Recently a UK politician claimed teens playing games is making them less intelligent, in fact the following quote comes from a very popular tabloid – the Sun.
KIDS hooked on computer games have sent England plummeting down world league tables for reading, it was claimed yesterday.
A study of literacy at primary schools in 41 countries saw our youngsters slip from third to 15th in just five years.
Ministers claimed pupils spend so much time on consoles that they are not burying their noses in books.
I’m not going to say that games are not to blame, they work very nicely as a distraction from school work (and reading), but before games we had television and movies – they worked just as well.
In recent years the brain training genre, popularised by Nintendo (with games like More Brain Training) and continued by a number of other companies (Ubisoft, and Sega) are recent examples of games designed specifically to improve your thinking power. These aren’t the first games to do this sort of thing. Some of the earliest games tested the grey matter to extremes (text based role playing games such as Zork) and later games continued this (adventure games like Monkey Island). In more recent years the room escape style point and click games have had a resurgence in the online space. Whilst these games are not designed specifically as learning aids they do help improve lateral thinking and day to day common sense – and with the amount of text these games contain you could even argue that they help improve literacy.
Many other games involve puzzle solving skills. Anybody who has fought their way through one of the Water Temples in any Zelda title knows how capable games are of encouraging mental gymnastics.
The thing I am worried about is the generalizations that non-game players use – it wouldn’t surprise me if certain games do indeed make people stupid, for example the Lula series, but saying that “video games make people less intelligent” is grossly unfair.
Many of the countries most intelligent youngsters are gamers of one sort or another. Games inspire creativity, I know many many people who play games and think they could improve on them and of those a surprisingly high proportion have hunted out programming and game art tutorials to learn to create their own. In fact that’s exactly how I got my start in the industry. MI6 have recently been advertising job vacancies within games – I’d think the qualifications for the secret service are pretty high so they must have good reasons for advertising in games.
Last week I saw this… if a young boy can survive a moose attack, because of the things he’s learnt in games – then I don’t see how they can be all bad 😉
So are video games to blame for making people less stupid? On their own I would say no, but used as a distraction I think they could be a small part of a larger problem. Unfortunately I have no idea how we can solve this problem – video games are clearly here to stay.
I’d be interested to hear if anybody else has any thoughts on this?
Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.