by Brad Nelson 12/4/13
That is, at least, the claim of researchers in the Netherlands. Anyway, here’s some more “scientific” baloney for you to sift through this morning. The following is from a Nicole Bailey article: Shooter Video Games Can Be Good For Children:
The study, titled “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” was conducted by researchers at the Netherlands-based Radboud University Nijmegen and will be published in the American Psychologist. The implications are massive, considering 97% of children and adolescents in the US play at least one hour of video games per day.
Although the scientists examined many types of video games, the most surprising findings surrounded the positive consequences of shooter games like Halo 4 and Grand Theft Auto IV. The methodology is compelling (bolding mine):
The most convincing evidence comes from the numerous training studies that recruit naive gamers (those who have hardly or never played shooter video games) and randomly assign them to play either a shooter video game or another type of video game for the same period of time. Compared to control participants, those in the shooter video game condition show faster and more accurate attention allocation, higher spatial resolution in visual processing, and enhanced mental rotation abilities…
First off, this intelligent crowd here at StubbornThings is bound to note the entirely materialist lens through which this Netherlands study is being filtered (or at least presented here by Bailey). Common sense will tell you that, yes, setting kittens on fire will probably give you some proficiency in pyrotechnics. But is such proficiency the only consideration? Might not there be some psychological, social, or moral harm to these games? Because such things are harder to quantify (as is typical for science), those questions then tend to get ignored.
I happen to think that limited time at playing even quite violent video games is harmless, particularly to boys. It’s very normal for the male of the species to get a sense of fun from danger, adventure, risk, and combat. That this can be done in the safe confines of a video game is probably a cause for celebration. If it scratches an itch that doesn’t have to be played out in the real world, all the better.
I’m not sure that how it actually works out. But those impulses for danger and adventure are already there. Playing a video game doesn’t create them. My non-scientific hunch is that it’s the amount of time spent playing these games (and therefore time away from doing much richer and necessary activities) that is the real harm. Even if one were spending five hours a day playing Solitaire, that’s not a good thing either. Kids should not be allowed to be couch potatoes.
That said, it’s a crazy world out there, especially for kids. I do not begrudge some socially awkward kid from finding joy and adventure from playing games online. Given how absolutely stupid, vulgar, dumbed-down, and sometimes outright dangerous kids are these days, it may not be such a bad thing for a kid — socially awkward or otherwise — to carve out a safe, congenial, and like-minded space in cyberspace with other gamers. And many, if not most, of these games are regularly played online with other mostly anonymous players.
But the exception shouldn’t prove the rule. Two hours a day — tops — is probably all that any kid should spend playing any type of video game. Parents can acknowledge and make use of the attraction of computers and hi-tech by allowing kids to earn video game time, earning that time in a one-to-one ratio with time spent doing productive things on the computer such as programming, web design, or creative writing (and, no, Facebook doesn’t count for any of these).
But if we do place value on the skills learned by playing combat-style video games, we may have one heck of a potential for a new-style elite army of drone-flyers as the U.S. military necessarily becomes a more remote-controlled agency. Whether these dumbed-down and morally-confused kids will know who the real enemy is is another question, and an important one as we see in regards to Obama and his ilk.
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