Thumb Drivers

16 Jun 2005|Darrel Rhea

Recently my son asked me to read an article in Discover Magazine , on the positive effects of video gaming. My concerns as a parent of a preteen (and several post-teens) about the effects of popular culture on youth influence many of my decisions about allowable activities, or duration of participation. Maybe, according to the many studies cited and various writers’ testimonials in Discover, gaming actually does have positive effects on shaping cognitive thinking — and perhaps I should view gaming as important to shaping my son’s critical thinking as, say, reading or joining the debate team.

It seems that the addictive nature of games (the good ones) occurs not only because they are entertaining, but because they are challenging to the gamer at the appropriate level every step along the way, thereby taking the gamer to his/her point of “Flow” or what cognitive psychologists termed “regime of competence.” This is a core principal of learning: as the gamer (learner) becomes more proficient, the activity, characters and subcontext become more complex and rewarding.

Of course, all of this is likely to be common knowledge to gamers, though perhaps they are unable to articulate why they feel the way they do about their entertainment other than “It’s fun.” We should all be so lucky as to have life mimic such calculated, laid-out patterns funneling us to growth, with our ability to manage increasing levels of complexity of challenges be rewarded, even to the point of our thinking that the next level of challenge in life is a reward in and of itself.

That is precisely one of the key findings made by James Rosser, Director of the Advanced Medical Technology Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, based on a study he conducted with surgeons: that playing video games improved specific key aspects of the surgeons performance by 37%! Other studies demonstrate improvements in social interactions, problem-solving, creativity and confidence.

It seems that it is only a matter of time until the question, “Are you a gamer?” shows up on the human resources job application, or that the applications themselves are video games that the job seeker has to play to demonstrate prowess. Why wait? When I schedule my next surgery, I’m going to ask my doc in advance if he plays, or just send him Doom.

prev next