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I ENJOY the time-gobbling hobby of building virtual GMax craft for use in Microsoft Flight Simulator. So it is with interest that I read the article “Video Games: The Bad, the Ugly, and the (Potentially) Good,” by Michaela Jarvis, in AAAS Science magazine, March 31, 2017.
In all candor, the term “video game” is eschewed by whackos such as myself: “It’s not a game. It’s a simulation”.
And, in fact, this admittedly alternative-fact reality was likely one of the subjects discussed at a March 15, 2017, Neuroscience & Society event sponsored jointly by AAAS and the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization supporting brain research through grants, publications, and educational programs.
According to AAAS author Michaela Jarvis, 155 million Americans play video games at least three times a week. She cites the prediction that “ ‘internet gaming disorder’ will become part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, this document helping mental-health professionals categorize such matters.
One of the topics discussed at the AAAS/Dana event was a ReSTART program directed to those whose gaming has led to disruption of their lives.
Notes Jarvis, “The typical client at ReSTART treatment center is young, male, depressed, anxious, sleep-deprived, failing in school or at work, poorly developed physically, unfamiliar with normal dating relationships—and living every possible moment in front of a screen.”
Treatment includes a sabbatical from gaming that lasts for 45 to 90 days, followed by a slow reintroduction to screens. The point is to replace “a main source of their self-esteem (their gaming prowess) and develop a new identity through a healthy lifestyle, work, communications workshops, and instruction in life skills such as grocery shopping and cooking, and counseling.”
A second topic discussed was what researchers call “an indisputable causal link between violent video games and aggressive behavior.”
I confess I’m a bit put off by the word “indisputable” in a scientific setting, but I’ll excuse social scientists this charming conceit. After all, I like to believe Watson wrote Holmes’ chronicles; Doyle was merely his literary agent.
Jarvis addresses whether it’s merely more violent people being attracted to such games. Specialists, she notes, account for this in the design and execution of their studies. Also, she notes, “A new, recently accepted study … shows the effect is basically the same across the United States, Australia, Germany, China, Japan, Croatia, and Romania.”
Purely as a sample of one, Wife Dottie has long believed that my driving style is more aggressive when I fool with my World War I combat sim.
On the other hand, researchers have a good thing to say about strategy-based games, as opposed to those involving pure action. Notes Jarvis, “Preliminary research has suggested that ‘if the target is to improve older adults’ cognitive control, reasoning, and higher-order cognitive skills, and stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s as long as possible, then maybe strategy games are the way to go.”
I admire the scientific caution of this statement. And, after perfecting my flight sim carrier landings (talk about time-gobbling…), I can concur that I feel more cognitive, for sure. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017