Lots to digest on computer games at the moment. Some factoids to peruse

  • There are more players playing Farmville on Facebook (not me, not yet, anyhow) than there are active on Twitter.
  • Active online gamers have put in 10,000 hours of play by the time they are 21. This is of the same order as they have spent in school
  • Humanity plays 3 billion hours of online games a week

Given this vast pool of people who “are good at something” (whatever gaming is), can’t we use that gaming knowledge somehow? Three similar ideas popped into my news river in the last week (NB probably an hour of reading and listening in total).

  • Jane McGonigal wants us to save the world (with 21 billion hours of gaming) as we are the “best versions of ourselves” when gaming (optimism focused on an Epic Win)
  • John Robb wants us to use gaming constructs fix the broken real world (in games, effort and activity lead to reward; it is not so clearly the case in the real world)
  • Jesse Schell wants to bring games into the real world: for example, we’d get bonus points for cleaning our teeth for three minutes each day and for completing a week of cleaning (sponsored by toothpaste companies and potentially government health bodies)

Finally, if you are worried that gaming is destroying the fabric of society, it is worth reading this article and its accompanying slides to get a current scientific overview  view of how video games affect kids. Summary: they can improve attention and perception together with social well-being. Negatives are based on the game content and the risk that gaming may displace other activities (like exercise). NB this is how science should be presented: clear, referenced, concise.

Interesting side points on previous “scares”:

  • Socrates warned about writing damaging memory
  • Gessner warned about printing producing too many books
  • Malesherbes railed against newspapers
  • Pritchard thought excessive study caused insanity
  • The Sanitarian thought that too many schools would damage children

While I agree with Vaughan that Baroness Greenfield seems to make less problematic pronouncements in private, that doesn’t help the public ones being caught by the media (as shown by the sort of comments in the linked slide set).