“Brain Training,” by Orson Card, Civilization Watch, 26 June 2005, http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2005-06-26-1.html.
When you play videogames, you’re giving your brain an intense workout, and the skills you’re developing are useful across the board.
It’s not like riding a bike, where the muscles you develop are useful for riding a bike. When you’re playing a videogame, you’re stretching your ability to notice things with your peripheral vision (useful for driving cars without killing people), recognize patterns, remember intricate series of events, and to delay instant gratification for greater rewards later.
Most of all, you’re practicing learning.
Compare it to homework, where you simply repeat what you’ve already learned until it’s boring. It never gets faster. And if you’re making mistakes, you don’t get any feedback until the teacher grades your work and hands it back.
With videogames, you get instant response to your mistakes and a chance to correct them right away. And when you’ve mastered a pattern or figured out a puzzle and moved on, the next puzzle is more challenging and the next pattern is faster or more complex … or both.
Videogames keep you constantly on the edge of your abilities, stretching, growing.
And even though the player may be physically alone, he is actually moving in space and time, interacting with many “others” at the same time.
According to the article, “Gee contends that the way gamers explore virtual worlds mirrors the way the brain processes multiple, but interconnected, streams of information in the real world” (Steven Johnson, “Your Brain on Video Games,” p. 41).
Here’s the clincher: In a study conducted at the University of Rochester, cognitive scientists Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier discovered that the perceptual differences between gamers and nongamers were “far more pronounced than the differences between hearing and deaf individuals.” In other words, playing videogames stretches and improves your visual perception more than having to compensate for deafness does!
They wondered if maybe they got these results because people who were naturally more perceptive were more likely to play games. They took a bunch of complete nongamers and had them immerse themselves in the World War II game Medal of Honor and “the evidence was overwhelming: Games were literally making people perceive the world more clearly” (p. 41).
Games are also addictive. It’s not just that they stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain — they also imprint patterns that continue after the game is over. Many people have reported persistent semi-hallucinations of Tetris shapes or Pac-Man patterns superimposing themselves on the real world hours after they have stopped playing.
Mission: read blogs. Write posts for blog.
But maybe some Unreal Tournament first…