Video Game achievement requirements are disappointingly not about the most cars jacked in “Grand Theft Auto IV,” the most gun types collected in “Fallout 3,” or the most hours put in saving zombie apocalypse survivors in “Left 4 Dead 2.”

Matter of fact, there isn’t even any recognition for getting exercise playing the Wii or unlocking puzzles and strategies from playing the games. You literally could play “Tetris” and “Portal” to get this award.

According the official guide on the BSA website, the basic needs for the loop is:

1. Explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games. Check your video games to be sure they are right for your age.
2. With an adult, create a schedule for you to do things that includes your chores, homework, and video gaming. Do your best to follow this schedule.
3. Learn to play a new video game that is approved by your parent, guardian, or teacher.

To earn the Academics Pin:

1. With your parents, create a plan to buy a video game that is right for your age group.
2. Compare two game systems (for example, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii and so on). Explain some of the differences between the two. List good reasons to purchase or use a game system.
3. Play a video game with family members in a family tournament.
4. Teach an adult or a friend how to play a video game.
5. List at least five tips that would help someone who was learning how to play your favorite video game.
6. Play an appropriate video game with a friend for one hour.
7. Play a video game that will help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork.
8. Choose a game you might like to purchase. Compare the price for this game at three different stores. Decide which store has the best deal. In your decision, be sure to consider things like the store return policy and manufacturer’s warranty.
9. With an adult’s supervision, install a gaming system.

In other words, adults have gone out of their way to set something up that educates  boys (and thereby takes all the fun away) about the ESRB and responsible time-management. Thusly, no boy aside from Travis Cochran is likely going to care about earning it.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., left, hands out Army hats to members of the Boy Scouts of America during a visit to his office at the Pentagon, March 1, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen on flickr.com (CC)

I wonder how General George William Casey, Jr. feels about it. As the current Chief of Staff of the United States Army and ultimately its highest ranking recruiter, he has the tangential role of scouting the scouts for future talent. It’s great that an Eagle Scout can dig a trench and endure a long hike, but how is he at “Modern Warfare 2?”

Video games used to be the height of low culture. Every boy (and some girls) defended the merits of their own system like Intellivision vs. Atari, and the arcades were home to latch-key children. The games themselves left room for fantasy; the artwork for “Space Invaders” was much scarier than the action. Past systems and games are now on display in low culture meccas at Gamespots and flea markets. Nowhere do you see the same reverence for a rookie baseball card at auction that should be held for an early “Donkey Kong” machine.

Today the games are more immersive rather than a launching pad for make-believe. In trying to escape its roots, current video game creators want the same cred as movie directors — even as the movie industry continues to struggle with how to adapt hit video games into blockbusters (“Street Fighter,” “Doom,” “Silent Hill” or “Max Payne” anyone? Or see: this summer’s “Prince of Persia – Sands of Time”).

Many media studiers now confirm that video games have the same rights as films, television, and some books.

Created by Jinon and posted on the Sprite Stitch Board, this patch is a riff on the popular Fallout series graphics.

The reason that bloggers and news media picked up on this story with many headlines involving multiple question marks — “A Cub Scout Badge for Video Games???” — was the inflamed sense that the BSA was trying anything to stay popular or relevant. Quite the contrary is true.

The Scouting heads have managed to stay as conservative and ordinary as ever with the parameters set for this award. While the two new achievements help scouts recognize the importance of self-control and the industry itself, it does very little to award creative thinking, strategic planning, accuracy, endurance, and a lot of other game-centric aspects.

My dream of “Asteroids Ace,” even earned retroactively to my Boy Scout career, continues.

A commemorative patch handed out a few years ago, featuring Master Chief from Halo.

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