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Games Building Brains

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I am a huge fan of video games, and I have a theory about them.

Gaming_1

I believe video games can be used as a gateway to other worlds. Not in the physical sense, but as a psychological phenomenon.

Let me back up a little bit. I grew up with video games. Being an only child in a military family, I lived and breathed them for most of my childhood. They granted me a way to become something totally different than myself. They allowed me to take up a cause and put forth effort to make that cause become a reality. At least in the little world on my screen.

There is a stipulation attached to video games that nothing good can come out of them. They are strictly for entertainment and have no academic or philosophical value. This is absolutely not true.

This prejudice is finally being fought today, with studies showing that video games actually CAN make you smarter.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/gaming.gadgets/01/31/video.games.smarter.steinberg/index.html

http://www.slideshare.net/lgillispie/video-games-as-learning-tools-in-the-classroom

http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/prensky%20-%20what%20kids%20learn%20thats%20positive%20from%20playing%20video%20games.pdf

Not only do they improve critical thinking, but they also give hands on experience in situations you would otherwise never be in.

This is the point I am trying to get to. Video games give consumers the ability to engage and immerse themselves in completely different universes that live by different rules and different standards. Not only is this an exercise in adaptation, but it is also a creative outlet for the mind.

It is almost like dreaming, where anything is possible, except guided and scoped in a way that is easily understandable. In more passive forms of entertainment you are pushed through a story until you get to the end. It is fun to watch, but you don’t have the ability to immerse yourself to the same level as a game.

I remember being a kid and becoming so in-tune with the game that I really felt like the character. When I put the game down, I still felt like I had a mission that I needed to get back to. In this instance, I was no longer playing it to be entertained, I was playing it to accomplish something.

That may not seem like a big deal, but think about it for a second. I had nothing to lose by not accomplishing that virtual goal, but I FELT like I would lose if I didn’t.

That is an insane paradigm shift. I was learning how to become a different person. I was guided, through repeated association, to look through life from another person’s eyes.

Video games should be ranked the number one learning tool known to man. They give you real, immediate, and critical feedback on almost any situation you want to learn about. Even if some of the situations are surreal in nature, that does not mean they do not have value.

If aliens invaded the Earth right now, I would have experience learned from a dozen different games on how to handle it. It would be like I had lived multiple past lives dealing with this specific situation. That may seem a little far-fetched, but it is true. Halo, DeadSpace, Mass Effect, I have memories from each of these games on how to handle multiple types of alien life-forms.

Since our brain learns and adapts through memories, isn’t that the same thing as having actually done it?

Looking at games in this way gives a million possibilities on how we could use this to better the human race. It also shows me a million ways it can go wrong.

My dad always says, “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. I didn’t understand that concept until I was older. I love the Grand Theft Auto series, but there are no true repercussions when you do something awful like kill a cop or rob a store. You would either get away from the police or you would die and be reborn again. This gives people the memory of having committed a crime and having gotten away with it. In reality there are serious legal penalties, but what is being supplanted into the minds of millions of people is that there are not.

Taking what we know about memories, you can see why this would be a problem. My dad was dead on with his saying. What one puts into his mind will one day come out. Especially when it is installed through video games.

So while the possibilities are endless, they are infinite in both directions. Either good or bad, it is up to you.

As for me, I am going to go be the good guy.

(By the way, if you go to all of those links above I will bake you a cookie)

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