Tuesday, June 20, 2017

More on Video Games

Another issue with video games that is of particular concern to educators, particularly in a liberal-arts school, is that it may affect the ability to focus on tasks that require extended focus without immediate payoff, such as reading long books. Video games can be long and involved, but they tend to be exciting throughout. Some people speculate that the brain might become accustomed to constant excitement, and therefore less able to deal with long, dry passages. I could not find any good research on this issue; so far most of what I found was speculative and not scientific.

A similar issue that comes up is “video-game addiction.” The human brain can become dependent on constant stimulation, and this looks a lot like addiction in the brain. There is a lot of research on this going on right now, and it looks like it is another reason to put a limit on the amount of time you spend playing.

I think the reason people find video games so compelling is that the tasks you complete in a game are similar to tasks you would complete in the wild. My dog loves hunting, digging, and chasing. In the wild, this is how a dog would make a living – and she LOVES it. If she could spend her whole day hunting for animals, she would.

While not all people hate their jobs, it is rare to find people who love their jobs as much as my dog loves chasing rabbits. I think that this is because our jobs are so far removed from the jobs we had when we were hunting and gathering. Video games give us a chance to do the jobs that our brains are wired to do: looking for things, running from danger, hiding, chasing, throwing, fighting, and so on.

Now, we live in civilization, and we have to adapt to more civil ways of getting by in the world. Maybe the reason our brains become “addicted” to video games is because we have a natural proclivity towards that mode of existence. Wouldn't it be cool if we could find a way to make our actual careers more similar to the careers of our “wild” ancestors?

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