Video Games are Intellectually Stimulating by ellonnic

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College Essay

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Reading and Writing Across the Corriculum

Research Paper #2

Christine Cusick and Jenny Bangsund

12/4/2000


                        Video Games are Intellectually Stimulating


        Technology’s benefits to mankind have become more and more questionable over

the years. Most early inventions such as the light bulb, washing machine, automobile,

and microwaves are all thought of as being relatively beneficial inventions to society.

However, there are many out there that are very debatable as to whether they are a benefit

or a menace to society. One of the most controversial inventions is the video game

because many believe it inflicts harm upon American students as they spend countless

hours playing sometimes very violent ones instead of having their heads buried in books.

In actuality, moderate amounts of time spent playing video games can encourage creative

thinking, improve problem solving strategies, increase exposure to artwork, and improve

school performance.

        Many parents have become somewhat accustomed to scolding their children when

they spend what they feel is too much time playing video games. Are parents merely

impressing their own schemes of constructive entertainment upon their children? Is

playing baseball and exploring the woods truly more constructive activities than time

spent in front of a video screen? Since children may actually be increasing their own

intelligence and improving their education by playing a wide variety of video games, the

current time restraints placed upon playing video games are probably stricter than they

should be. This is not to say that physical exercise is not important, but only that a
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moderate amount of game playing time is not wasted time. The question then becomes,

just how much exposure is a “moderate” amount of time? According to some experts,

parents may simply have to decide which is more important, their child’s IQ or their

child’s level of social skills and physical health (Quittner 50). Perhaps the answer is as

simple as encouraging the children to play their video games with other children as well

as spend some time doing physical activities. After all, once all of the puzzles have been

solved, the codes - broken, the levels - beaten, and the artwork - seen, they will certainly

turn toward new, more stimulating activities eventually.

       Of course, video games are not even close to being a sufficient replacement for a

formal education, but they can become a form of education that is simply unavailable in

schools. Even most psychologists agree that there is a positive correlation between video

games and intelligence in that they increase one’s “spatial skills, their use of icons for

problem solving, and their ability to understand things from multiple viewpoints”

(Quittner 50). Spatial skills are increased as the so-called 3D graphics are projected onto

a 2Dimensional screen. As the graphics become more complicated, they sometimes

require an intelligent eye to fully understand the size, lighting, angle, shape, clarity,

depth, and color of objects. Also, these characteristics are never exactly the same in any

two games, and the eyes are always being challenged when a person adapts from one

game to the next. One unique example involves the Nintendo game named Excite Bike.

New game players sometimes had to make a conscious effort to keep the image of the

brown obstacle course they were driving on from appearing to invert into what looked

like an standing piece of bending, folding cardboard.
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        First person video games (where the screen is what is seen through a character’s

eyes), like Doom, Quake, and Unreal Tournament, encourage players to develop unique

and personal strategies in order to overcome obstacles quickly. Quittner suggested,

“games are as complex as they are treacherous. You have to learn how to solve problems

fast, testing hypotheses and decoding puzzles” (50). Oftentimes, multiplayer games

become a competition of brainpower between two players playing against each other. In

these games, a player must outwit his opponent in order to win force a player to quickly

judge the following: which weapons are the most effective under certain circumstances,

which path is the shortest distance to a destination, which areas are currently the most

strategically valuable, what is the opponent most likely thinking and planning, and what

is the relation of the velocity of the target to that of the projectile. All of these time-

pressured decisions oftentimes require a much higher level of thinking than most would

tend to think.

        Strategy warfare games like Civilization, WarCraft, Age of the Empires, and Red

Alert force a player to use much deeper planning and strategies than first person games

because the time pressure is not as intense. These games typically show a slightly off-

center top view of a battlefield while the player creates a defensive military base capable

of producing military units or buildings (from the surrounding resources that are

collected) to do the following: enable the base to produce even more or better units,

improve its defenses to a variety of attacking strategies, or build an offensive force of

units. Players of these games soon learn to pre-plan offensive and defensive strategies

over both the short and long term. They also begin to make economic decisions in order

to win. For instance, a fairly simple
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decision commonly presented in strategy warfare games is “should I make many weak

units or just a few strong ones?” Oftentimes many of these decisions end up creating a

negative synergistic effect when made poorly and reasoning out decisions and pre-

planning are greatly encouraged by these games.

       One of the most unappreciated aspects of a video game is the artwork and pure

imagination required to create it. Although some games have similar game-playing

concepts, on average, each game is uniquely creative in their application and variety of

graphics and their means of presenting problems. In fact, a significant portion of the

money used in game development goes to pay creative people to make the game as

interesting as possible (Gottlieb B4). If the creativity of a choreographer is considered

worthy of appreciation, why are the unique motions of game characters, robots, and

monsters not treated with the same creative respect? An action-fantasy game is the result

of hundreds of very creative people working collaboratively on a single work. If a work

by Picasso, Shakespeare, or Beethoven can be referred to as an individual’s creative

masterpiece, why are entire virtual-reality realms not treated on at least the same level if

entire teams of artists, composers, and animators designed it from the imaginations of

great authors? Video games may not be the works of classic artistic geniuses, but their

collaborative creative efforts should be far more appreciated than they currently are.

       Many parents are overly concerned that video games will promote violent

behavior in their children. In reality, violent games are nothing more than another

scapegoat for society’s many ills (Quittner 51). One should consider that most of those

who have acquired a violent nature could not afford the luxury of video games. Katz

Jackson, a lecturer on gender violence, and Jhally Sut, a professor of communication at
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the University of Massachusetts, suggested that the most devastating incident to the

reputation of video games was undoubtedly the Columbine High School tragedy.

However, in this case, society blamed the games instead of examining itself.

       It is tempting to look at the murderous attack in Littleton as a manifestation of

       individual pathologies, and an isolated incident involving deeply disturbed

       teenagers who watched one too many video games. That explanation ignores

       larger social and historical forces, and is dangerously shortsighted. (E1)

In an article by Rhodes, one series of studies appeared to indicate that watching violence

on video games and TV actually made children more relaxed when confronted with real

violent situations instead of being insensitive towards them (55). Assume that it is true

that many studies seem to suggest that violent games caused aggressive behavior in

children. There have been other studies that suggested their methods were flawed and

that there is no such relationship. For example, “In one study, watching Mr. Rogers’

Neighborhood and Sesame Street tripled the aggressiveness of preschool kids”. There is

a theory called the “mean world” theory that states that humans already know what they

are expected to do when they participate in an experiment they automatically act out their

expectations. This would explain why in some rare case studies, exposure to violence

actually shows and increase in aggressive behavior. Since a correlation has not even

been indicated between aggressive behavior and video games, parents should feel they

have nothing to fear by exposing their children to these sorts of games.

       Parents should also begin to see the relationship between video games and

potential careers. Most children seem to be impatient and so will instinctively attempt to

play a new video game even without ever reading the instructions. Having already
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obtained a great deal of game playing experience, they are astonishingly quick at figuring

out exactly how to control a new and complex program using only a mouse, keyboard, or

joystick. In the real world, helicopter pilots, micro surgeons, robotic engineers,

construction workers, and NASA Land Rover controllers are already beginner video

game players because they have mastered a specific joystick to the game of their field.

Since many children’s skills and adaptive techniques for video games have been

developing over their many game playing years, they might be preparing themselves for

the real world.

       An idea that should be noted is that children will not play video games that they

feel are unchallenging. This means that players crave intellectual challenges and will

continue to find more and more skills and concepts to learn as well as harder puzzles to

solve. Video games are a good choice as a recreational activity because they can be

extremely stimulating in places and ways that schools simply cannot reach. They

enhance an education and broaden one’s exposure to artwork, increase their

understanding of spatial problems, and improve problem solving and decision-making

skills with intriguing puzzles. Perhaps one-day society will understand that video games

are challenging situational simulators and definitely not brain eroding combinations of

lights on a screen.

								
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