“Be prepared,” most everyone knows, is the motto of the Boy Scouts, the organization for young lads founded around 1907 in England by General Robert Baden-Powell.
“Be prepared for what?” someone once asked Baden-Powell, or so the legend goes.
“Why, just about anything,” Baden-Powell reportedly replied. And now it seems, more than 100 years later, being prepared for “anything” includes “pwning n00bs.” (That’s gaming parlance for totally annihilating a lesser-skilled opponent.)
Mainstream media (by way of the blogosphere) recently became aware of the six-month-old news that (OH NOES!) Boy Scouts of America now offers video game awards in the form of a belt loop and the more advanced video game pin. Hysteria over our nation’s lost youth immediately ensued, needlessly. Check it out.
Available to younger (ages 6-11) scout designations Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, and Webelos, these awards aren’t the same as the “merit badges” more commonly known to those unfamiliar with the Scouts’ rather complicated advancement system. And like other awards, the new video games category isn’t earned easily.
So before you start hand wringing over young men developing carpal tunnel and Vitamin D deficiencies in the mindless pursuit of an award from an association known for outdoor activities and self sufficiency, consider what needs to be accomplished to earn a video game loop and pin. Here are the requirements as listed on the Boy Scouts of America Web site. (Note, you have to earn the loop before you get the pin.)
Belt loop: Complete these three requirements
1.Explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games.
2. Check your video games to be sure they are right for your age. With an adult, create a schedule for you to do things that includes your chores, homework, and video gaming.
3. Do your best to follow this schedule. Learn to play a new video game that is approved by your parent, guardian, or teacher.
Academic pin: Earn the Video Games belt loop, and complete five of the following requirements
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.
The video games award is one of several added to the Cub Scouts academic awards categories in November 2009. Other new awards included disabilities awareness, family travel, good manners, nutrition, pet care, photography, and reading and writing.
As with all Boy Scouts awards, the video games loop and pin emphasize learning skill sets. It’s an elective award. It doesn’t replace Scouts-required competency in stuff like first aid.
Look, I’m not a Boy Scouts cheerleader. But I’m irked by reactionary adults who can't get past the headline before smash-typing their rage, as if Boy Scouts is suddenly offering a merit badge in soft drugs: “O.M.G.! BOY SCOUTS WANT OUR KIDS HOOKED ON HALO! WTF?”
Obviously, a kid looking to earn the video games award already knows about games. By achieving this award, he’s honing consumer awareness, communication (including with adults), time management, task planning and completion and teaching skills — stuff he may not get at school or at home. Upon receiving the award, in a ceremony before his troop, the little guy also feels that awesome sense of accomplishment so rare in the real world.
So, continue lamenting video games as harbingers of civilization's end if you must. But rest easy in the knowledge that in the event of such an apocalypse, Boy Scouts will still be prepared. (Even for zombies!)
Helen A.S. Popkin isn't trustworthy, loyal, helpful or anything, but you can still follow her on or friend her on .