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Japanese Researcher Finds Gaming Stunts Brain 389

Posted by timothy
from the until-the-next-study-comes-out dept.
Bill Gates writes: "This story at the Guardian describes research done in Japan showing that playing video games in youth prevents development of the front lobe, leading to violent behavior." Turns out what at first appears to be arbitrary, mind-numbing violence may turn out to be just that. It seems this study might have returned different results, though, if it looked at the effects of video games which require lots of calculation instead.
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Japanese Researcher Finds Gaming Stunts Brain

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 19, 2001 @04:25AM (#2174567)
    "If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we would all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetative electronic music."
    • by ez_TAB (235649) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @07:55AM (#2193455)
      "Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around darkened rooms, munching magic pills and
      listening to repetitive electronic music."

      -Kristian Wilson, Nintendo, Inc. 1989
      • by el_nino (4271)
        The line was made up by British Comedian Marcus Brigstock. It's been going around the Net unattributed for a while, which always seems to make people randomly attribute it to someone rather than admit that they don't know. I've previously seen it in a print magazine attributed to Bill Gates.
    • Where do you think raves came from?
    • Umm...

      My office area is dark (to reduce glare on monitors)...

      There's a maze of cubes outside my door...

      I do prefer electronica/techno/rave music...

      I gladly take Zyrtec, whose magical properties keep me from sneezing during the first two months of the year...

      (Gulp) It's true!
    • Perhaps this explains raves.

      -Ben
    • This is considered the archetypical troll in the eletronic music [clubplanet.com] community.

      I was born in 1983 and became part of an industrialized nation in the nineties. I never played Pac-Man, but I am heavily into the electronic music scene and prefer the style of music to any other.

      As for dark rooms, well: where else would you be dancing? Most people I know would prefer
      It's because of neccessity, not because we're imitating an arcade game of the eigthties.

      And FYI, not each and every one of us candyflips every time we go out to listen to electronica.

      Cute quote, but without even a grain of truth in it, it falls short of witty.
    • Forgot to finish a thought in my last post.

      This is considered the archetypical troll in the eletronic music [clubplanet.com] community.

      I was born in 1983 and became part of an industrialized nation in the nineties. I never played Pac-Man, but I am heavily into the electronic music scene and prefer the style of music to any other.

      As for dark rooms, well: where else would you be dancing? Most people I know would prefer somewhere dark. It's because of neccessity, not because we're imitating an arcade game of the eigthties.

      And FYI, not each and every one of us candyflips every time we go out to listen to electronica.

      Cute quote, but without even a grain of truth in it, it falls short of witty.
  • by reverius (471142)
    Only here, will you find two completely contradicting stories within a week of each other...

    Which one do we believe?

    Me? I'll believe whichever one I heard most recently. I'm gullible. :)
  • Come on. Have any of you ever heard that gaming causes violence apart from dubious research projects that started showing up after Columbine ? It's not video games that cause violence, it's just that people/kids predisposed to violent behaviour like to play violent video games. That's all. In order to fight violence, we have to go after the symptons, but that's harder to do than to blaim video games.

    But I agree that video games stunt the brain in another sort of way, because peole who enjoy playing video games a lot think that LAN parties are the best way to use computers and a network. :-)
    • by error0x100 (516413) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @05:10AM (#2174652)

      Have any of you ever heard that gaming causes violence apart from dubious research projects that started showing up after Columbine ?

      In the 50's, there was a lot of media noise and "parent scare" about how comic books caused "juvenile delinquency". Some comics were even banned [1]. This whole violence-in-video-games thing is just history repeating itself.

      [1] Pogo, by Walt Kelly, Volume 11, ISBN 1-56097-339-0. Choice quote .. "with comic book censorship now a fact in Hartford, I look forward to an immediate drop in the crime rate in that fair city" (William Gaines, founder of MAD).

      (Hmm .. a /. post with actual references .. how unique)

      • For every scare, just change "the children" to "me."

        Comic books cause children's delinquency. Band them.
        Comic books cause my delinquency. Ban them.

        Video games cause children's violence. Ban them.
        Video games cause my violence. Ban them.

        Children need protection from TV.
        I need protection from TV.

        It really puts perspective on what's going on.
  • has no one outside the UK heard of their reputation for spelling mistakes? Their nickname is the Graudian!
    ---
    You'd think Slashdot would get hip to it and start renaming things to obscure references to confuse outsiders. How about starting with the site's name. Considering the grueling spell check ritual, exhaustive research, and uh, I forgot what I was writing, being high as a kite and all.
  • Impossible (Score:1, Troll)

    by talonyx (125221)
    That's a bunch of bullshit. There's no way watching/experiencing something non-chemical can actually halt the development of your mind.

    If the kids were snorting coke while playing Quake that would be different.

    I'm sure this is just like the uncontrolled study of Rhesus monkeys that "showed" marijuana causing intense distruction of brain cells.

    I can think perfectly fine right now, but i'm stoned. So, if I can make a point, it must not be killing my mind.

    I play videogames often and I'm reasonably sure my straight-A's back up my intelligence.

    I remember playing lots of games like Wolfenstein when I was 10 or so....
    • Re:Impossible (Score:2, Insightful)

      by de Selby (167520)
      ...I'm reasonably sure my straight-A's back up my intelligence.

      That just means you have nothing better to do. In my experience, 80% of a class can get A's--they just, in one way or another, choose not to.

      • Very true. I got really lazy last year, and ended up with a C, two B's, and three A's.

        That doesn't quite match up with my PSAT score of 1470. :)

        Of course, if I could just convince California schools to look at SAT scores and not grades, I'd be going to Berkeley... ;)
        • Re:Impossible (Score:3, Informative)

          by Fred Ferrigno (122319)
          Quick guide to getting into a UC:

          1) Take a lot of AP classes. It doesn't matter if you get good grades in the class, just good scores on the tests.
          2) Write a good personal statement. Hype up personal tragedy and overcoming difficulties.
          3) Do well on the SAT II. SAT I counts for shit.
          4) After school activities do matter. Sucks for us antisocial types, but it's true.

          If you've got the rest, you can have a shit GPA and not only get into college, but get a free ride to boot.
          • Thanks for the advice... you may get modded down as "offtopic", but... thanks. :)

            It's better than what the counselors tell us, because they're usually out of touch with college acceptance stuff anyway. Or so I've heard.

            If I'm chronically depressed, that should help my chances, right? :)

            Damn about the after school activities... I think listing "Magic: The Gathering club" might hinder me more than help me. ;)

            I'm set as far as AP classes and test scores though. I don't know what the SATII's are, but I take standardized tests very well. And i'm in 5 AP classes this year (Junior year).

            It's good to know that I can make up for the occasional total-mental-lapse thing, in which I completely forget everything I know about calculus for a month or two.
    • Re:Impossible (Score:2, Interesting)

      by reverius (471142)
      Actually...

      Many modern psychiatric theorists explain the chemical-physical relationship as two sided.

      It is commonly accepted that changing the chemicals of the brain (through medication or drugs of some kind) correlates directly to behavioral changes.

      However, some theorize that it works both ways; you can also change your brain chemistry through repetetive behavioral changes.

      So yes... a repeated, habitual (addictive?) activity can probably change the chemistry of your brain, to some extent.

      Or at least it's possible. :)
    • There's no way watching/experiencing something non-chemical can actually halt the development of your mind.

      I'm sure the millions of people afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder will love to hear that.

      The issue isn't that environment doesn't affect development - if you're trying to argue that, you might want to read up on your psychology, because it'd be an uphill battle. The reason this article is 'bullshit' is that playing a game of soccer or climbing trees or what the-fuck-ever kids did before Atari had pretty much the same effect on their brains - no kid in his right mind is going to sit at home doing arithmetic for thrills. Maybe a kid in his wrong mind, but all the math in the world won't help those poor souls.

    • Ever hear of cognitive therapy?
    • There's no way watching/experiencing something non-chemical can actually halt the development of your mind.

      But some things will develop your mind more than others. An hour of studying every day will develop my brain a lot. An hour of watching TV evrey day will not develop it very much.

      Plus the mind is like the body in that you have to use it or lose it. High school kids are often better at math than adults because they are doing math all the time. If you don't use your mind it will get 'flabby' just like muscles. So something non chemical CAN halt or at least reduce development of the mind.

      I play videogames often and I'm reasonably sure my straight-A's back up my intelligence.


      Intelligence is not the be all and end all of the world. Those psycho kids who shot up their school were also quite intelligent. I think it would be wise to have a little more facts to back up your criticisms. The study was saying that gaming doesn't stimulate the same areas of the brain as studying math (and then extrapolated that into saying gaming won't develop your brain as mcuh as doing other things will.) The study did not say that gaming makes you unintelligent.

      For the record, I game constantly. And I don't think much of that study either... (of course we are only reading the journalist's report of the study....) but I don't like random rants that say nothing substantive either.
  • Really, it just underscores the point made by every other popular article about child development:

    If you don't particularly care how your kids spend their time, who knows how they'll come out?

  • Comparisons? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whm (67844) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @04:37AM (#2174594)

    Using the most sophisticated technology available, the level of brain activity was measured in hundreds of teenagers playing a Nintendo game and compared to the brain scans of other students doing a simple, repetitive arithmetical exercise. To the surprise of brain-mapping expert Professor Ryuta Kawashima and his team at Tohoku University in Japan, it was found that the computer game only stimulated activity in the parts of the brain associated with vision and movement.

    In contrast, arithmetic stimulated brain activity in both the left and right hemispheres of the frontal lobe - the area of the brain most associated with learning, memory and emotion.


    Ok, sounds fair enough. But what about compared to something like -television- that certainly many more children do for many more hours in their youth.

    From the article, it sounds like they are saying video games prevent proper development, they don't cause damage. That would imply that something like TV would certainly do as much and more prevention than video games.

    And television isn't mentioned at all, nor anything else. There are lots of things kids can do that don't involve any thinking...I don't know many kids that sit down and do math all day :)

    • video games prevent proper development, they don't cause damage.

      If someone ends up 4 years behind because they spent that much of their life playing Quake, wouldn't you count that as damage?

    • by etymxris (121288) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @10:07AM (#2193611)
      The researcher says that playing video games stimulates vision and motion centers of the mind. He then compares this to doing arithmetic exercises, which stimulates many portions of the brain, frontal lobe included. But then at the end of the article, he says that parents should spend more time playing outside with their children. This is a total non-sequitor! Playing outside is probably no better to the brain than playing video games. I would imagine that playing outside stimulates--guess what--vision and motion centers of the brain, exactly the same as was found for playing video games.

      Comparing to math is totally invalid. Most children do very little math, trying to avoid it as much as possible. It only exercises the whole mind because the mental exercise is novel. If doing simple arithmetic exercises made us better people mentally, then every cashier, who does tons of arithmetic exercises on the brain every day, should be a better person (mentally) than anyone else. The only other person who does more math (maybe not even) is a math professor.

      • Playing outside is probably no better to the brain than playing video games. I would imagine that playing outside stimulates--guess what--vision and motion centers of the brain, exactly the same as was found for playing video games.

        I would argue that any hobby which involves sitting in front of a television for several hours, unblinking and mouth gaping open, could hardly be considered as mentally beneficial as playing outside.

      • It only exercises the whole mind because the mental exercise is novel.

        Why do you think that? There was nothing in the study to support that idea.

        If doing simple arithmetic exercises made us better people mentally, then every cashier, who does tons of arithmetic exercises on the brain every day...

        I don't think today's cashiers do much mental arithmetic. The register does it. On the rare occasion when a cashier miskeys something and is forced to manually compensate, it's a very slow process.
      • This totally falls into the "no shit" category. It doesn't take much to produce measurable differences in brain activity. Reading vs Math give different responses in brain activity, so comparisons w/ math and video games are pointless.

        To make the conclusion follow validly from the research, they'd have to use kids whose parents refused to allow them to play video games, and compare them to those who played games for several years, since they're trying to make a developmental point.

        Also their brain activities should be compared while performing similar tasks, and their success rate/competency/accuracy at those tasks should also be compared.

        Methinks these guys slept through the "social modeling" and statistical analysis classes...

    • No doubt. This study sounds like a bunch of crap. Of course, spending all of your weekend vegging on Quake is going to cause brain damage. However, spending all weakend playing thinking games like Warcraft, Sim*, etc, suring develops the brain evenly.

      They said the same thing about dungeons and dragons back in the 80s. When I was 8 years old, the only books that I was reading with 400+ pages were the D&D manuals. It was a serious vocabulary lesson.

  • "This story at the Guardian describes research done in Japan showing that playing video games in youth prevents development of the front lobe, leading to violent behavior."

    Personally I like to play video games outside of youth... but I guess i just like to be different.

  • While humans are going through their developmental years (under 18), any influences they are exposed to are bound to affect their attitudes throughout adulthood. When their primary recreation is a simulated rehearsal of a murder spree, it cannot be a good thing.

    It would, of course, be dishonest to single out computer games as a source of developmental aberrations.

    Television has long been a cause of increased violence, with numerous studies pointing to increases in violent behaviour as high as 150%. Advertising and music present children with role models that are actually dangerous for children to try to emulate, from ultrasadistic rappers to impossibly beautiful fashion models. Computer games, however, are even more involving than TV, more seductive than advertising and fast becoming the primary recreation for today's children.

    I say, a society that does not defend itself from the corruption of it's youth is a society in decline. Parents nowadays not willing to raise their children properly, and prefer to use computer games and TV to do the job. It is time for a higher power to step in. A set of guidelines needs to be created, governing what is acceptable in computer games, TV, advertising and music. These must be followed, for the good of society.

    If something like this is not implemented soon, we face a downhill slide into violence and depravity, as surely as the Roman empire collapsed into decadence.

    • Censorship is not what is needed. Regulation is an easy way out that a lot of people think they see. But whether it be ratings or outright censorship, it is not going to be very effective. While censorship might be effective in controlling what the media is producing, it has its own negative effect on society.

      And besides, if you're to believe this article, it's the medium itself that's damaging, not the content thereof. What this society needs is for people to take more responsibility for their own actions. People think they can get away w/ most anything, including having a child and then failing to take care of it properly. Parents need to be made aware of childrearing techniques that have proven effective. They need to spend time w/ their children, whether it be reading to them or taking them out somewhere. But this is not to say that kids shouldn't be able to play games. But it is up to PARENTS to regulate what games their children play and for how long each day. The media does send horrible messages to kids, but if a parent is doing their job, their influence should be a lot stronger than anything the media throws at us.

      Of course, there are always exceptions. Some kids are raised well and turn out "badly", and others aren't raised well and turn out to be great people.

      I don't think we need regulation at the government level, but w/ the ever increasing pace and the every man for himself attitude of our society, we really need to think about how this is shaping our world and the development of our children, and whether or not we are going in a healthy direction. Though I certainly don't see a slide into "violence and depravity" around the corner.
      • Witness The Rockdale County Syphilus Outbreak [re]. This is not an isolated incident. America is losing it's teens. While parents should be regulating their children, they aren't. It's obviously up to the government.
        • Up to the government??

          I'm sorry, but this is a simple issue.

          Either parents "regulate" their kids, or they don't.

          Either way, unless they're your children, you have absolutely no say in the matter.

          I can only hope that when I have children, they grow up in a world where I still have a right to choose whether my children's access to information is censored or not.

          I really hate to say it, but... here it goes... "communism". Now I'm gonna get modded down.

          And before you flame me for being anti-communist, check out my political bias. Just ask me about my opinions about anything... I consider myself a Socio-anarchist, so don't automatically think i'm some right wing cracker who hates things ideologically.

          I don't hate communism... I should probably clarify that... I hate Stalin's iron curtain policies, blocking the flow of information (which wants to be free :))

          That's enough of a rant for now.
          • Sorry about my use of the term "right wing cracker". I'm just resentful of "Dubya".

            What I should have said was "backwards-thinking reactionist bigoted [expletive deleted]". :P
          • You could just replace communist with statist and satisfy most people.
            • Communist has more meaning, at least to Americans (most of the Slashdot readership).

              "Communist" has been misunderstood and taken out of context so many times it has completely lost any real meaning, but it's connotation has been the same in America since the 50's.

              "Communist" = "evil" to most of mainstream America. This was indoctrinated into people for about the last 50 years.

              Also, censorship of ideas (video, sound, whatever) is a very Leninist/Stalinist (and to some extent Maoist) tactic for sociopolitical control as well as a basic denial of human rights associated with Communism.
              • Sure Communism has a connotation, but "Whatch out! It's a Communist!" is also in the American memory.

                McCarthyism doesn't bring respect to an argument--or it's maker. It's the first thing I think of when someone starts comparing something to Communism.

                And for that matter, I'm tired of people and things always being compared to Fascists and Nazis.
                • I know... that's why I had to partially defend myself with a mini-rant after the first use of the word communist. :)

                  I still think that the connotation fits. I do believe in a lot of Communist (real communist, that is... Marxist) ideology, but I think censorship is about as bad as you can get. And it's associated, in my mind at least, with Stalinist communism.

                  See my sig for a good idea about my attitudes toward censorship. ;)
        • Do you think that's normal? I mean, do you think that the average teenager is participating in "group sex parties". If you do, I think you ARE being an alarmist. Yes, more kids are becoming sexually active younger than they used to, and that's why everyone needs to be educated on the risks involved, and why safe sex and abstinence should be promoted. I'd rather my kid was having safe sex w/ someone they were comfortable w/ and committed to than going around fucking like a rabbit because our society was too uptight to face the facts.

          But this is just the kind of story that is something being blown way out of proportion. This was a fairly affluent town where the parents were too busy to raise their children so their children had no guidance and also nothing to do, no outlet for their emotions, and obviously no education on the dangers of the sort of behaviour they took part in. This is a rather extreme case of what can happen in that situation, but it is pretty obvious to me that that could have been easily prevented w/o government intervention. Unless by government intervention you mean government funding for after school programs, sex ed, and distribution of condoms.

          We see these horrible things happen, and we ask why. And I think too many people are too afraid to really look, and think that the government impossing harsh penalties on teens behaviour and censoring the media and the like will somehow fix things. But, if anything, I think that will make kids more rebellious and cause more problems. That is the way to breed ignorance. I don't think there IS a quick fix for any of the major problems in our society, and I don't think there is any one solution. But just because it's difficult, doesn't mean we can't overcome it.

          Too often, I think older people look at current society and think because it's different it must be bad. It's happening now, it happened in the 60s. There are always going to be unsavory aspects of society, but more often than not I think it is better to try to adapt to changing conditions and channel societal concious in a positive direction than to pretend we can push back the clock.
          • Group sex parties? Damn, I wish I could get in on that...

            In all of 17 years, i've never even been on a date! (blame slashdot) :P

            I think the problems of "computer gaming" and "promiscuous sex" are, by definition, affecting completely different groups of people. ;)
    • But the problem with TV isn't that it itself warps the minds of children. It's that in encourages parental lazyness. Why bother talking to your kids or playing ball when you can sit the sprites in front of the tube and go have a smoke? The only good parenting done these days is by (the few and rapidly disappearing) good parents. Back in the 'good ole days' you at least had to say something to your kids every few hours.

      Now we've got the same thing going on with computer games. The kid gets on the 'net and stops making noise, so Mom and Pop head to the living room to watch Jerry Springer... not taking into account that kids are pretty good at getting into whatever they want on the 'net. Remember the Dilbert strip ('I hope that's not the sound of little eyes getting really big?')? Yeah. Your six-year-old probably shouldn't be playing Counterstrike, just as he shouldn't be watching Oz. Probably the only good point that the article hits on is that environment does affect development (although that's certainly old news) and the logical extension is that bad parenting hurts children. Lazy parents are bad parents. /endrant

    • In response to the troll:


      "While humans are going through their developmental years (under 18), any influences they are exposed to are bound to affect their attitudes throughout adulthood."

      Of course, for any age, but the question is how much of what effect per stimulus.


      "When their primary recreation is a simulated rehearsal of a murder spree, it cannot be a good thing."

      Yes it can. Child psychologists have found that young boys grow up naturally playing cops and robbers and wresteling, but become a little "distorted" sometimes when all such play is suppressed. Simulated murder sprees might not be a bad thing.


      It would, of course, be dishonest to single out computer games as a source of developmental aberrations."

      It would be dishonest to state or imply any connection without further evidence.


      "Television has long been a cause of increased violence, with numerous studies pointing to increases in violent behaviour as high as 150%."

      Well, what studies? If the increase in violence is that high, is it causal? If it is (somehow) causal, is it the imagery or the sedentary lifestyle that changes brain chemistry for the worse?


      "Advertising and music present children with role models that are actually dangerous for children to try to emulate, from ultrasadistic rappers to impossibly beautiful fashion models."

      Why are kids emulating media? I doubt a kid will go out and become a gangster. And isn't it intuitive that ultra-thin is not only less beautiful, but unhealthy? A child isn't thinking right before such emulations.


      "I say, a society that does not defend itself from the corruption of it's youth is a society in decline."

      Corruption is too harsh a word to use for this situation. Our society will not decline because some small percent of our girls don't want to eat enough.


      "It is time for a higher power to step in."

      I'd like more evidence of a problem first. Plus, sorting and then filtering media in this kind of censorship always has huge gaping holes. (And, massive culture fixes are best proposed outside the argument trying to prove the cultural problems.)


      "If something like this is not implemented soon, we face a downhill slide into violence and depravity, as surely as the Roman empire collapsed into decadence."

      HA!! Things are NOT going to get all that worse because of some rough video game play and thin models! You see things as far too fragile. And just how does Rome connect to this?

      • Umm... yeah. You're completely right. The sky is not falling. :)

        But since "I agree with so-and-so" posts are boring, I'll make a point.

        As far as brain chemistry goes, both the sedentary lifestyle as well as the violent imagery are completely capable of changing brain chemistry. However, I have one thing to add to that. My guess is that it's as much a lack of real social interaction than anything else. Humans are primarily social creatures; never forget that. In my own experience, I get unexplainably depressed after periods of declined social interaction due to Diablo 2 binges. Of course... maybe it's just the sedentariness... but I'm sedentary whether i'm with my friends or not.

        I think it's more a denial of a basic human need (to interact with other humans).
    • "Ironically, then, precisely at the time when both the Executive and Legislative branches of government are agitating for a reduction of gratuitous (and maybe non-gratuitous) violence in the media, the U.S. has been on a five-year downward trend in violence statistics. According to FBI crime statistics, both violent crimes (including murder) and property crimes are down substantially, in all regions of the country, both urban and rural. Some drops are very dramatic. For example, between 1993 and 1997 murder in Los Angeles dropped 48%. In Boston it dropped 56%. Divorce is down, marriages are up. Teenage pregnancies have dropped, unemployment is down. Moreover, recent government reports tell us that the number of weapons brought to high schools has dramatically declined" (http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/sfischo/violenc e.html [calstatela.edu]

      Note that this is IN SPITE OF both increased amounts of violence in the media over the last ten years and a large increase in the number of children who spend a lot of time playing violent games. And it is additionally in spite of computer games being, as you say, "more seductive" and "more involving".

      I'm afraid your view of a "downhill slide into violence and depravity" is not reflected in real statistics. More likely its just a popular view that you've adopted - possibly the usual jaded cynicisms that people get as they age .. the "when I was young kids were sweet and innocent, but kids today have no respect and don't read anymore, and society is going to the dogs" syndrome. In all likelihood, the "serious problem" you refer to is just perception. Society has always been violent. A few hundred years ago, for example, it was normal to take your kids on a "family outing" to see public executions (hangings or even beheadings) in the town square. That was normal then, but most people I know would think that todays 'precious fragile children' would be irreperably psychologically damaged by something like that.

      Anyway, there is a lack of correlation between your gloom-and-doom viewpoint and real-world statistics. Such widespread negative perceptions are probably more likely the result of mainstream media focusing disproportionately on horrible, but statistically highly unlikely events, such as Columbine.

      • It is unacceptable to present broad crime statistics as evidence of falsehood on this topic. The majority of crime in the US is not juvenile crime, and is not relevant here. The linked article is quite evidently biased. Here, I offer an alternative article, proving that the years in which computer games saw their greatest rise in popularity also showed a surge in juvenile crime! [ncjrs.org] Since 94, juvenile violent crime statistics continued to rise, at a slower rate, until the Columbine tragedy prompted a crackdown on delinquency and antisocial behaviour among teens. So there's your proof, unencumbered by political bias.

        The five years preceding 1999 showed a drop in crime statistics purely because of broader social trends, particularly a general increase in prosperity, plus a marked increase in police activity in troubled areas, such as South Central LA. (Watts is now an armed police camp, inundated with social workers.)

  • If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of this, remember that they used the _latest brain imaging techniques_!!!

    You can ask the author about
    what else to smoke [mapinc.org] while writing these in-depth, well-researched articles :)

    P.P.S. in all seriousness, the blank looks of the teenagers walking out of the arcade has been worrying me for a while...

  • In places like Russia they have practically zero cases of attention deficit disorder. That's because kids there grow up not having TV and video games and such. There kids learn to concentrate and stay focused on one thing for more than 5 minutes without it whizzing, banging, or popping. But didn't we already really know that?

    It's really simple. Billy stays on game console 10 hours a day, Billy doesn't read a book or play outside or do anything worthwhile for that 10 hours a day. Billy grows older, but doesn't really grow up. 15 years later people wonder why Billy can't function in this world of ours. It's because Billy is still mentally an 8 year old. Watch an 8 year old for an hour or so: they are pretty violent. They mature out of that stage. BUt not if they can escape into Hyrule for 90% of thier waking hours.

    • Well, I was a counselor at a kid's computer summer camp a year ago...

      I have to say, 8 year olds are extremely violent. However, I did find a way to calm them down.

      It seemed that while playing Quake III Arena, they were more focused on the game, and less focused on beating each other up...

      Interesting to speculate on... could computer games actually be helping otherwise-borderline-psychotic violent 8 year olds? :P
    • Re:Okay, sure (Score:4, Insightful)

      by defile (1059) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @10:45AM (#2193703) Homepage Journal

      In places like Russia, they have practically zero cases of attention deficit disorder

      Interesting. You use the fact that ADD doesn't exist outside of the US as proof of US culture turning kids into mindless zombies (Which I don't necessarily disagree with).

      I use this fact as proof that ADD is bullshit.

      Case study: My girlfriend was diagnosed with ADD and prescribed Ritalin because she had bad grades. As someone very close to her, I knew very well why she was getting bad grades. School was frankly, very boring. And not only was it boring, but she didn't care. The idea of doing menial drudge work instead of enjoying life wasn't very appealing.

      Of course, you say "Well, all kids should love learning. If she finds it boring, she must have ADD!" Guess what? Public schools really are boring! Instead of say, making schools better, we're just prescribing more drugs.

      I'm absolutely amazed by what I hear about kids learning in European public schools. If you ask most kids why they put up with such bullshit in the US, they say "Well, yeah, it's totally stupid. But I won't get into a good college if I don't go with it! And then where will I be?!"

      We had a coworker come in from the UK (H1B Visa) who was a big South Park fan. We were discussing the episode where all of the kids started coming down with ADD. I mentioned that it was a big problem here. That shocked him. He thought that South Park had made ADD up. He had never heard of ADD until he visited the USA.

      "For every kid who really needs Ritalin, you prescribe it to 500,000 kids who don't" -- Chef, South Park

      As an aside, I'm suprised the pro-censorship movement is sticking to banning sex and smut and video games. Why don't they promise to eradicate NSYNC and Brittany Spears instead? If they pitched it the right way, I probably wouldn't even realize that I was supporting censorship. :)

      • Why don't they promise to eradicate NSYNC and Brittany Spears instead?

        Why don't they seek substantial copyright reform? Maybe movies and music recordings should be exempt from copyright. This would not stop the next Britney Spears, but it would take away the profit motive from the men who packaged and marketed her. Would Britney be shaking her ass for free in front of a webcam? Probably not. I notice the Christian Right doesn't complain about webcams or 'blasphemous' posts on Usenet. What really hits their hot buttons is when 'immoral' content is legitimized by the government or huge media corporations.

        Huge media corporations shouldn't exist, and if they didn't then these Christians would not be upset by the abuse of a 'privileged pulpit.'
    • Re:Okay, sure (Score:3, Insightful)

      by defile (1059)

      My girlfriend's point of view:

      "Well, see, this is how a Russian mother treats a child who might have ADD. She takes the skin on her their thigh, and then she twists it. Several times. And then the kids don't have ADD anymore. Simple and very effective."

      Child abuse is a terrible thing, but a small controlled application of pain can be a great problem solver.

    • Ahem:

      Video Games to treat ADD? [about.com]

      Incidentally, I think ADD is a fake disease just like everybody else. It's a chance to put schoolkids on Soma^H^H^H^HRitalin, which the schools want to do to control behavior. (I wonder how much money Merck and other companies make from selling Ritalin, too...)

  • by Ziktar (196669) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @04:47AM (#2174617)
    What a great comparison they did... Let's compare playing a video game to "an exercise called the Kraepelin test, which involves adding single-digit numbers continuously for 30 minutes." Yeah, I'm sure that continuously adding numbers is quite a lot of fun for the researchers, but something tells me that the average kid won't think that this is a good time...

    Seriously, this article practices once of the major fallacies of statistics. They do a basic study of some Nintendo video game (they don't mention which one) versus continuously adding numbers or reading aloud. Then they draw the conclusion that:

    "But the other thing is to ask them to play outside with other children and interact and to communicate with others as much as possible. This is how they will develop, retain their creativity and become good people."

    Excuse me?!? The study had absolutely nothing to do with playing outside with other children. There's a chance that doing just that would be even worse for the childrens' frontal lobes. We don't know because the study said nothing about other behaviors, just playing a game & doing math.

    If you ask me, this is nothing but inflammatory nonsense designed to generate a lot of press time and give people a good excuse to take away our fun.
    • Wow... good thing they didn't include me in the test.

      Unless I'd taken some dexedrine (concentration pills) first, I'd have fallen asleep about 10 minutes into the math. Calculus couldn't even keep me awake last year...

      And the video games would've been mentally stimulating either way.

      As far as playing video games go... I play until I hit my threshold of "it's boring now" which was about a half hour with Half-life... and about a month with Diablo 2...

      and I don't play the games, ever again. I don't let myself get addicted, after some bad experiences with Heroes 3. :)
  • Seemingly the only problem I ever find with these studies: people keep drawing whatever conclusion they want from their studies. But before I even get into that, let's all have a good laugh at this:

    In contrast, arithmetic stimulated brain activity in both the left and right hemispheres of the frontal lobe - the area of the brain most associated with learning, memory and emotion.

    Right. I knew a few kids who performed arithmetic for fun when I was a kid... I think I'd rather trust the mad-leet-Quake player's social skills. At least he does some talk (albeit trash-talking).

    First off, let's take into account that the area of the frontal lobe associated with self-control is not the same area excercised while performing arithmetic (unless arithmetic frustrates you so much that you want to break things, at which point your self control might be slightly exercised). Second, let's assume - just for a minute - that the areas worked while playing video games - only... the parts of the brain associated with vision and movement' - are actually pretty important. I like being able to see things, and efficiently have information go from eyes to brain. Likewise spatial perception, fast reflexes, quick thinking... all things that video gaming improves... are also pretty important. Even if you don't drive.

    Acting impulsively is not a bad thing. Maybe it's just some cultural bias in the study, I don't know, but having too much restraint causes a lot of stress to many people these days, who can't even drive themselves to do simple things like asking out a co-worker / meet new people / try a new job etc. etc.. The only problem with playing video games, IMO, is that if you play them excessively you're missing out on more intense social interaction and physical exercise. That wouldn't be a problem for today's youth if their parents would get them into a game of soccer or go do something interesting with them. As I see it, this is just yet another attempt by the PTBs to blame problems in our world on our kids, and to point the finger at the media to do it. Weren't people concerned in the 50's that rock music would turn us all into anti-social vagabonds?

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @05:01AM (#2174639) Homepage
    • it was found that the computer game only stimulated activity in the parts of the brain associated with vision and movement.

    Let me predict the arguments here regarding this article.

    • Pro: But of course, c.f. these other references.
    • Con: i plai games on AOL an am genus, But munkies i kil yoo

    Funny-ha-ha's aside, what on earth did we expect? That spending 8 hours a day watching repetitive, unvaried images of violence and gore would create a race of uber kinder?

    Don't get me wrong, I like games. I used to write them, and I enjoy playing them, including FPS'ers. I honestly feel that (partly because I used to write them) I'm smart enough to realise that playing them does actually makes me dumber and antisocial (and I'm pushing 30). I don't think they make me more violent, but my fragile little mind was well formed before I really started playing gore-o-ramas in earnest, plus I blow off a lot of steam playing physical sports, something that GenY is doing less and less.

    No, it's not the collapse of civilisation as we know it, but if you're going to argue that environment doesn't shape behaviour, then we have no grounds for debate, and you mite ars wel kil me, cuz i am gay but monkie.

    • Something Awful [somethingawful.com] had a tidbit a couple of days ago about the crack baby scare [umass.edu] for a new generation. One such example was the "Counter-Strike baby.":

      "The restaurants of the future will be forced to feature illegible menus that cater to these Counter-Strike babies, adversely effecting the rest of us:

      WTF!!! TEH CAMPIN LAMA RESTARANT/ MEUNU: DINNAR: WTF!!!

      HAMBuRGR..... $5
      COKA_COLA....2
      FRENCH FIRES.... #1.50!!!!!!!!!!!

      NO SHIT NO SHOES NO SERVAICE ! WTF!!! U FUKER/// IF U DONT LIKE OUR RULEZ U CAN GO SUK AN ASS U FAG
      15 PRECENT GRADUTIAN INCLUDED!! WTF1111!!!!A
      "

      In all seriousness, I don't think playing video games makes you stupid or anti-social. Playing video games excessively might do (probably does) these things. But doing most anything excessively often has such negative consequences. Studying physics 12 hours a day will make you stupid and anti-social. Sure, you'll know all about physics, but you're missing that key phrase "well-rounded."
  • If it was a serious research, they would tell how many children where tested, their age and sex. None of that was mentionned.
  • What a pile of horse-crap that survey is.

    Humans have been violent since day one.

    If a human cannot control their urges, it's got nothing to do with video games.

    I've been playing video games since age 11 and I have no urge to be violent against other people because of that - I'm more likely to get violent as a result of driving to work !

    So, the only brain stimulation they noticed was motor co-ordination - what ?

    What kinds of games were these kids playing ?

    Even the simplest game of 'Pong' requires some sort of mind activity aside from motor skills.

    Rig me up another survey please - the government wants results !

    Pah !
    • flawed logic here (Score:2, Interesting)

      by neoshmeng (467015)
      I've been playing video games since age 11 and I have no urge to be violent against other people because of that

      Much of the development that occurs in children occurs BEFORE age 11. Some child psychologists believe that things like the personality are basically set whenyou are 8 years old or so. Most of us who say, "Playing games didn't hurt ME any!" can't really say that, because we didn't play games when we were really young.

      I don't know whether or not violent games make children more aggressive, but it cannot be said that the games have NO effect, because everything we do affects us in some way right?

      Anyhoo, the take home message is probly that too much gaming is not as productive as doing something else. Duh!
  • by jud78 (516433) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @05:13AM (#2174659)
    Grrrr. Anyone making fun of my underdeveloped frontal lobe will find my foot up his overdeveloped ass! Most of my youth was spent playing Japanese RPGs. If doing repetitive math for 30 minutes is good for the development of the frontal lobe, I probably have the largest frontal lobe in the world.
  • First they take a bunch of kids, split them into two groups. One group plays Nintendo (aside : should have chosen better game consoles...), and their brains "stunts" (based on instant brain scans done on them). The other groups do math, and their frontal lobes get simulated.

    Their conclusion? Games Bad : kids become dumb. WTF? How the hell can they make this kind of slippery slope argument?!

    Why not they take a bunch of kids, and have them do NOTHING BUT MATH for a year, and see if the kids become super geniuses? Most likely they will just become (a) bored to the death (b) mad.

    Children needs all kinds of stimulation so they can learn to become well-rounded human beings. Too much Computer Games is Bad. Too Much Math Is Bad. Too Much *insert thing here* is Bad.

    (Begin Ad Hominem) Maybe the study's "need for funding" has something to do with such "controversial new result"? (End Ad Hominem)

  • While i'm not quite convinced by the article, it seems to me that the result of the "test" was to be expected. If you spend your life playing "dumb" video games, you're not going to be the same as if you'd have spent 20 hours a week reading books or learning stuff.

    What bothers me here is that the article seem to say that "video games are bad for your child because while they play it, they're not learning as fast as they could". That might be true, but I think a kid needs to do something else in life than reading and learning. When kids are playing cowboys outside with "normal" toys, are their brain working more ? Is this better for the kid ?

    As with everything else, the best is to get a compromise between the "no games" and "games all the time".

    I think that this is the article's biggest problem. It basically says something everybody knows. You just need to go with your logic.
  • junk science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mj6798 (514047) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @05:45AM (#2174702)
    There is no basis to conclude from that data that playing video games interferes with frontal lobe development. All sorts of activities we engage in stimulate only a small part of the brain, and yet they don't cause problems. Even if it were conclusively demonstrated that the frontal lobes in people who play video games are less developed, whether there is causation and which way it goes would be very hard to decide (maybe people like playing video games in preference to social interaction because that's the way their brains are wired).

    And any of this assumes that the study was done correctly. In fact, there are serious questions about normalization: very high activity in the visual and motor areas might simply have caused "normal" frontal lobe activity to be normalized away.

    Between playing video games and watching television, I think kids are a lot better off playing video games.

    • There is no basis to conclude from that data that playing video games interferes with frontal lobe development.

      Actually, there is. From the article: "it was found that the computer game only stimulated activity in the parts of the brain associated with vision and movement." [emphasis mine] Assuming that normal activity produces at least some stimulation and that stimulation causes development, that conclusion seems completely reasonable.

      Even if it were conclusively demonstrated that the frontal lobes in people who play video games are less developed, whether there is causation and which way it goes would be very hard to decide

      I think you got that backwards. The study does provide a plausible basis for causality. What it doesn't do is show that development is impaired in any significant (or even measurable) way.

      And any of this assumes that the study was done correctly.

      True. Without any mention of independent studies producing similar results, or even of this study being subject to any peer-review, I'm wary of taking its conclusions too seriously.

  • So what would games like this [sixsixfive.com] provoke in people?
  • I am in high school and i play games such as Half-Life and Quake alot. this has not desensitized me to violence or made me any more likely to harm someone. This is just a simple solution to explain violence. Everybody gets angry, we do not act on this anger differently depending if we played quake today or not. School shootings and other acts of violence are not going to be suprisingly halted if violence in video games is banned.
    • I can certainly say that violence would increase in my school if violent video games were ever banned.

      I know kids with no hope of a social life, or even the smallest amount of self-esteem, whose entire lives are centered around being good at video games.

      Take away the video games, and you're pulling the pin out of a grenade.
  • by quintessent (197518) <my usr name on toofgiB [tod] moc> on Sunday August 19, 2001 @06:21AM (#2174738) Journal
    for a similar study on the effects of reading Slashdot 10 hours a day.
  • I remember a few weeks ago there was a study (I can't find it now, slashdot search is down) showing that video games increased intelligence. So which is it, hmmmm? Could it be both? Does this mean in 50 years we will have a society of nothing but brilliantly insane Lex Luthor clones running the show? I always wondered where those comic book super-villians came from, now I know, they are our children! Now I'll bet everyone thinks twice before "saving the children". :)
  • Sueprficial article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ektanoor (9949) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @07:06AM (#2174780) Journal
    Which games prevent development? All video games? Impossible. There are no clear references to the type of game these kids played.

    Computer game stimulates only vision and movement... That depends on the type of game and its goals. Even super-violent Quake3, in its team variants, demands a very high level of coordination and calculation. Well, if you don't come just shooting right and left. However, one should note that there are really dumb games around with a very "mechanical" nature.

    The world doesn't stop just on one Nintendo game.

    I have seen the behaviour patterns of hundreds of Doom/Quake gamers from 12 to 40 years. The best way to drop stress is to have a kick'ass round at the end of the day. You get home like an angel...
    What are the real pattern behaviours of people before/after they played this Nintendo game? What social reactions happen? Is there a control group who didn't play this game at all? Or played other similar/different game? What if I restrict the playing of this game for some N period of time, how behaviour changes?
  • The article said that the researcher DID NOT see
    the parts of the brain associated with emotion stimulated while playing violent video games as he expected, but DID see those areas of the brain active when the student was doing math. Sounds obvious to me - doing math causes more violent emotions than playing violent video games ever could. I think the conclusions are pretty obvious that we should stop teaching math at once!
  • For a good introduction to human developmental
    biology - necessary if one wants to talk sensibly
    about various things damaging children's brains! -
    I recommend the book Early Intelligence [dannyreviews.com]. That only
    really covers early childhood ("the first five years"), but it gets harder to cause
    developmental damage after that, so...


    Danny.

  • by enterfornone (7400) <anonymouscoward@enterfornone.com> on Sunday August 19, 2001 @08:25AM (#2193478) Homepage Journal
    Anyone who has worked in tech support and had to deal with gamers (I want little ping! Too much pocket loose!) could tell you this for free.
  • There are at least a few big problems with this article. First, no mention is made of whether these results have been accepted for publication in a refereed journal. If they haven't been, then it is just one guy spouting off. There's not even a comment taken from a scientist unconnected to the work. Is it at least a reasonable-sounding guy? Well, the article explicitly mentions that, short of funding, he started researching video games with an expectation of getting funded by games manufacturers (well-known funders of world-class psychological research?) Finally, I'm no brain expert, but I'm very skeptical of the notion that generic, childhood frontal lobe activity is sure-and-certain associated with moral development. If it were, wouldn't we be doing frontal lobe exercises each morning? The kook alarm is ringing loudly...

    • "Finally, I'm no brain expert, but I'm very skeptical of the notion that generic, childhood frontal lobe activity is sure-and-certain associated with moral development. If it were, wouldn't we be doing frontal lobe exercises each morning?"
      What an odd comment.

      Firstly, ignorance of the functions of the frontal-lobe (and all parts of the human brain) can and should be remedied before offering dissenting opinions, based solely on a combination of your admitted lack of expertise and your skepticism. You could do worse than a search on Google [google.com] on "Frontal lobe" + "Human brain".

      Secondly, as you continue being skeptical of the purpose and utility of the frontal lobe in the regulation of moral developement in human beings, consider the sad case of Phineas Gage [epub.org.br], a railroad construction worker in the late 1800s, who had the misfortune of having a steel rod driven through his frontal lobe while working with explosives.

      In a rather remarkable stroke of curious luck, the rod, which went completely through Gage's skull by way of his cheek, avoided piercing that part of the lobe associated with motor activity and speech. Gage could continue walking, and talking, and being basically a productive personality after recovering from the accident.

      And yet, within months very startling changes in personality and behavior were manifest in Gage's life. He became impulsive, incredibly crude, vulgar, boisterous, and given over to constant lying. He became, in effect, a person without a conscience. His physician, John Harlow, wrote of his accident, "The equilibrium between his intellectual faculties and animal propensities seems to have been destroyed.".

      Science is in many ways indebted to Mr. Gage's tragic accident. It was because of the ghastly transformation of person that followed in the wake of his accident that the medical community of the day began to associate behavior with biology. This marks, then, the (forgive the pun) 'big bang' event of neuroscience.

      Now, a study is released which suggests that certain types of activity (playing certain types of videogames) can retard the development of that part of the frontal lobe which provides a seat of human conscience. Whether the study is perfect science, flawed science or quackery, we have the opportunity to give the matter the serious consideration it deserves. (We can see, by way of the Gage tragedy, that scientists have known for 150 years that the frontal lobe in some respect controls / regulates decision-making and impulse regulation.)

      If the study is biased, incomplete or otherwise lacking, find the sound basis to make that assertion. (HINT: Don't fall prey to the seductive lie that the passion of your conviction can somehow be translated into the merit of your belief, lest you make comments like 'I don't know much about this subject, but I DO know I'm skeptical, which should be of SOME relevance'.)

      And as for your comment about doing frontal-lobe exercises each morning, you've got to be kidding. I can think of a LOT of activities that can lead to the physical development or cognitive edification of mankind. Yet I know few people who are disciplined enough in lifestyle to engage in these activities on a daily basis. Why is this? Because the work is hard, and the rewards are longterm, not immediate. We know a lot of ways to improve ourselves. Few people choose them. They'd rather sit at home, eating DingDongs and playing Quake.

      (dramatic music swells as this lengthy retort ends with an abrupt, ironic conclusion.)


      FIN
  • Oh Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kirwin (71594) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @08:53AM (#2193515)
    At first, I read this and thought...

    That is why I lack any serious intelligence... my career is a sham... my ego has been deflated... I'm ruined.

    All because I played nintendo like it was a religion when I was younger.

    Then I realized I played RPG's and all the other interesting games too.

    *bliss*

    I'm saved... a few indiscriminate gaming choices when younger have saved me.

    Or not?

    I have a feeling this case studies the extreme and not the norm. (as with most things). In any event, we know that too much of anything isn't a good thing. We have been preaching this since times begining.
  • "The importance of this discovery cannot be underestimated ."
  • Big surprise.. not. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mwillems (266506) on Sunday August 19, 2001 @09:46AM (#2193580) Homepage
    "To the surprise of brain-mapping expert Professor Ryuta Kawashima and his team at Tohoku University in Japan, it was found that the computer game only stimulated activity in the parts of the brain associated with vision and movement."

    Not surprising, on three counts!

    First, obviously 'shoot em up'-games improve hand-eye coordination. ("Improve hand-eye coordination: that sounds better already, no?)

    Leading me to point two: Japanese society generally disapproves of individualist pursuits such as gameplaying. The Japenese scientific establishment may well have the same biases. This conclusion will be popular. Back to 18-hour a day schooling, kids.

    Third, The Guardian is a left-wing paper with a fairly strong anti-technology bias. So the fact it is reported here is suspicious too.

    What I am trying to say is: interpret your news critically. This does not mean the article is untrue; it just means some extra work is needed before we all throw out our kids' Gameboys.

    Michael

    PS my two boys are playing a game as we speak. I have the impression it's a worthwhile pursuit. They are leadning to talk together, plan a course of action, and they are learning to use PCs. Oh and hand-eye coordination.

  • After playing hours of Soul Calibur, DOA2, Tekken Tag, GT3 and some other video game its name I have forgotten at this point, I was about ready to fire up Tribe 2 when I thought about checkin Slashdot for some good news about Video Games to read this! AAAAARGG!

    NEED TO DESTROY RISING!
  • They don't say what game they tried, but it was a nintendo game....

    Let's look at the trend in PC games. Games are going multi-player-over-the-Internet it a big way. The MMORPGs are moving along at a clip not seen since the explosion of "community-based Web sites".

    So, when the game simulates a world, complete with thousands of other "real" people (players) to interact with, what would this study show? I have quite varied conversations in Everquest, and that's just the social aspect. There's also the math (yes math! in the form of statistics, simple arithmetic and algebra).

    Then, there's the group dynamics. How do you organize people? Not a lesson most teenagers learn....

    Now, we move to other styles of games. Myst, for example is pure puzzle-solving. Logic math and pretty pictures. I'd be concerned about any kid that played a video game to the exclusion of all else, but if it were Myst I suspect they'd come out of it with some improved logic skills.

    Now on to hybrid games. Soul Reaver is a puzzle-solving/action game. Perhaps this kind of well-rounded game (I think Tomb Raider is in this catagory, but never played it) should be stressed for its ability to train many areas of the brain at once.

    Now, to the future.... What happens when "video game" is an antiquated term? What happens when computers are used to simulate vast virtual environments with social activity, education and entertainment combined? What then? It's coming, and I think running around saying "it's stunting their growth" is not the most mature way that we can respond....

    Let's evaluate what our kids do for the merits and flaws of each activity. Provide alternatives, not demands and never forget that you're trying to train them to be adults who can live thier own lives, not pets.
  • ...because: "'The importance of this discovery cannot be underestimated,' Kawashima told The Observer."

    After all, Prof. Kawashima is quoted as such right in the article. ;)
  • by marm (144733)

    I've been playing computer games on and off since I was 4 (the first game I got really badly hooked on was Joust on my Atari 2600, back in 1984 or therabouts), so I like to think I'm reasonably well qualified to comment. I grew up with computer games all around me, first with my Ataris (2600 & 400), through Amigas (an A500 and an A1200) and far too many hours spent in arcades, and then into the PC world.

    Do you know what? I really do think, looking back on it now, that computer games stunted my emotional and intellectual growth. Not because of anything insidious about the games themselves, not that they were necessarily ultra-violent (be fair, realistic ultra-violence in computer games has only been around since Doom or maybe Wolfenstein - certainly Doom was the first game that made me twitch uneasily when I shot someone), but because they were an addiction. Even when I didn't feel addicted, it was something I could easily slide into, and completely forget about more important things that I had to do. Much more effective at that than TV, because a good computer game involves your brain completely. TV programs just don't do that, no matter how good they are.

    Case in point: I started learning to play the piano when I was 4. I made good progress to begin with, I didn't have much in the of distraction. It wasn't long, however, until I would find myself playing computer games instead, rather than practising my piano. Eventually, aged 8, my piano teacher gave up on me because I was making no progress at all. I rue that day now. To me, being able to play a musical instrument would be a far more useful skill to have than being able to set high scores (not that I could much even at the height of my gaming skills - I was always crap, despite my addiction - indeed, perhaps that's what fed it).

    Case in point 2: girls and social skills. When everyone else was learning how to interact with each other, I was.... inside learning how to shoot stuff in Xenon II. When, aged 11, 12, 13, they were learning about the opposite sex, I was... inside learning how to play Civilisation. Now, I wasn't completely unaware of girls at the time - hormones start flowing around that age and there's nothing you can do about it. But because I was no good at interacting with people, hormonal urges turned into frustration, and frustration turned into anger. For me, that anger turned into anger at myself and self-hate, leading to a spiral of low self-esteem and depression that I have struggled to get out of ever since. I can understand how for some people that turns into outward violence, they just deal with the same problem in a different way. I don't think it's the games themselves that turn people violent, but the reaction to feeling excluded because they have been playing games instead of interacting with other humans.

    Case in point 3: exams and university. I dropped out of uni because of games. Whilst everyone was going to lectures and tutorials, I was.... at home learning how to play Quake and Descent. I would beat myself up about not going in that day, but the feelings only lasted as long as it took to fire up Quake and start getting involved. Once I had done that, I was just too absorbed to remember what I ought to have been doing. Somehow I managed to struggle through my first year (my uni wasn't at all strict about people turning up) but it came to the end-of-year exams and... well inevitably I didn't get the marks. Out I went. That was the final straw for me. I descended into a living hell of depression and apathy for a year, but eventually I began to sort myself out. That year was also the year I realized where one of my biggest problems was - and I finally gave up serious gaming for good.

    I don't think I'd mind so much if I actually learnt something about computers whilst gaming - but you don't. You learn what computer you should have, you get hold of it, you learn to boot it and you learn how to load a game. That's it. My computer knowledge only started really advancing past the 'point, click, play' stage once I gave up gaming. The fact that it develops hand/eye co-ordination is all very well, but there are plenty of other activities that develop those skills too, and don't involve cutting yourself off from humanity. Maybe a few hardcore gamers will go on to write their own games... but what about the 99% who don't?

    I realise it's probably not very politically correct on Slashdot to point out some of the human and social problems with some types of computing, but that's the way it is. Computer gaming can easily lead to addiction (the games are designed to be addictive!), and unchecked, any addiction is very hazardous. The fact that it's an addiction that affects kids and teenagers more than anyone else, people who are at crucial points of social and intellectual development, only makes it all the more insidious.

    • by marm (144733)

      This is not flamebait, Slashdot, this is what happened to me. I realize it's not a pretty story, but there you go. It wasn't a pretty time for me either.

      Perhaps I should stress that I do not blame the games. I know from experiences elsewhere in my life that I am prone to addiction. I smoke. I have, in the past, drunk too much regularly. I find bad habits easy to pick up. I don't want restrictions on games either - to do so would restrict people's liberties for the sake of a few for whom it might turn into a problem. It hasn't worked on drink or drugs, so I don't think it would be any use here either.

      But that still doesn't change the fact that I ended up genuinely hooked, to the severe detriment of the rest of my life, on computer games. The sooner that people realize that computer gaming is both addictive and potentially destructive for some, the better. Once people have realized that, then strides can be made towards harm reduction and everyone can go about their gaming without fear of it taking over their lives.

  • Although the study of human behaviour and its origins is nothing new (psychology is a much older field than neuroscience), the study of behaviour in relation to brain function is a much newer field. The point I am trying to make here is that there is so much we don't know about how the brain works (despite all the advances that we've made so far in terms of PET scans and MRIs that monitor brain activity). So when people make these kinds of claims ("video games make your child violent"), you have to start questioning their methods of research as there could be several factors that influence the child's mental and moral development. Kids who play Quake 3 but live in a nice, stable household in the suburb are not likely to go violent. But kids who live with violence day in day out, even if they don't play video games, are *more likely* (this is the distinction that can be left out in the more vigorous emotional debates) to become violent simply because they've learned to accept violence as a way of life. Something that you learn from experience is that real life has much more of an impact on your behaviour than games do.

    So before we start the call for extreme measures to control video game usage, we must learn more about neuroscience's relation to behaviour in general before we can make specific claims about the effects of video games on kids.

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