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Dr. Oddlot or: How I learned to swallow the pill and play video games

A chimpanzee brain at the Science Museum London

Mmmm brains

So in my real job I meet a wide variety of people and talk to them about stuff. One recent conversation with a psychiatrist or psychologist, or whichever one can give you drugs, told me that videogames are a complete and utter waste of time.

In case you haven’t gathered this from visiting this site a few times, I strongly disagree with this statement.

His argument for this revolved around the idea that time is our…OK. What the hell? So I have this program on wordpress that produces recommended tags based on my post so far. Right now it is recommending things like “Jimmy Carter,” “White House,” and “shopping,” and finally “Charles Krauthammer.” I don’t know who that is.

Sorry, back to the task at hand. This psych guy said time is our single most valuable resource. Now this makes a lot of sense. After all, it is constantly slipping away into the future and we can’t stop it or create more of it. So, if time is our most valuable resource, how are we spending it, or wasting it?

It was about this time he said people should put clocks in their showers. I don’t know about him, but I spend my showers, and really a lot of my bathroom time, ruminating on the complex issues I face in this wild, wild universe. I’m not just turning my brain off for 10 or 15 minutes while sudsing myself. But apparently Mr. doctor-who-treats-people’s-brains does completely zone out in the shower for longer than 15 minutes.

Along these same lines, he said videogames are a complete and utter waste of time. Time well spent in the land of leather couches is time spent creating and keeping the brain active. The brain is a muscle, a gray motionless muscle, that needs to be exercised. He explained that videogames do not create new neural pathways. There’s nothing going on upstairs while you’re sitting there moving your thumbs.

Of course there are the tried and true arguments that videogames improve hand-eye coordination, and some weird ones, but I’d like to get beyond the rhetoric and talk about this psych guy I know.

First of all, your brain may shut down for casual games such as these. I know in college I could start playing some stupid flash game that involved clicking really fast or moving around with arrow keys and the next thing I know it’s dark outside and the dinning hall is closed. Even while playing Call of Duty I find myself zoning out. I’ll run to the exact same sniper post over and over again or run around the map on a set track looking for baddies.

But when I’m playing Zelda and I can’t figure out how to light a stupid torch on the other side of a seemingly bottomless ravine, my brain is hot and wired for sound. I can’t prove it, but I just know those neurons and synapses have to be going like mad.

Similarly, there is the social aspect of it all. Creating snappy comebacks that don’t involve Tophat’s mom when he’s dishing out his hatred while trying to snipe psychos coming at me with flaming weapons requires a significant amount of coordination and cerebral prowess.

On the other hand, is my brain active while I’m tumbling through the dark woods with a flashlight keeping an eye out for monsters in Alan Wake? I’m not sure. One thing I do know, it scares the crap out of me which triggers my “fight or flight” adrenal glands and so gets me all hopped up on endorphins. Epinephrine is an endorphin, right? Anyway, there is certainly more going on there than Calvin-watching-cartoons situation. I don’t spend my time getting that jaw slacked just right.

But in the end we come back to the creation argument. Can you create through videogames? Well, in some instances you can in games like Wii Music and Mario Paint. Those are literal examples, but you can also create friendships. If not for Borderlands Elrood would probably still be just that guy Tophat knows who lives very far away from me.

More importantly, videogames can train us to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. After all, when the zombie apocalypse final does descend upon us those that survive will be the gamers and the militia men. You know, the Rambo types who practice wilderness survival techniques and have large stockpiles of high-caliber weapons? That’s right Ted. When the world ends it’ll just be you and me Wango Tangoing for the rest of time. And that psychiatrist? He’ll still have a deep-seated interest in brains.

Take it away Nuge!

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3 Responses

  1. Wait, you’ve been creating snappy comebacks this whole time when we’re playing games? Man, you’ve really gotta remember to turn your mic on once in a while. I thought those long awkward pauses were just due to your poor social skills, but apparently this whole time you’ve been making some real zingers behind a deep, impenetrable wall of stupidity.

  2. You get bonus points for the use of a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip in your post.

    And the recommended tags made me laugh. Yay!

    • Haha. Thanks. I love Calvin and Hobbes. I actually got the box set for Christmas a while back. Nothing stimulates a kid’s imagination like reading comics about another kid’s wild imagination.

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