Video games insecure about their place in life

A couple of times each year, some no-name “study” comes along heralding video games as a trojan horse for brain development.

Some of the more common headlines: Video games increase hand-eye coordination, video games give you ninja fast reflexes, and most recently, video games augment decision making.

They’re all lies, of course.

Like other forms of entertainment—including movies, music, and TV—video games are really good at distracting humans for extended periods of time. That’s all.

Want to enhance brain development? Read a book. They’ll fuel anger, provoke self-analysis, teach language, and inspire ideas better than any other medium.

Wanna build hand-eye coordination? Play sports, Operation, or try to catch flies with chop sticks.

Want to augment decision making (whatever that means)? Get a job, study economics, launch a business, or start a family, I suppose.

Now if you want to escape into a hands-on world of audio-visual awesomeness, play a video game. They’re awesome at that. Some of them are even super creative and artistic to boot. Or super competitive. Or super social—all awesome side effects of gaming.

But please don’t tell me I’ll be smarter for playing them. I won’t be. Anything suggesting otherwise smacks of insecurity.

9 Responses to Video games insecure about their place in life

  1. K.Soze says:

    speaking of the place of video games- anyone else notice that NYT’s review of Halo: Reach was in the Arts section? Not the science of tech or business sections… Take that Ebert!! (Video game reviews in Arts was new to me.)

    also, i’m pretty sure that many surgeons credit gaming for helping with manual dexterity- especially since the controls to many games are similar to the controls of surgery equipment. And while guitar hero doesn’t teach you guitar, some think it does help a lot with the rhythm necessary to play guitar- which i totally buy. And the military has suggested that younger soldiers are better with technology due to familiarity with tech like video games. So i think gaming does have some effect beyond pure entertainment.

  2. Richard says:

    As Roy said about video games in The IT Crowd, “Can’t something just be fun?”

    What really burns me up is thinking about people getting grant money and/0r being paid a salary to conduct studies like that. Thank you, University of Rochester: Your priorities are more clear to the world, now.

    The Beatles game taught me to appreciate Paul’s bass playing. Mavis Beacon helped teach me type. I think driving games might have helped me control a skid on an icy road, once. Other than that, it’s been pure entertainment without a hint of deep revelations anywhere in sight. Oh, wait…Adventure games have taught me how to combine random items to accomplish ridiculous tasks.

  3. Blake says:

    “The Beatles game taught me to appreciate Paul’s bass playing.”

    Amen, to that. I always enjoyed Paul’s basslines, but didn’t realize how totally awesome they were until playing them in Rock Band.

  4. Chelsea says:

    I definitely think it’s about time video games were acknowledged as a legitimate pastime and fun hobby. Games shouldn’t have to improve my “brain age” or enhance my Wii fitness to justify their existence. If they do, great. But that should be a side bonus, not the whole point.

    Something I was pondering: Why do social networking sites like Facebook only ask you about your favorite music, movies, TV shows, books, etc, but not your favorite videogames? Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the videogame industry is making more money these days than the movie industry. They’re a major part of our culture and they’re here to stay, yet in my experience, many people still insist on painting them as a big “waste of time”. Apparently sports, TV, and even board games are not a waste of time, but having a few hours of sincere enjoyment with a high quality series like the Metroid Prime Trilogy amounts to nothing. How is having fun a waste? Are people not entitled to enjoy themselves as they see fit? Aren’t there about 500 worse ways people could be getting their jollies?

    RAGE!

  5. gamecollector44 says:

    Yes, video games are a rather neat hobby (As is video game collecting,) and I can understand for the people who play them too much (A.K.A. People that play Maple Story for 3 days straight T-T) that it may cause some controversy about completely removing video games, that has been attempted by the way, but they’re rather under-rated as a hobby. :/

  6. Al says:

    Well, maybe, just maybe, they might make you a little better at problem solving. i.e. Golden Sun, Zelda… But that’s a slight chance, I suppose. I don’t think I’ve learned that games; I play them because they are fun!

  7. K.Soze says:

    interestingly on topic, today in NYT:

    Video Games Win a Beachhead in the Classroom
    By SARA CORBETT
    Published: September 15, 2010
    A middle school teaches with video games. Can its approach transform education?

    I’d link it but those posts sometimes take a while to show.

  8. Josh says:

    I think you vastly underestimating the effect of any stimulus to brain. I mean video games can be used in a lot of different ways to stimulate brain activity (after all on a biological level that’s all reading a book is). Obviously it’s going to be different than reading, or writing, or doing math problems, and cannot serve to replace these, but (depending on the game) a whole new type of challenging, stimulating experience can be had while playing video games.

    Furthermore, your argument is hardly satisfactory. You debunk scientific studies with what, your opinion? While these studies may not be the most sound of arguments, as all science requires repetition and they are fairly new, they still offer interesting insight into the affects of video games. You offer nothing more than a trumped up argument of Keep It Simple Stupid, and maintain there cannot be more affects of video games other than spending lots of time. That’s it, done, not interesting, and hardly representative of real life where everything we do has more than one positive and/or negative effect on our lives: socially, physically, psychologically, and probably other areas I can’t think of right now.

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