On the Other Hand, Are Online Games Rotting Our Kids' Brains?

Posted by: Rob Hof on June 22, 2006

As I mentioned in my recent story about virtual worlds, I’ve never been a gamer. The main reason is that I could immediately see how addictive Myst, World of Warcraft and so many others would be, and I just didn’t want to get started and find all those hours vaporized before I knew it.

As it turns out, I’m not the only person with this fear. A member of the audience during a gaming panel at the Supernova conference had this very same reaction, and wondered what impact these games would have on “real” life. It made me finally realize why I’ve been uneasy when I hear so much talk about how young people who play online games are learning valuable multitasking and team-building skills, how people are getting jobs because they lead a World of Warcraft clan, and even how their brains are even getting rewired to work better than those of us nongamers. It just strikes me as too convenient and self-serving when this claim comes from folks who make games and who are trying to apply the same addictive qualities of games to a lot of other endeavors, from software to work in general.

Now, I don’t doubt that these games do teach some valuable skills. But I also don’t think manipulating our brains in this way should be undertaken lightly. Maybe I’m just thinking too much of that Star Trek: Next Generation episode where an addictive game turns out to be an alien mind control ploy.
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Still, even the Supernova panelists, gaming enthusiasts all, weren’t entirely comforting in their responses to questioners in the audience. USC professor Michael Zyda noted that “at USC, when kids buy World of Warcraft, we see it in their grades.” Even worse, ShuffleBrain’s Amy Jo Kim conceded that “games can hamper kids’ ability to enjoy slower-paced things in real life,” noting that when her son plays too many video games, he tends to find real life boring.

So, I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to introduce my young daughter to these games. She still enjoys going on quiet hikes, playing with insects in the backyard, and tossing pebbles into the creek down the street. And I don’t especially want to see that change anytime soon.

Reader Comments

Nathanael

October 11, 2006 10:49 PM

I agree with you on this topic, but I think that the kids are not playing 24/7. Too much of anything is not a good thing, and it is the same with video games. As to your comment about "World of Warcraft", I have a friend who plays it and he does not care about his grades or school, only the game. He will go on and on about it, and eventually, he started to rebel against teachers. So I agree with your ideas on "World of Warcraft"

chloe

July 23, 2008 4:32 AM

i also agree with nathanel on war craft as well and on the top picture i don't understand about it at all from chloe who has never visited this yet but it i s my first time on thie website tonight.

Spence

May 12, 2009 4:35 PM

I play World of Warcraft and I make decent grades and I stay up on the weekends around 3am playing sometimes.
People who say that anyone that plays World of Warcraft or any other game for a long period of time will have declining grades in school can't really say something like that. That's so fallacious. I agree that when I started getting addicted however, that when I was pulled off of the computer I was irritable and mean towards my mother.
A lot adults play video games, I've concluded with the year and a half I've been playing WoW. What do you say about adults playing video games?

What can you really do? Technology is our future, gaming is a big hit to take stress off of a person who is getting beat down in real life.

..Well there is my 2 cents I guess..

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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