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Brain Games

April 6th, 2006 No comments

If you’ve checked out my recent reads page, you’ll notice that Everything Bad is Good for You is near the top of the list. First off, this is really a great book – one I highly recomend. Now if you aren’t familiar with the premise, you might be a bit put off, but Steve Johnson essentially says that TV and video games might not be as bad for our brain as we think. Of course he isn’t advocating we all stop reading Shakespeare in favor of vegging out to the latest “reality” show but he has some really good points. First, have you ever noticed the level of complexity found in today’s most popular shows? Just count the number of characters and plot lines in Lost, 24, or Sopranos and get back to me…

Yesterday I had lunch with one of my closest friends and on the way over I was listening to NPR (I know, it’s yet another sign I’m getting older) when All Things Considered covered Nintendo’s new game Brain Age (give a listen here). Though only released in Japan (why is almost all the cool stuff released in Europe or Asia first?) the premise is that playing the game regularly will make you smarter. Quite interesting stuff… Shortly after I sent this link to frequent brain blogger Kathy Sierra, I ran into Can a game make you smarter? over on Clive Thompson‘s blog. In this post, Clive points to his most recent Wired column (along with a podcast) where he also touches on Brain Age and similar topics. Of course Clive mentions Steve Johnson’s book! You’ve got to love convergence huh?

I’m certainly no expert on brains or games and I certainly think “today’s youth” spend WAY too much time in the virtual world (told you I was getting older) but there’s definitely something to this. The future is rushing at us faster and faster – we aren’t in Kansas anymore and the skills and techniques that we’ll need to thrive (heck even cope) with the next 50 years are certainly different than those of the last 50. We may not agree with some of the violence and attitudes displayed in games but considering the impact game technology is having on society, we best not dismiss it out of hand.

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