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Salon Three

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Attendies: Jocelyn, Tristram, Talia, Bergey, Kate, Lydia, Dave, Jimmy

I started things off with the question, "Why do people play video
games?" The defense of video games noted their improved interaction,
storylines, and challanges. Video games, it was claimed, are a more
interactive member of the same class as television shows and movies.

With prompting, Jocelyn described research that ties video game
playing to the development of ADHD. I juxtiposed a recent NYT article
arguing that drugs are a new staple of summer camp life with
observations throughout the western world of increased unmanagability
of children in schools. We discussed the effects of mental health
drugs, taken theraputically and recreationally. How does their use
affect society and expectations? What marks do they leave on their
users? If an epidemic affects enough of a population, is it abnormal
anymore?

We discussed the purpose of our educational system. Is the desired
end-product socialized citizens, independent thinkers, or docile
workers? We discussed the different means to the ends.

I showed two videos from the Media that Matters film festival: Slip of
the Tongue and A Girl Like Me. We discussed the style of the first
one, and the implications of different parts. The collective critique
made me feel dumb for showing it.

We discussed the implications of the second film. Nothing there was
surprising, it was argued: associations of color and the good/evil
dichotomy, and of color and race are very deeply rooted in society.
We discussed the various color-race-mappings, and fell into some
factual questions of the extent to which they have an objective basis.

We talked a bit about the work of Arny and Andy Mindel on race
relations.

Submitted by pgwiener on Fri, 2006-07-21 16:45.

I've been playing video games since I was a kid.

Doing so has helped develop my hand-eye coordination, prepared me to be a better typist, taught me how to multitask, and (I'll get to this later) trained up "reflexes" which have saved my life in the real world.

Video games are part of this modern world, in which a lot of time is spent reacting to things on screens, often by pressing the right buttons at the right time. Name a job that comes with a decent salary and a good amount of respect that doesn't require you to do something that fits that description. Computers are everywhere these days.

Which is good and bad. They allow us to do things we couldn't have dreamed of 50 years ago. But they also make this a faster-paced world where people are coming more and more to expect instant results.

That takes me to ADD/ADHD. Two of the most over- and mis-diagnosed disorders out there. Parents see their kids running around with high energy (i.e. being kids) and having short attention spans (i.e. being kids raised in this fast-paced modern world) and they want to "fix" them. Well, you know, there are better choices than finding a doctor who will agree to slap a label on them and medicate their brains out. You could try turning off the TV every once in a while, spending some time with them, and working on long-term projects with them. Or you could accept that they're kids and that running off to do one thing after another is part of modern life, becoming more of an asset than a detriment. I'd suggest a combination of both.

As for the title of this post...

I was out driving one day. I'd thought I was fine when I left the house, but was actually more tired than I'd realized. I didn't fall asleep at the wheel, but I did zone out. It scared me. Anything could have happened. The jolt of adrenaline from that woke me up and saw me through the remainder of the short drive, but I credit video games for getting me through that period when I was zoned out.

Like I said, I've been playing video games for most of my life. When I was tired. When I was holding up a conversation. When I had other things on my mind. All sorts of circumstances. And it's trained me to work with visual and audio cues. I can keep track of several at the same timem, spot new ones that pop up suddenly, interpret all of them, and react to them with split-second timing, all using only a small fraction of my total attention.

Driving is a similar process with similar needs. I'm better at it because I've trained my mind for it since I was a kid. I can watch what's in front of me, periodically check my rear view, keep track of the cars around me, and react to sudden situations.

Not that I think I can safely drive while tired or distracted. Not that I want to rely on it. But when the situation did come up, I was prepared for it.

And, of course, video games are entertaining. They help me relax, even while keeping my brain active. The key is that they use a different part of my brain than studying/working does. Letting different parts rest while keeping others active actually allows you to be more efficient and effective overall.

In short... video games are part of life, and they clearly have their benefits.