First Negative: Teaching is a Dark Art


This past week was something of a professional dream come true. I’d long wanted to conduct a Book Week debate in which I took a deliberately contrarian position. This past Friday, we pitted teachers against students, debating the motion ‘This house believes that novels are better than video games’. Below is my speech.

I am an English teacher and I argued that video games are better than novels.

There is something so wondrously thrilling about white lies and the advocacy of the devil. I can’t (and refuse to) put my figure on it, but to watch the cognitively dissonant glee upon the faces of our secondary student audience gave pleasure. Don’t get me wrong: I do not believe that learning resides in pleasure. But something good happened that day, something that may well be remembered for all the right reasons. Here is what I said…

Good morning Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.

The topic for our debate is ‘This house believes that novels are better than video games”.

We agree with the definition given by the proposition. A novel is an extended piece of narrative writing and a video game is an interactive narrative with elements of risk and reward.

However, we, the opposition, believe that the statement ‘novels are better than video games’ is false.

Today, as first speaker of the opposition, I will be demonstrating how video games are intrinsically more entertaining than novels.

I will be discussing three points in support of my argument that games are more entertaining than novels.

My first point is COLOUR.  Novels are typically and uniformly printed in monochrome – the black of the ink and the smudgey off-white cream of the smeared and bookworm riddled page.

By glorious contrast, most games are a riot of colour: Mario’s vermillion dungarees startle the retina; the verdant glory of Luigi’s green plumbing hat is reminiscent of and indeed surpasses the great, green breast of land that F. Scott Fitzgerald clumsily sought to bring to life at the end of his woefully uninteractive novel, The Great Gatsby. The iridescent sparks from a mage’s wand, the riotess rainbow of reds that greet the eye upon the gorefilled dismembering of a Doom fiend… such colours are not to be found amongst the dreary pages of a novel which demands that we IMAGINE colours!

IMAGINE colours?! Who does that in this day and age? What kind of deranged buffoon would stride around in these times of light emitting diodes, what kind of monochrome-witted hedge-pig would shriek ‘Imagine blue.’ Or ‘Think about pink.’ The very idea is an absurdity beyond the very basic comprehension demanded by such a ‘list of words’ as a novel.

My second point is SOUND. Yes, audiobooks do have sound, but what are they, but a book read aloud. Read a book aloud? What kind of an imagination is required for such a task? Why, even a teacher can read a book aloud.  A game, however, is a rich tapestry of sound that scintillates the ears. The explosion of tinkling that accompanies Sonic the Hedgehog losing all of his hard-earned golden rings as he is impaled upon a spike; the stirring orchestral soundtrack, that matches the action, point for point, as a Final Fantasy character with an unpronounceable name says something of vague emotional import to another Final Fantasy character with an unpronounceable name. These are moments for the human ear that simply cannot be matched by the recital of a novel.

My final point is CHOICE. When I accidentally walk off a cliff in Dark Souls and see those two words ‘you died’ drip down the screen, that is my choice. When I press the triangle button instead of the circle button and accidentally beat up a policeman and get arrested, that is my choice. When I dig a really deep hole and get trapped in that hole in Minecraft because, yes, I haven’t yet learned how to fly in creative mode (I hate that game), that is my choice.

Choice in a novel? My only choice is to read it… or not to read it. What kind of a woefully archaic binary choice is that? A novel is like a rollercoaster, the only choice you have is to read it, wave your arms in the air, lose the contents of your pockets as you loop the loop and suppress the instinct to vomit.

So Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion we believe that novels are not better than video games. We believe, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen that the converse is true: that video games in all their technicolour and Dolby surround sound, democratic glory are better than novels.

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