Do video games degenerate the brain?

I saw an intresting thread on this forum posing the question “does telivision degenerate or develop the mind”. Growing up i got a lot of flak from adults on how i was wasting my time. Of course as with anything moderation is key, but being as how video games require more interaction than TV , it seems to me it is mentaly stimulating…ESPECIALLY the games i like to play (war strategy). Can anyone defend either side?

It depends, really. Certainly strategy games, problem solving games, puzzle games, do you some good. A MUD stimulated the hell out of my vocabulary in the 7th grade.

But sitting in your room pushing buttons with your back arched all day can’t help you too much.

I can’t survive my evening commute without razor-sharp reflexes honed from years of video game playing. :wink:

There was a report here in the UK last week saying that older people should be encouraged to play chess or computer games to keep their mind sharp and delay the onset of such things as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease .

Since when was “degenerate” a transitive verb, might I ask?

Anyway. Anything that actually stimulates your brain is likely to be positive. I suppose the question is whether video games provide an adequate degree of stimulation. If you’re repeating the same basic moves over and over, it probably isn’t doing a lot for you. If the game’s sufficiently complicated that you have to think about strategies and such, it’s probably a positive thing. In moderation. Getting out of the house and interacting with your environment physically, though, is still a good idea.

whle I would say that they almost certainly cause the body to fall apart (by lack of exposure to any physical activity other than oepening soda cans).

I’d wager that anything that stimulates thought or reflexive action is good for the brain as an organ but possibly bad for ones ability to socialize. But without a doubt there are plenty of genius folks who lack social ability or are even deviant. Ted Bundy anyone?

I think it depends on what you want to train you brain to do. If you are training a fighter pilot (or whatever) a button mashing game which fcus on reflex primarily, might be just the thing. For training a tactician you might use something more thought oriented like a Tom Clancey game, for strategy maybe a Sim game (old Sim not “the Sims”).

I personally learn a lot from games. Like if I run over the hooker after the sex I can get my money back.

So i wonder why many of my childhood friends had restrictions on how much gaming they did daily and absolutely no restriction on how much TV. Games are now becoming more mainstream, but why were they viewed as a childs toy in the 80’s/early 90’s…the best i can conclude is the “addiction” factor (i personally find TV more addicting). Also today’s young adults were last decade’s children so it is possible that gamers are just growing older, thus the image will as well.

Do video games degenerate the brain?


What was the question again?


I agree with the reasoning that parents believed the problem would be a “game addiction”. I also think the fear was well founded. But then as you point out TV can be addictive, as can virtually anything. I tend to think that 10 hours a week playing Quake is probably no worse and possibly better for the mind than the same amount of time watching Buffy. I have multiple cycling addictions to TV, games, and reading (from textbooks to comic books). At least I can say that games arre interactive compared to television. Books and games probably both do more to stimulate the imagination than television. Games like “Tomb Raider” I believe do quite a bit to stimulate ones focus on problem solving by forcing someone to figure out puzzles and keeping them entertained at the same time.

Consider how they’ve improved literacy:

D00dz! Vedi0 gamz roXXXorz nd RULz!

Inarticulation of joystick-jockeys aside, any “stimulation” to be had from video games is very minimal, at best. They generally have a very limited range of possible responses and impose artificially simple patterns. Instead of truly complex activity models, they shove in graphics and sound with activity complexity that is barely any better than the days of Zaxxon or Asteroids, and in some way is even more constrained.

I’m surprised at myself for defending games so much but I DO think you are being overly general here. Consider games that are heavily strategy and puzzle oriented. MYST or Sim games or Civ games for example. Or modern adaptations of more classic open ended RPG games?

While lecture or study is certain to have the capacity to CONVEY more information it has the problem of lacking stimulation. Ever had to sit in on a long boring lecture on a subject you were not interested in? Try remembering the contents of the lecture later on. Not easy. Take the same subject and make it stimulating and interactive (Oregon Trail, is a classic example of a good learning game) and the material is easily absorbed and recalled even if it takes longer to get it all you have much more retention.

Certainly there are teachers that are good at this, but after nearly 20 years of formal education I can count such teachers on one hand.

And that is just to convey information. What about training people to think creatively? Aside from some philosophy and art classes you get damned little of that in school. Learning to USe information is every bit as importatn as retaining it. Other than life experience (slow and painful) gaming is probably the best way to learn to use information in creative ways.

Now I’m being general. Quake probably cant teach you much more than how to react instinctually. MIST almost certainly can teach you creatinc problem solving. Some mystery games are GREAt for this. Interactive multi user open ended games CAN be great for all of the above.

a well rounded person will seek out and use all resources available to him or her.

Simulations are the ultimate in gameing and are used for virtually everything from flight training to police shooting evaluation. To generalize without knowing it is like saying “reading is bad because Jizm Digest and Fart Jokes Quarterly are published materials” without also stating that reading is a good thing because of many fine thought provoking written works (with the exception of Ann Rand).

Many games, especially some of the large scale strategic simulations like Neveron have massive discussion areas for dealing with interplayer issues and politics. The math needed to run large empires in Neveron successfully is at least basic algebra with a little stat work. Neveron also succeeds at something IMHO that many games fail horribly at, a price on life. Your people and equipment are so difficult and time consuming that you think twice about starting fights where they could be lost. Game mail is full of apologies and condolences for KIA’d crews and pilots.

Hate to break it to you, but Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists both intransitive and transitive usages.

As to the OP, certainly there are games one can play on the computer or on a standalone platform which stimulate the brain; just as certainly a person who engages in redundant activity which poses no real challenge to the brain is doing little to enhance the ability of the brain to cope with higher order solutions, such as balancing one’s checkbook or figuring out how to ask the girl across the room out on a date. :slight_smile:

I’ve been playing video games most of my life and I don’t think my brain is especially dull :slight_smile: Though I mostly play strategy and role-playing games, both of which require a lot of reading and thought. The games I enjoy the most I look at more like “interactive novels” than games. Planescape: Torment is the chief example of this I use, it had a great plot and excellent characters. Also, Mario taught me that the best solution to anything is to jump on it and crush it into dust, which is something I try to live my life by.

Ultimately, given that the playing is moderate, it does develop ones intellegence but other activities could potentially develop it more.

And the Nofriendo Gameboy versions of these can be purchased where? The majority of the market is fast-twitch limited movement games. Better games exist, but their market share is far smaller than the mentally worthless games.

I don’t see a “Europa Universalis” cartoon, card game, lunchboxes, or any of that other stuff plastered with “Pokemon”.

Even a fast-twitch action game will provide a good dose of mental stimulation, methinks – it’s a nontrivial effort to track a dozen protagonists in real-time, performing instantaneous threat assessment, goal prioritization, and situation control. Throw in competitive first-person shooters like Quake III Arena, and you’ve got human opponents and tactics that you have to deal with.

And yes, Dogface, you can get Gameboy/PlayStation/XBox versions of real-time strategy games and puzzle-solving adventures. Haven’t you been browsing the aisles?

Not to mention real-time strategy games, which have a pretty large following; playing them well requires figuring out combined-arms tactics as well as responding to strategies that other human players come up with.

I’m not going to say that playing computer games is the intellectual equivalent of reading Kant, but it’s quite a bit more intellectually stimulating than watching Friends or even reading an Agatha Christie novel.

And when I opened this thread about computer games, I snickered, because the thread above it was called, “We’re DOOMED! DOOMED! Doomed…” So maybe they do influence the brain :).


And 50 years ago you would not have seen E.A. Poe or Dylan Thomas lunchpails or the equivalent either. Most children, hell most PEOPLE, have been and always will be attracted to less-than intellectual pursuits no matter what is made available to them. Unless your argument is that nothing should be made avaialble to the general public which is less than that which meets with your high standard of though provocation and intellectual stimulus then there is no way around this.

With the advent and popularity of video gaming, just as with any new technology easily acessible to the public there is no new joy for most to actually learn and grow. There is merely opportunity for those who wish it and I think it can be argued as I have said before that becasue knowledge can be made more stimulating there is the ability to sneak learning in on those who would otherwise disregard it. ie: Oregon Trail or Math Blaster games such as we had when I was in school, or resource management and planning games like SIM types. I don’t know many folks who play games who have not at least a passing knowledge of such games that teach resource management, but of the MANY college educate people I know, only two have ever taken so much as a class which teach the rudiments of ecology or the complexities of urban planning.

Comic books used to be regarded in the same manner as you and others describe video gaming. Well, I learned to enjoy reading from comic books, in high school vocabulary testing placed me in the upper 2% for my state in vocabulary and language arts. At the time of those tests I had only read three novels, two of which were required reading and one was hardly a novel (M.S.k’s Frankenstein).

Will gaming make you smarter? Not likely, but it has the possibility to teach and the certainty to require those who wish to do well at any sort of gaming to learn how to learn and think quickly. Quake has been mentioned with good reason. You won’t learn trig from it, but you will learn to react quickly with a pre-defined set of parameters and with limited information. Drawing on what you know to be certain and what seems the most likely potential for both outcome and adversary. This is referred to by big brains as “Games Theory” and is in use by every government from military planning and disaster planning. I can’t think of even a handful of situations in real life that do not require a person to do just that. Take what you know, and what seems likely and find a solution based on what you want to happen. In games like Quake you have to do this QUICKLY.

No everyone who can play such games will learn much of anything, but not everyone who enrolls in college will learn much either. You have to want it and you have to have the ability to learn to adapt.

I would go so far as to say that the more kinds of games you play the more intense is the intellectual experience. Quake requires one kind of thought to do well, Unreal; while similar, is different enough to force you to adapt, same can be said for Counter Strike, then play Command and Conquer, or Tribes which combine first person shooting with resource management, then move on to MYST for memory and alternate thought. You get the picture.

Anyone who blythely claims “GAMING bad for brain” isn’t familliar with actual gaming in any real sense, is speaking from fear or alarmism, or is lackin the intellect to actuall think out a logical path and could do well for themselves by doing some actual gaming themselves.