Thursday, 29 May 2008

The truth about video games

Prospect magazine's latest (and free!) cover feature provides a welcome defence of video games, arguing that they are more intellectually, socially and aesthetically stimulating than many critics seem to realise.

Consider the game "Eve" which involves players banding together to build spaceships. "One of the first of the largest class of such ships took a consortium of around 22 guilds —just under 4,000 players in total — eight months to complete, a task that involved complexities of training, materials, role allocation and management that would put many companies to shame."

Or marvel at the sheer freedom and reality available in GTA IV: "It's quite a thing...to be moved by the beams of an unreal sun setting behind a not-quite-Manhattan skyline".

Tom Chatfield's article is in part a response to the writings of people like neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, whose latest book argues that increasing amounts of screen time could be harmful to children's moral and intellectual development. He attacks her prose: "a near-continuous train wreck of redundancies, mixed metaphors and self-contradictions" and believes her arguments will only serve to "harden opinion on both sides of the debate".

However, having celebrated the complexity of video games and provided a refreshingly realistic account of what they involve, Chatfield does end with a word of caution: "the doomsayers are right in one important respect. If we do not learn to balance the new worlds we are building with our living culture, we may lose something of ourselves."

Link to Prospect magazine article.
Link to Susan Greenfield discussing her new book on BBC Radio 4's Start the Week.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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