User login

Join The Debate

Cast your vote and join the conversation.

Membership is free.


Get Started

You are here

Debates
Video Games Will Make Us Smarter
May 10, 2017
Video Games Will Make Us Smarter
Video Games Will Make Us Smarter - Debate

As video games gain prominence, some game creators are turning to global issues, such as poverty alleviation, international diplomacy, and combating climate change, for inspiration. Playing these socially minded games, they argue, allows users to build tangible skills in combating crisis and solving critical problems. But others see the multibillion-dollar gaming industry, dominated by portrayals of crime and war, as a threat that desensitizes its users to violence and encourages anti-social behavior.  Will video games soon provide innovative solutions to our most pressing social, political and economic challenges?  Or is the impact of gaming overrated and potentially destructive?

  • 00:00:00
    In a lot of settings, the concept of kids getting to play is considered entirely positive. There are play dates to help them socialize. They play make believe to grow their imaginations. They play sports. They play tuba. But, playing video games, that gets all controversial where the arguments tend to go in two directions, either that gaming is mostly bad for you. It's addictive, it is sedentary, and it is not especially educational. But others say, "Oh, really? If you think that, then you don't know how far games have come, how socially productive they can be, how some research shows that there are benefits to a variety of cognitive skills actually making gamers in some ways smarter than everybody else." So, which is it? Well, that sounds like the makings of a debate. So, let's have it. Yes or no to this statement, "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter." I'm John Donvan. I stand between two teams of two, experts in the topic, who will argue for and against the motion.
  • 00:01:03
    As always, our debate will go in three rounds and then our live audience here in New York will vote to choose the winner. And, if all goes well, civil discourse will also win here tonight. I want to ask you to now go to the keypads at your seats and tell us where you stand on this motion as you come in off the street. If you pick them up, you'll see a bunch of keys on it, but right now you only need to pay attention to keys numbered one, two, and three. Take a look at the motion, "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter." If you agree with this motion right now, push number one. If you disagree, it's number two. And, if you're undecided, it's number three. The motion again, "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter," let's meet our debaters. Please, first, ladies and gentlemen, welcome Daphne Bavelier.

    [applause]

    Hi Daphne. You're a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Geneva, a cofounding adviser to Achilles Interactive.
  • 00:02:00
    You have a great TED Talk that I highly recommend. You are a brain researcher and your research does suggest that video games, games like Call of Duty, actually can have lasting cognitive benefits. So, knowing all of that, does that mean that you, yourself, are a gamer?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    Funny you should ask, right? I hope I'm not going to disappoint too many of you, but I'm really not a gamer. And I must share, it's worse than that. When I come back home, and I used to have adolescents at home, I had this gut feeling finding one of my kids in front of the console and thinking, "Oh, god, don't you have something better to do?" And --

    John Donvan:
    Do you feel better now that you've done all the research that tells you it was okay?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    We'll get to that, yeah.

    John Donvan:
    Oh, we'll get to that? Okay. That's a great answer. Tell us, please, who your partner is.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    So, my partner is Asi Burak, is one of -- the fierce leader of Game For Change that --
  • 00:03:00
    John Donvan:
    Let me explain what that is. Welcome Asi Burak.

    [applause]

    That's right. As Daphne said, you're Chairman of Games for Change. You're also CEO of Power Play, one of the creators of a game called "Peace Maker" and this was the strategy -- is a strategy game in which players can choose to play either the leader of Israel or the leader of the Palestinian authority, and they try to figure out what happens between them. We've had some interesting things happen on this stage between those two sides. But, does anybody playing this game actually win?

    [laughter]

    Asi Burak:
    So, we thought about it a lot and we decided the game is going to be winnable. You can win the game, although it's very frustrating at the beginning, so many players ask the same question of us.

    John Donvan:
    But victory is possible?

    Asi Burak:
    You can win this game.

    John Donvan:
    Peace is possible?

    Asi Burak:
    It is possible.

    John Donvan:
    And --

    Asi Burak:
    It was a decision we made.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. Let's hope the reality translates to that somebody and we can have that debate. Thanks very much. Again, the team arguing for the motion.
  • 00:04:02
    [applause]

    And now let's meet the team arguing against the motion. Please welcome first Elias Aboujaoude.

    [applause]

    Elias, you are professor of psychiatry and Director of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic and the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford. You wrote a book called, "Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality," in which you do sound a strong note of caution about the digital world. Given your point of view and your expertise on this, do you consciously limit your time spent online?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I do, when I'm conscious of it.

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    So, you might lose track?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I might lose track.


    John Donvan:
    And not stand up for a long, long time. Can you please tell us who your partner is?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I'm happy to introduce Dr. Walter Boot, Associate Professor of Psychology at Florida State University.

    John Donvan:
    Walter "Wally" Boot.

    [applause]
  • 00:05:00
    You've asked us to call you Wally, so we will move forward that way. You are indeed a professor of psychology at Florida State. You direct its attention and training lab. Your research kind of the mirror -- same field as your opponent, Daphne. You investigate the effects of video games on cognition. Some of it specifically on cognition and aging. At the moment, you don't think that video games do much to improve brain function. Is there anything that does?

    Walter Boot:
    Well, there's one activity right now with fairly good support behind it that actually improves brain function. Unfortunately, no one wants to do it, aerobic exercise.

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    Aerobic exercise. I can see everybody in the whole hall here standing up now and doing jumping jacks. Not really. The team arguing against the motion, ladies and gentlemen.

    [applause]

    And that motion is Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.
  • 00:06:00
    As I said, we go in three rounds. We're going to move directly into round one. The motion, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter,” here making his argument in support of the motion and you can make your way to the lectern, Asi Burak, chairman of Games for Change and co-author of the book, "Power Play: How Video Games Can Save the World." Ladies and gentlemen, Asi Burak.

    [applause]


    Asi Burak:
    Thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm very excited to argue today for something I'm very passionate about, which is the power of video games for good. And I want to start with a personal story. Actually, you helped me by setting up the Peacemaker story. I came from Israel 12 years ago, and I lived in the United States since then. I came to Carnegie Mellon and I came after serving in the Israeli Army for five years. I was a captain in the Israeli Army, and the first project I took upon myself out of my passion for design and technology is to make a game about the Middle East.
  • 00:07:00
    So, my Army experience certainly helped and inspired the choice. And together with a group of students at Carnegie Mellon we made a game that simulates the Middle East conflict in a very realistic way. We actually used real war footage in the game. And it was a lot about different perspectives because you could actually play either side, and it was also about our goal to generate empathy. The idea that if someone would play the other side you would understand better the situation. The game made quite a splash because it was 2007. The perception around video games was even more negative than today. And it was before Facebook, before mobile games, the picture of the gamer in the basement eating pizza, and we made the game about peace, you know, that you could actually reach a peaceful solution. And we got a lot of coverage in the media, anywhere you can think of.
  • 00:08:00
    We got a lot community support and NGOs that embrace the game. And we had politicians who played it and lost in five minutes.

    [laughter]

    And something that surprised us through the process was that we started hearing the same quote over and over again. And the quote was, "I played your game for two hours, and now I understand the Middle East conflict better than watching the news for two years." Okay? So, I repeat, "I played your game for two hours, and I understand the Middle East conflict better than watching the news or reading newspapers for two years." Kept hearing the same exact quote from different people, whether they're in Israel, the West Bank, or America. And we started to try to understand. That wasn't necessarily our goal. Our goal was about perspectives and understanding. So, we started to try to understand, how did this happen? And we did our own research. We did -- partnered with others and did research, with Carnegie Mellon and outside.
  • 00:09:00
    And we started to understand that where the game succeeded, in which traditional media fails, is connecting the dots for people. When we watch those hours and hours about the Middle East on TV -- or about Iraq, for that matter, or about Afghanistan -- we are watching a stream of linear events. We're very passive. And those events are isolated, and they don't necessarily come together to a big picture. What's happened with Peacemaker was that you made the decisions. You are the leader, you are in the position of power. You take an action, you see the consequence. You start to understand the deep loops of cause and effect. But it's not only about what you do. It's also about the other stakeholders in the conflict. So, people didn't only get smarter. They actually got an understanding of a very complex issue through Peacemaker. That changed my career, made me invest much more in this, and eventually get to Games for Change, and see games that improve all kinds of things.
  • 00:10:05
    And I hope we'll talk about them today. Which brings me to -- from this story to frame the debate, as we -- Daphne and I sit. This is not a debate that we want to do around all games make us smarter. We are great believers in the power of design and the purpose. It's not like the flier that you see here, each kid that is going to play "Space Invaders" is going to become Einstein. That's not our debate. We want to argue that video games are an incredible learning tool with tons of potential. This is what we're basically saying. I want to unpack the learning potential for a second. Number one, better understanding of complex issues and complex systems. This is what we did with Peacemaker at the time. Number two is make players -- especially young players -- better equipped for the 21st century playfield.
  • 00:11:04
    And we're talking about 21st century skills, things like entrepreneurship, collaboration, problem-solving, system-thinking. Games are great in fostering some of those skills. Number three, making smarter decisions about our life. And here, Daphne and I will talk about things beyond education, because when you make smarter decisions about your life and health, you can actually prevent a medical condition or fight the medical condition, and maybe even live longer. We're not going to ignore risks. Daphne and I will be the first to admit that are risks -- especially if you play video games in excess. But we want to also talk about ways to address it, you know? We don't want to ignore it. We want to, you know, find better ways to deal with it. And what my teammate Daphne will do in her statement, coming after me, is to dive even deeper into her research and research by others and give you the evidence.
  • 00:12:08
    You know, I made some broad claims here. And we'll get deeper into the evidence later. In summary, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to vote yes for this motion. I want you to vote yes, that games are a great learning tool with tons of potential. In that sense, they have the potential to make us smarter. Thank you.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Asi Burak.
    [applause]

    And that's the motion right there -- is “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.” And here to make his opening statement against the motion -- and you can make your way to the lectern -- Elias Aboujade, clinical professor of psychiatry and director of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Ladies and gentlemen, Elias Aboujade.

    [applause]

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    Thank you very much, John. Thank you all for being here tonight.
  • 00:13:02
    It's hard to talk about psychological damages from technology without sounding seriously behind the times. After all, when TV first came around, people thought it would spell the end of civilization. Even before TV, when movies, the radio, novels in the 18th century first happened, there were naysayers who predicted worst-possible scenario outcomes. But I do think that the Internet and related technologies are different. Video games talk back to you. They reward you. They punish you. They're much more lifelike, especially if you consider something out of virtual reality. And, for that reason, they're easier to confuse with life itself and easier to get lost in and hooked on than some older technologies, perhaps. We know quite a bit more now than we did when the term, "Internet addiction," was first coined almost 20 years ago, now. We know that these technologies can operate on the same pathways in the brain as substances of abuse and some addictive behaviors like gambling.
  • 00:14:03
    We know that some -- that, for some people, tolerance can set in, which is the need to play more and more of the same game to achieve the same kind of effect, or withdrawal which is this uncomfortable psychological, sometimes physical, state that a person feels when they try to log off. We know that, for some individuals, that their attachment to the virtual world can be so intense as to really interfere negatively in other crucial aspects in their life, socializing, relationships, academic performance, job performance, et cetera. Because of all this data over a couple of decades now, the American psychiatric association has included Internet Gaming Disorder as a condition for further research in its last addition of the DSM. The American Academy of Pediatrics also issued an advisory strictly curtailing and limiting the time that kids spend online.
  • 00:15:04
    Now, there are many definitions for intelligence, the topic of our debate tonight. But, I think we can all agree that intimately linked technology -- to intelligence, intimately linked to cognition are activities and functions such as attention, reading, writing, memory. And in all these -- in all these spheres, technology has had an impact that's not necessarily positive. When it comes to attention, there are higher rates of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder being diagnosed. And a corollary to that is a huge increase in the number of prescriptions for stimulants that are being given by psychiatrists and mental health professionals. And people have connected that to the pervasiveness of some of the digital technologies that we're talking about. You might expect high rates of ADHD among kids and adolescents. But we see it in adults as well.
  • 00:16:00
    I work in my practice with a lot of professionals, people that you would expect to be comfortable with dense, deep texts, lawyers, professors, et cetera. And they tell me that they have lost patience for complexity. And, indeed, it's hard to go from focusing for 20 seconds on a webpage to reading War and Peace. So, attention has been impacted. So, has writing. We write online and in our texting platforms in a way that's very different from the language that we learn to write. Somehow, we think that we can condense a complicated argument into a 140-character Tweet, for instance. The contractions we use, the bitmojis -- emojis is endlessly fascinating to linguists. However, they can interfere with language's purpose to communicate with precision and with nuance, specific states of mind and specific facts. Reading has been similarly transformed.
  • 00:17:00
    Eye tracking experiments show that we very rarely actually read a webpage in its entirety. Instead, we take it in in a giant F shape where we look at the top horizontal band, another horizontal band slightly lower, and the left spine. Again, we don't read a webpage in its entirety. In fact, if you were reading an online transcript of this speech I'm giving, the chances are you would have logged off a while ago. So, our reading patterns are not consistent with deep immersion and online content. Memory has been similarly transformed. I work with medical students who constantly ask me without any hint of irony why is it that they have to memorize anything anymore when whatever nugget of information they're after, a treatment algorithm, complicated medication name, dosage range, it's never farther away than a click of a button on their cell phone.
  • 00:18:00
    So, whether it's attention, memory, writing, reading, all these things had been transformed. Which is why when a statement such as the one we're debating tonight, that video games are actually making us more intelligent. For us to support statements like that, given this larger cognitive atmosphere and environment that we're functioning in, for us to support a statement like that, the quality of the research has to be beyond reproach because there's so much at stake and simply the studies aren't there yet. They're too small, too short-term, too non-representative of the totality of humanity currently online for this statement to be accurate. So, for that reason, I urge you to vote no on the motion. I also urge you to consider the opportunity cost. The activities that we are not spending time on as we spend hours upon hours playing video games, and ask yourself whether these activities are not also important for our intelligence and for being well-rounded, well-grounded human beings.
  • 00:19:11
    I urge you to vote no on the motion. Thank you very much.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Elias Aboujaoude. And a reminder of what's going on. We are halfway through the opening round of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. I'm John Donvan. We have four debaters, two teams of two, fighting it out over this motion, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.” You've heard the first two opening statements, and now onto the third. Here to debate in support of the motion, Daphne Bavelier, a professor at the University of Geneva where she directs a cognitive neuroscience research team. Ladies and gentlemen, Daphne Bavelier.

    [applause]

    Daphne Bavelier:
    I'm glad to see so many of you tonight. So, you heard, I'm not a gamer. Video games have actually earned my respect in the context of my work as a scientist.
  • 00:20:00
    I'm studying brain plasticity and learning. That is, I'm studying how the brain adapts and reorganize in the face of changes in experience. For very long time, I've actually been working with people that are born deaf and looking at how the lack of addition changes the way that the brain develops. One of the main finding from that work is that there are deep changes in how attention works. Now it's -- in this context that a young undergraduate, Sean Green [spelled phonetically], and myself, made a chance discovery. What happened is that we had a number of computerized tests of attention in the lab and we noticed that Sean and his friends were really, really good at those tests. These are kind of computerized “Where's Waldo” tests. And we couldn't really understand it for a while.
  • 00:21:01
    And, as it happens, we realized that Shawn and his friends were all part of the same video game club at the University of Rochester here in upstate New York. It was in year 2000. So, those guys were meeting three or four times a week to play first person or third person shooter game, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Team Fortress, Unreal Tournament, and we wondered, could it be the case that playing such mind-numbing games had such profound effects on something we all value, which is attention control, this ability that we have to focus on the task at hand and to ignore sources of distraction. So, this really set up 17 years of research -- 17 years of research I'm trying to summarize for you in three minutes.

    [laughter]

    And so, because we have 17 years of research we can actually not cherry pick studies here and there, but rather look at all of them together.
  • 00:22:06
    The first finding that I want to report is that when we look at those people that decide to play those action games versus people that don't play, we do see benefits in cognition. We do see benefits in attention control like Shawn and his friends show. These are moderate effect sizes that are quite significant. Now it's nice, but it's not really what we are after. What we are after, because I'm interested in brain plasticity in learning is asking can I take any of you here, like a young adult, force you to play an action video game and change your attentional control for the better? So, this is actually where randomized control studies come in and you're going to hear more I'm sure from my colleague, Wally Boot. Here in the case of this study, we have 17 years of study -- studies from our lab and lab of others so that's more than 2,000 participants.
  • 00:23:01
    Some participants were asked to play those action video games. Other participants were asked to play control game, also entertainment games like social simulation games. And what we showed is that those individuals that are asked to play the action game, improved more in their cognition than those asked to play the control game. And there were change again in attention control for the better. Now, I know some of you in the audience are going to say, "Oh, boy. Like, what kind of news are you giving us? What do I tell my kids if they come to me and say, 'Look, Mom and dad, Professor Bavelier said I can play as much as I want because it's good for my brains.'" So, as good news for you -- those of you who are parents -- what you should tell your kid is to go and read the method section of our papers.

    [laughter]

    Okay, granted, it's a little bit difficult. But really, learning with video games is not different than learning with any other media. That means small distributed practice.
  • 00:24:00
    So, what we recommend to get the effects that we see is about 30 minutes per day, four to five days a week, for a period of about 10 to 12 weeks. And this way, you can see durable changes are still there, like a few months later. So, no reason for binging. And in fact, there is even data in the literature that suggests that massing practice with video games, like with any learning, is counterproductive. Now, I'd like to just close by making you realize, I just took a very, very deep dive into my area of research, but there are many other like researchers that are working on how we can leverage the power of video games for the better, with application -- either clinical application insights or educational application insights. There's new journals -- like "Game for Health" that have been created. There's a lot of American campuses that are creating new gaming departments, where the best and the brightest students are actually flocking.
  • 00:25:06
    And we need that, because as Asi said, designing games for change -- for impact, is actually a difficult challenge. And so, in the sense that that Asi and I want tonight to put forward to you the motion that games have an amazing potential as learning tools. We shouldn't turn our backs on the problems, but we should certainly leverage the media for what it has to offer, in terms of being a facilitator of teaching and learning -- of preparation for future learning, some of my colleagues like to say. And that it's in this sense that video games will make us smarter. Thank you so much for your attention.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Daphne Bavelier.

    [applause]

    And we have one more debater to go in the opening round, now making his way to the lectern, Wally Boot. He is an associate professor of psychology at Florida State University and director of its Attention and Training Lab. Ladies and gentlemen, Wally Boot.
  • 00:26:04
    [applause]

    Walter Boot:
    Thank you. So, we like to think and often readily believe that the things we enjoy are good for us -- chocolate. Sure, I could believe that. Red wine, even better.

    [laughter]

    And now, there's the popular notion that video games are good for us. They can improve our perceptual and cognitive abilities in fundamental and meaningful ways. Consumers spend millions of dollars each year on brain training video games. Why? Because they're ready to believe that the games will make them smarter, and companies are all too happy to capitalize on this belief. But maybe they're right. Maybe the games can make us smarter. Maybe the companies can make good on the promise of reversing age-related cognitive decline. But what does the evidence show? Are they right? In 2014, a group of over 70 scientists with expertise in learning, skill acquisition, and neuroscience, published a consensus statement, led by teams at Stanford and the Montaponc [spelled phonetically] Institute.
  • 00:27:02
    This consensus statement concluded that brain games do not provide a scientifically grounded way to improve cognitive functioning or to reverse cognitive decline associated with aging. So, in that sense, video games do not make us smarter. This consensus is consistent with over a century of research on how we learn. Video game effects depend on the assumption of raw transfer of training. The training on one task -- in this case, a video game -- can improve your performance of other tasks that you were not trained on. This is consistent with a now outdated notion that Latin training can improve your performance of other subjects. However, the most consistent pattern in the scientific literature is that this simply isn't the case. Training improves your performance of the tasks that you were trained on, and perhaps very similar tasks, but benefits not generalized beyond that. And it's unclear why video games would be an exception to this general rule.
  • 00:28:00
    Given the lack of compelling evidence for broad training benefits, it’s not surprising that the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating the claims of brain game companies. Lumosity, one of the biggest brain training video game companies in the world, and one of the most heavily marketed was recently fined 50 million dollars for deceptive advertising. The FTC did not find compelling evidence that their games could support their claims that their games could make you smarter and improve your cognition, to make you a better athlete. They didn't find evidence for that, or it can improve your performance at school or at work. Some of these companies, but not all, cite peer-reviewed studies to support their claims. The Stanford and the Mosspont [spelled phonetically] teams did not find this evidence convincing, nor did the FTC. When viewing the websites of these companies, it's important to consider not just the number of studies they cite, but the quality of those studies as well and what can be concluded from certain study designs. So, what evidence do the video game proponents cite to support their claims?
  • 00:29:00
    Some studies compared the cognitive abilities of gamers to non-gamers and conclude that video games make you smarter. Well, maybe, but that's not convincing evidence. It's like comparing basketball players to non-basketball players and concluding that basketball makes you taller. Taller people are more likely to play basketball just as people with very good perceptual and cognitive abilities may be drawn to the games that utilize those abilities. Gameplay doesn't necessarily cause these superior abilities, it's a consequence of them. To conclude that gameplay causes improved cognitive abilities, intervention studies that randomly assign people to either receive video game training or not are necessary. Recently, a number of colleagues and I conducted a comprehensive review of the evidence at interventions including interventions involving commercial and custom video games can improve cognition. What we found, in general, was that the evidence was inconsistent. But, more importantly, what we found was that studies often utilized inappropriate control groups, inappropriate reporting practices, and also inappropriate statistical approaches that all biased results in favor of finding video game effects.
  • 00:30:02
    Many studies do not adequately control for placebo effects. A placebo effect is an improvement not due to the treatment itself but because one expects to improve after reviving some kind of treatment. Some of the studies that we looked at compared video game training to a group that did nothing. Doing nothing is unlikely to generate any expectation of improvement. It would be like being in a drug trial and being randomly assigned to a group that didn't receive a drug. Would you expect to improve? Most likely not. Other studies use control groups that are much better, for example, the control groups used in action video games. This literature looks at action video games versus an active control group -- a control group that does something. Typically, the control group that does something does Tetris training. What our research has shown is that people actually expect very little from Tetris training compared to fast-paced, attention demanding action video games. This is another case where expectations differ between the experimental and the control group and any difference there could equally be plausible -- possibly caused by a placebo effect when expectations match the outcomes.
  • 00:31:04
    People, including myself, enjoy playing video games. Are there benefits beyond that? I'm going to ask for your vote. I'm going to ask you to vote, "No." I'm going to ask you to be skeptical of companies selling products to improve cognition. I'm going to ask you to be skeptical of effects that are so fundamentally different from how we know learning works. I'm going to ask you to be skeptical and demand better evidence and also better quality studies before concluding that video games can improve IQ or any other abilities. Just as we should be skeptical of get-rich-quick schemes, I also please urge you to ask -- I ask you to be skeptical of get-quick -- get-smart-quick schemes. Thank you.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Wally Boot. And that concludes round one of this Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate where our motion is, "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter." Before we move on to round two, we want to learn a little bit more about you, our audience.
  • 00:32:02
    And so, I want to ask you a series of questions about yourselves. They're very easy. If you go to the keypads at your seat, I'll ask you some questions and you can push buttons to give the answers. The first one is, we would like to know what age range you fall into. I won't read them out unless somebody needs -- actually, I will. Number one, less than 18. If you're 18 to 30, push number two. If you're 30 to 45, push number three. If you're 45 to 65, push number four. If you're greater than 65, push number five. If you're greater than 105, please stand up and take a bow.

    [laughter]

    Next question, gender. One, for male, two for female. Questions number three, how often do you play video games? Push number one for every day, daily. Number two for a few times a week, number three a few times a month, number four rarely, number five is never.
  • 00:33:03
    And the last one. What is your preferred gaming platform? Number one for a console, number two for a desktop computer or laptop computer, number three for phone, number four for tablet, number five for other handheld gaming system, number six for none. Okay, so, we'll show the results of those a little bit later on in about 20 minutes or so as we're moving forward. Now, we move on to round two, and in round two, the debaters address one another directly and they take questions from me and from you, our live audience here in New York. The motion is, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.” The team arguing for the motion, Asi Borak and Daphne Bavelier, have described games as an incredible learning tool with tons of potential, clearly, a power for good. They talked about the ability of games to generate empathy, to teach people about reality by connecting the dots. Daphne also talked about her own research, which suggests she says strongly that gamers become actually superior to everyone else in certain forms of truly focused intentions.
  • 00:34:08
    They are not -- and nobody in this debate is taking a dogmatic position, they're not saying there's no such thing as harm caused by games, but they say that the potential is amazing, should be celebrated, should be embraced and we should push forward. They also say that there are -- have been many, many medium -- that learning on video games is not different from learning on any other media. The team arguing against the motion, Walter Boot and Elias Aboujaoude, they actually say that video games are different, that they're not like other media, that they are easier to confuse with life itself because they talk back to you. They talk about problems that develop, addiction, withdrawal, other symptoms of addiction, such as tolerance. They point to the fact that the psychiatric profession is considering launching a diagnosis called Internet Gaming Disorder.
  • 00:35:00
    They talk about the impact -- the negative impact they say correlated with gaming on things like just basic reading and writing. Things that take a deep emersion in content, a skill that they say is being lost broadly across the society, but most importantly they say that the studies being cited by their opponents broadly speaking, not a direct attack on Daphne's work, but broadly speaking, do not support this great enthusiasm that the time arguing for the side is arguing. They also make the case that some Charlatan companies are making money off of this expectation. We're not going to ask this side to defend that. They are not here to have to defend those companies and so I want to make that clear that we're going to move -- unless you -- you're raising your hand. Maybe you want to? Daphne.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    Well, so our research has been used by some of these companies as saying, “Look, video games are great for you.” So, there are two things already I need to correct you, because I think it's really important. We're here to have an intelligent debate. What I told you about is not all video games.
  • 00:36:00
    In fact, in our training study, as Wally mentioned, we contrast those action video games to other commercially available video games. Sometimes, we've used Tetris, but sometimes we have used Restaurant Empire. Other times, we have used social stimulation games. We actually use a variety of them I am happy to say more. This already shows that different games will have a different impact. We're not expecting broadly speaking to see that all video games will have an impact. Then, I'm with Wally. I actually signed this [unintelligible] consensus letter because there's been abuse using our research to advance an agenda that was not validated by research. I'm working now at [unintelligible] interactive as one of the founders and scientific advisor when we're trying to do to put some clarity is to go for FDA approval. This is getting the bar really high so that we don't get into this issue of the FTC regulating the industry.
  • 00:37:00
    We need to be clearly having done all of the registered randomized controlled trial before we can say --

    John Donvan:
    Okay.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    -- this video game has an impact and here, its clinical efficacy.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. So, you took things in one -- in a direction I wasn't actually going to take it. But since you did, I want to let your opponents respond to it.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    Sure.

    John Donvan:
    And I'll go to Wally Boot to respond to what you just heard.

    Walter Boot:
    No, I completely agree with Daphne. We need these registered clinical trials. We need preregistration. We need higher standards before we conclude that video games make us smarter. And my point is that we aren't there yet. We don't have those registered clinical trials. We don't have pre-registration. We don't think -- I don't think we have control groups that do a good enough job of controlling for expectations and other confounds and demand characteristics, and all these other types of things. So, I completely agree.

    John Donvan:
    Oh, when the two sides completely agree, we all have to go home for the night.

    [laughter]

    So, good night, everybody. Now, what they're -- but there are fault lines in this argument, and one of them has to do with the sense -- again, when I say this is a nuanced conversation, and nobody's taking a dogmatic position, the fact is the side arguing for the motion is enormously enthusiastic about the potential.
  • 00:38:02
    The side arguing against the motion is worried, concerned, and raising red flags. And I think that that's where the fault line is going to be. It's about the preponderance of the dynamic here. So, I want to go back to Asi Burak. When you opened, you talked about the ability of games to really to teach people about the real world. And I hear skepticism from your opponents about that -- that, you know, in this -- we're talking about two things here. We're talking about neuroscience -- what's happening in the brain, as measured through these experiments. But we're also talking in a more social way, about the impact of these games on people's behavior out in the world.

    Asi Burak:
    Right, so, this is important, because I want also to exclude myself from the brain games camp, because Peacemaker and, you know, other games I talk about today, they're not brain games in the sense that they train the brain. They're just really good learning tools.

    John Donvan:
    But what I found interesting -- your opponents say -- is that the problem with games is that they make -- how do they put it -- they make it -- they make it easier to confuse the game with life itself.
  • 00:39:10
    Asi Burak:
    Right.

    John Donvan:
    And it sounds like you're all --

    Asi Burak:
    I --

    John Donvan:
    -- for that.

    Asi Burak:
    Yeah. I actually think it's a great thing that they can simulate life itself. So, in a sense, this is something that I want to introduce into the discussion -- games are different than most traditional media, by being anchored around systems, okay? Most traditional media is anchored around stories. Theater, film, books, et cetera. There are linear stories with a beginning, middle, and end. Games are systems with rules. So, what we did with our game "Peacemaker" and other projects is we took a system. We claimed that the Middle East -- as logic -- you know, at large, and that different stakeholders have different agendas, and we can make a simple model that will be simple enough to be convincing for players to understand the complexity.
  • 00:40:08
    Now, I can do the same about the physics. I can take any system in the world -- and there are systems all around us -- and do the same simulation. Again, the power of design here is important because not everybody can do it.

    John Donvan:
    Let me take this to Elias Aboujaoude. Your opponent is saying that -- again -- that you can really learn things in two hours in a game that really do tell you things about the real world, which to me, seems to be walking right into your argument that that's confusing reality and a game.

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    Right, I mean, again, the more lifelike games are, the easier it is to confuse them with reality. I think it's wonderful that there are certain applications that can be pro-peace, but I think a lot more people go online in general and go to video games in particular to play games that are more violent, more aggressive in nature.
  • 00:41:00
    And there's intriguing evidence now that aggression and violence in video games can potentially lead to future offline aggression –

    John Donvan:
    I want to come back --

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    There's some data about that.

    John Donvan:
    -- to that observation. But I -- but in passing, are you conceding Asi's point that there are -- that it's possible to create a world where the games are all good and teaching positive things? Because that's kind of their core argument.

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I would contest that games can be predominantly peaceful, and predominantly encourage the more positive aspects of society and of our personality. And the reason for that is our experience with the Internet in general. The anonymity of the experience, the lack of any structural hierarchy and accountability makes it the perfect medium for us to express less positive aspects of our personality, whether it's aggression, narcissism, impulsivity.
  • 00:42:02
    Look at how easy it is for people to get radicalized online. People don't go online to become more moderate. They go online and end up consciously or unconsciously breaking down into a more extreme group. So, I want to believe that the Internet and video games can make for a more peaceful world, but our experience 20 years into the Internet's revolution does not support that. It supports the contrary.

    John Donvan:
    I'll come back to Asi one more time and then I want to bring Daphne into the conversation again. But, Asi -- so, is your experience that people are lining up to play a game to make peace in the Middle East or --

    Asi Burak:
    Much more.

    John Donvan:
    -- or do you have to kind of --

    Asi Burak:
    So much more.

    John Donvan:
    -- trick them into playing?

    Asi Burak:
    No, no, much more. I mean, the interesting thing is that 10 years ago, when I needed to fight that fight for video games for social cause, it was a very, very tough fight. You know, people -- when I -- we introduced the idea of peacemakers to the faculty at Carnegie Mellon so they could support us, it was not the idea, right?
  • 00:43:04
    Completely crazy. Today, I mean, people that's really -- like me, that really make games and play games and look at the market, it's not true that most games are violent. It's just not true. I mean, with the expansion of mobile games and Facebook games, there are so many games that are about building environments. Look at Minecraft, one of the biggest successes in video games in recent history. It's a game about building blocks. It's a game about building creative worlds and environments. One of the other big successes of video games in history, the Sims or Sim City. These are games that have nothing to do with violence or have nothing to do with conflict or competition. So, I don't know if everybody would go and play Peacemaker, but I know that many people would go and play games that build environments.

    John Donvan:
    Let me ask Walter Boot, why doesn't that optimism on your opponent's side wash over you like a refreshing wave?
  • 00:44:05
    Walter Boot:
    Well, I think we're talking about two things, games that teach specific skills, and I think that's consistent with what we know about how learning works. We can teach you specific things. We can gamify something. But, really, I think there is tension between what Asi is saying and what Daphne is saying, which is, can these things improve your cognitive abilities in a very general way so that you're just now smarter or you have better attention or you have other kind of advantages? And I think there's -- I would definitely say games, just like any other thing, like a good documentary, could teach you things, or a book, can teach you things. Games can teach you things. Does that improve your IQ? Does that improve your ability to solve novel problems? I think that's where we come down.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, fair question. I'd like to take it to Daphne. What about the idea of these skills that you are -- you're establishing, superiority and certain kinds of attention? And nobody's really challenging that. I mean, your work has been replicable, replicated. It's replicable.
  • 00:45:00
    But your opponents are saying those skills aren't really transferrable in any meaningful way that we know of yet, but that, so far, they're not?



    Daphne Bavelier:
    So, I'll respond to that question, but before, I want to clarify something because I think it's really, really important given how much confusion there is out there. Different video games have different effects. Different use of technology have different effects. And these two come back to Elias' notion about different type of Internet use. We're not going to get the same effect of using, like, you know, Facebook versus doing search and reading Wikipedia. This -- like different effects -- we need to be very specific. Brain plasticity is something, like Wally was saying, is very specific. If there is one thing we know in learning is that it's indeed extremely hard to get transfer. I can take any of you here, force you to learn a task, you're going to be better at that task. The issue is, does it transfer to anything else other than that very task?
  • 00:46:01
    And that's the challenge in the field that Wally and I are trying to address. There are right now four different types of intervention that seem to give more transfer -- not absolute transfer. Like, it's not -- I didn't tell you that all of cognition changed. I told you that some aspect of cognition changed. These four different activities are exercise that was mentioned by Elias earlier on, playing action video games that I mentioned, learning to play a musical instrument -- listening to music doesn't do it -- and mind-brain meditation techniques. These are the four that are the most promising that are being looked and studied really extensively to look at whether you don't just become better at playing action video games, but, if I ask you to actually now train as an upper endoscopic surgeon, that they are actually transferable skills. I'm picking that example because truly, in parallel of our work, there's a team at Bes Israel [spelled phonetically] around 2004, 2005 that came across the fact that their young surgeons that where video game player -- especially action video game players were much better in surgery simulators than the most seasoned surgeons in the team.
  • 00:47:19
    They were much better in the sense that they were performing the surgery faster and they didn't make more errors. That translates into less time in the operating room for the patients and actually a benefit for everybody.

    John Donvan:
    Let me take that point to Elias Aboujaoude. So, these success stories. You're not refuting the facts. How do they fit into your argument?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    Actually, I'm not refuting individual success stories, absolutely not. I think what we're debating here is a much more general motion than that, which is that video games are making us more intelligent. I'm not focusing on a specific intervention. I agree with Daphne, especially when it comes to virtual reality and surgical training, et cetera.
  • 00:48:03
    But video games as a family of activities certainly don't have the data and the science to support a blanket statement that they are making us more intelligent.

    To the contrary, there's a lot more data that suggests the opposite and not just in terms of impacting intelligence negatively -- but negatively -- but also in terms of feeding some personality traits that have nothing to do with intelligence but that aren't so positive.

    John Donvan:
    Asi, what about that? So, your opponent Elias' real argument is that the success stories are real but the broader statement that this is a great direction to be moving in is unproven and he also raises flags about -- earlier in his opening statement he raised flags about things like people really losing the ability to sit and read and losing the ability to sit and write at length.
  • 00:49:01
    Asi Burak:
    So, I have a quick story that I think relates to that. Sandra Day O'Connor, Supreme Court Justice, okay? Eighty-three years old. Many people don't know it, unfortunately, because part of my job is that more people will know the story, is that her first project after retiring from the Supreme Court was a video game project. It's called "I-Civics" and you can play those games online. Over seven years, the NGO that she started made 19 games to teach civic education. Fifty percent of US teachers in social studies and middle school level use I-Civics in their classroom. Now, is it -- does she think it's better than a textbook? She thinks it's more engaging than a textbook and that at least the same level of learning.

    John Donvan:
    So, the level of learning is the same?

    Asi Burak:
    The same if not stronger, and the engagement level is much stronger.
  • 00:50:00
    The -- so in that sense if you ask me if our kids know more about the government -- by the way, when she started the old project she said, "You know, my problem is that kids don't know the three branches of government, but they know the three judges of American Idol," right? And she wanted to change that. And I think that if they do know the three branches of government, in my book, they're smarter.

    John Donvan:
    Let's take that back to Wally Boot.

    [applause]

    Walter Boot:
    No, I think, again, --

    John Donvan:
    I mean, your opponents are making really the argument who needs textbooks anymore if -- their time has come and gone and people have other ways to learn, the learning works, the learning is more appealing certainly to a generation that didn't spend a life growing up with textbooks and that's a good thing to -- not only to surrender to, but to embrace.

    Walter Boot:
    Well, I mean, I agree again. Games can teach specific skills, but the question here --

    John Donvan:
    But he didn't say a specific skill. He was talking about --

    Walter Boot:
    Well, they're teaching you ways of, I think, understanding specific problems.
  • 00:51:03
    That's a specific problem. Does that help you solve other problems, which I think with a good measure of intelligence, not just can I solve this specific problem with a game kind of walk me through it, held my hand and took me through this, does that make me able to solve other problems is a classic way to think about intelligence and these games in no way -- I mean, we can look at the literature and look at classic measures of IQ and these types of measures, and there's no video game study out there that shows that a video game is even associated with game play not just kind of a pre-/post- intervention study. So, again, I find myself agreeing with Asi on some of these points. I think -- but the question I would like to ask is can these games have a more broad benefit and do you mind if I get back to another point in terms of you mentioned replication? Again, not all these studies replicate. I know that from personal kind of experience, but also there are studies in the literature to suggest that these aren't as robust effects as originally made out.
  • 00:52:00
    John Donvan:
    Okay. Let's take that to Daphne, not so much on the point of replication, but the previous point that he was making.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    So, there are --

    John Donvan:
    In terms of --

    Daphne Bavelier:
    I would actually be -- it would not defend that we're going to raise IQ as it's been defined in the literature now. I could see ourselves developing another IQ test that is actually showing sensitivity to digital literacy in sense video games. So, I'm putting back a bigger issue, which is that at the beginning of the 21st century, we knew that in order to enter the workforce, you need to have digital literacy. This is not something that we measure very well, in terms of our intelligence. It would be a very interesting test. I don't think anyone has put it together. I want to go back to books -- what we lose and what we gain -- because some of you may know, there are some writings by Plato about, surprisingly, writing itself.
  • 00:53:10
    And so, in this Greek time, it was actually the oral culture that was dominant. It was what was cherished and revered. And there is a whole debate in Plato, a debate between Cedarus [spelled phonetically] and Socrates -- where Socrates actually laments the fact that the writing system has arrived, that it's going to destroy that oral culture. "Guess what? We're going to have to go and look at a book to know what the facts are." And it was perfectly right. We certainly lost some aspects of memories that Elias was mentioning. The declarative memory of these people to be able to argue the -- like, precision of their use of vocabulary is something we have entirely lost over these centuries.
  • 00:54:01
    We have gained other things. We have gained reading and writing. So, there's going to be a give and take, a very interesting give and take we can talk more about. But it's --

    John Donvan:
    Okay.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    -- always, like, a trade off when you new technologies come in.

    John Donvan:
    Elias, not quite, but you're almost being accused of being a luddite, I think. So, what about -- I mean, what about that argument, that you know, it's -- things move on a cycle, technological cycle, and your complaint about your students needing to use devices to tell them what drug to prescribe, rather than having it memorized is a -- is so 1980s and not relevant anymore. What about that argument?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I mean, it is -- the other thing that we're noticing is that not only are we in the digital sort of realm, but things within this revolution are moving so quickly. So, email already feels very antiquated.
  • 00:55:00
    You know, I can't remember the last time I sent a close friend an email. It's all about texting. And I bring this up to say that things are moving at such a pace that it is hard for the science to keep up with this pace of development. And our brains did not necessarily develop in a way to be able to keep up with these technologies either. You know, I mentioned earlier how they operate on specific pathways in the brain involved in addiction, and maybe this is why they're so difficult to resist. You know, when you're driving, and you get a text message, and you feel absolutely compelled to check it -- even though you know this is not an emergency and you know texting and driving is not a good idea. It's because they're activating certain [inaudible] --

    John Donvan:
    I think that's just you.

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    -- pathways.

    John Donvan:
    I don't think anybody else has ever experienced that.

    [laughter]

    When your opponent, Asi Burak, actually -- you know, your partner was saying, "Well, there's no evidence that these games are increasing IQ" -- but Asi Burak feels that they are increasing empathy, which is a very, very complex sort of human experience and relationship, what about that?
  • 00:56:10
    Elias Aboujaoude:
    In my heart, I want to believe that. But I have to be driven by science and by evidence. And we are certainly not at a point where we can make a blanket statement about these video games increasing intelligence or empathy. And making premature statements to that effect can actually be dangerous because it makes this easier for companies to prey on vulnerable populations. And when you're talking about cognition, you're talking especially about a particularly vulnerable sub-population, which is the elderly and people facing the possibility of Alzheimer's, et cetera. And to be able to set -- to send this message out without having the necessary scientific backing, I think, is very counterproductive and is dangerous.

    John Donvan:
    Okay. Let's dream a little bit about the future in this debate, and let me put to each side the question -- 20 years from now, 25 years from now -- and I'll go to you first, Asi -- where should this technology have a place in education and in schools?
  • 00:57:08
    What's your vision of its proper place?

    Asi Burak:
    So, you know, to look at it at eye level, it's almost like I think that our students today are in a time machine, right? They are going home and engaging in different activities that largely -- most of them are more engaging than what they go through in the classroom. There is a school in New York that I really recommend anyone here in the audience to read about called Quest to Learn. And Quest to Learn was designed by a collaboration between teachers and game designers. It's not a school that is only about kids playing games. It's a school that the whole system was designed like the most compelling video game.
  • 00:58:03
    The idea that you always challenge, but not too much because otherwise it's frustrating. So, it always need to be one step ahead of you and in a way that is engaging, compelling, making you lean in. To me, if I wanted to see the future of education in 20, 25 years, that's the future of education, that the classroom activity is so engaging that kids would love to go to school.

    John Donvan:
    Walter Boot, where do you want to see this technology in 20 years?

    Walter Boot:
    I would like to see video games as a supplement. I mean, I think this is an important issue. Action video games, especially, have been promoted to do a lot of things including curing dyslexia. There are some groups out there that want to push action video game training to improve reading ability. But I think that that's absolutely not the way to go. You want to improve reading ability by teaching reading, the skills that are necessary for reading. I think that there is certainly a way that we can supplement learning with these games that are targeted very directed skills or very directed kind of problem solving skills and mathematical abilities or these types of things.
  • 00:59:04
    But it's very directed. We can't expect any kind of off-the-shelf action video game to improve reading ability.

    John Donvan:
    Daphne?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    So, two response -- the first one is there is actually great research looking at how to do games for education. There's a whole field called [unintelligible] that is getting, really, a revival by having re-understood that the problem was not to translate books to games but games as a media in and of itself. And so, there is a lot of development in some of these games that are extremely interesting for education. There is a colleague of mine, Diane Schwartz at the Stanford School of Education and is the dean there, that has been doing also a lot of research, looking at games for preparation for learning. There is a game that they have studied in depth for preschoolers, a math game which was [unintelligible] where they could show that just education face to face corresponded to about one percent improvements in -- per hour of instruction.
  • 01:00:05
    With a game, they had five percent of improvement by hours of instruction. This is a kind of thing that Asi is looking at. This is not going to come from any games. I perfectly understand that. What -- the reason I am studying --

    John Donvan:
    What do we mean by smarter then, if not raising IQ? What do we --

    Daphne Bavelier:
    What is -- sorry?

    Asi Burak:
    What is smarter?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    What is smarter?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    Learning, being able to learn, being able to acquire a lot of information. It's actually interesting. If you go back to the field of IQ, people that have very high IQ are good learners. But you have many people that are very good learners that don't have high IQ and those people are very successful in what they do. So, for us, really, tonight, what we're defending is that, to the extent that you can help people learn better and faster, this is how this will make us smarter.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, and I'm going to bring in Elias on this question also, the future of education and games -- gaming.
  • 01:01:00
    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I would love to see more research being conducted into this question. I think for something that has so radically and drastically changed every aspect of life, every aspect of cognition, the research is lightyears behind. And, as a culture, as a society, we have to insist on more, on more data, on more science. I would love to see us going in a more evidence-based direction.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, I want to go to audience questions now but, before we do, I just want to share the results of the poll we took of you to find out more about you. I was going to be brought a sheet of paper, but I wasn't, and I'm assuming it's just going to come up on the screen. So, on the first question, "What is your age?" let's see how we all break down. For people who are listening, 17 percent less than 18, about a quarter of the room is 18 to 30, about another quarter is 30 to 45, and then 18 percent 45 to 65, and 11 percent are older than 65. On the second question, "What is your gender?" We are, as a group, 51 percent male, 49 percent female, almost 50, 50.
  • 01:02:03
    That works out. How frequent do you play video games? Daily, 21 percent. A few times a week, 18 percent. A few times a month, 13 percent. Rarely, 25 percent. Never, 23 percent. So that means about half this audience barely ever touches a video game, which is interesting. And what is your preferred gaming platform? Twenty-one percent console, 22 percent computer, 23 percent phone, 10 percent tablet, 0 percent other handheld system, 24 percent none. So, almost equal numbers on all of the platforms, including none. Those board games and games of canasta that are going on out there.

    [laughter]

    All right. I want to go to audience questions now. Thank you very much for answering those questions. And ma'am in the red jacket there by the aisle. Yes, thanks. A microphone is coming for you. I need you -- I'd like to ask you to stand up, tell us your name, just first name is good enough, and then your question.
  • 01:03:01
    Female Speaker:
    Good evening. My name is Kathleen and my question is for all four of you. Do you not see a danger that using games for education would be -- cause too much of an emphasis on a reactive learner instead of a proactive learner? And let me just elucidate what I mean by --

    John Donvan:
    Actually, I'm -- I think it's pretty darn clear.

    Female Speaker:
    Okay.

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    And it was such a perfectly phrased question up to that point, I was thinking yes, and then you put a comma there.

    [laughter]

    Which side would like -- I'm going to have one debater from each side take that question. Daphne.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    I'm happy to start. So, it's an excellent question. I think that there is this misconception that games are going to replace a whole educational system. This is not at all what this is about. And, actually, there's very good research showing that games are experience. They're experience that are preparation for learning.
  • 01:04:01
    You need more. After that you actually need explanation and you can get to deeper explanation if your learner has a better understanding of the underlying domain and mechanisms that are in a domain. So, that's being shown actually in physics. That's being shown in history teaching. So, there's good research. You need that explanation. The Department of Defense has known that for a long time, they pioneered in learning through simulation and they always do simulation and debriefing and the learning is happening in combination with the two, not just with video games on their own.

    John Donvan:
    The other side like to answer that question? Wally? Wally Boot.

    Walter Boot:
    No, I think games can provide an engaging way that people can explore a problem and, again, this is teaching very specific skills. I have a colleague, Valerie Shue [spelled phonetically], who does this game called "Newton's Playground," where it teaches you physics skills by allowing you to interact with this virtual reality environment and I think that's a game that's engaging and they're not just reacting.
  • 01:05:04
    They're exploring a space and, again, that's teaching very specific skills that then are related to physics, but I don't fundamentally agree with that notion.

    John Donvan:
    Asi.

    Asi Burak:
    To me, the answer to your question is almost the opposite, because in my mind most of the learning experiences that our kids have today in school are passive or reactive. They listen to lectures. They read linear textbooks. They have tests that are a lot of the times are about wrong and right. There's like a right answer and a wrong answer. Well, in my mind most of the true learning happens when you understand that issues are a bit more complex than that. There are trade-offs. There's resource management. There's tough choices to make, and I think that good learning games are about tough choices.

    John Donvan:
    Elias, would you like to join in?
  • 01:06:01
    Elias Aboujaoude:
    Yeah. I agree with your concern. I think I'd like to make an analogy with therapy because in therapy there's now a big movement to try to kind of displace the therapist and have people go through therapy programs either through, you know, software or remotely and study after study has shown that patients just don't engage nearly as much when there isn't this active component to the treatment. So, I share your concern.

    John Donvan:
    Does anybody see a future where most people are spending most of their time in a game situation and like that idea? Asi, you've got a meaningful grin on your face.

    [laughter]

    Asi Burak:
    Yeah.

    John Donvan:
    And I say this, we've done debates about this about employment in the future and the possibility that there are going to be vast numbers of people who won't have jobs. What will they do all day?
  • 01:07:00
    And the argument is well, they'll find meaning and I'm not being sarcastic, they'll find meaning in games. They'll have tasks. They'll have interaction with people.

    Asi Burak:
    Yeah, it's interesting. You know there -- was in the Guardian. The -- I think it was the couple of days ago -- Harari [spelled phonetically], the --

    John Donvan:
    Jabal Harari, yeah.



    Asi Burak:
    He wrote a story about a useless class that is going to be engaged with virtual reality in video games because they won't have any other thing to do. I'm not crazy about a future like this. I'm more interested in a future where rather than isolation, it's -- it looks more augmented reality --

    John Donvan:
    [affirmative]

    Asi Burak:
    -- where we are smart enough to add a layer on top of reality that help us or, you know, gets us encouraged to do things faster and better. I'm less excited about a world where you put the helmet on and you prefer to be there than reality.

    John Donvan:
    And what about the other side? Is that world with the helmet on sort of your nightmare scenario of where we're hearing?
  • 01:08:00
    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I mean, I think our automatic --

    John Donvan:
    Elias

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    -- reflex is often to, you know, upgrade to the next operating system and the newest smartphone, et cetera. I think -- in order to avoid going in that direction more and more, we have to be more conscious of how we interact with technology and try more consciously to achieve some kind of balance.

    John Donvan:
    That's one of those points in which I have a feeling both sides would agree. Right down in the front here, in the plaid shirt. Yes, second row. Third row. And a mic is coming down your left-hand side. And if you can stand and tell us your name, thanks. And the question that was asked before, before the comment, was a model question. That was nice, and short, and tight, and on topic.

    Male Speaker:
    I'll try to keep it short.

    John Donvan:
    Okay.


    Male Speaker:
    My name is Jeremy, and I also have a question for all four of you. I wanted to tie this back to this notion of smarter, because I feel like when you read, and you study literary fiction, for example, or visual art, I think that does mark you smarter, in a way. It's exposing you to new ideas.
  • 01:09:00
    It's inspiring your imagination, your creativity. And I do think there is some game designers out there, like Jason Rorer [spelled phonetically], whose work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art, or Jonathan Blow, who has been called the Thomas Pinchon of gaming. I do think there are certain game designers that are elevating game design to an artistic level. And it may not be the norm --

    John Donvan:
    I just need you to --

    Male Speaker:
    -- [unintelligible] to a question.

    John Donvan:
    Yeah.

    Male Speaker:
    So, my question is, are you open to the idea that, as an artistic experience, games have the potential to make us smarter. And if so, is there a way to demonstrate that empirically?

    John Donvan:
    Let me take it first to the opponents of the idea. Wally Boot?

    Walter Boot:
    So, yeah, that's a big question. That's an interesting question. And I think art can change us in many fundamental ways. That's not kind of smarter in the way that I think a lot of us have been talking about in kind of the discussion today. But I think that's an important way that these mediums can change us. Yeah, I mean, video games can be art.
  • 01:10:02
    Video games can be art in the same way that a play or a movie can be art. I don't know if video games are kind of special in that way. I mean, a good book or a good movie can do the same thing. But I wouldn't argue with the fact that people enjoy video games. They provide something to them that's valuable and meaningful. Does that kind of translate to making them smarter in the way that I think a lot of other people might define smart? I don't think that that's the case, but it can provide a valuable experience.


    John Donvan:
    Okay. And Daphne, you want to take that one?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    Yeah. So, actually -- as you probably knew, the MoMA recently decided to curate video games as piece of arts. And so, if you go to the MoMA, there is a whole exhibit. I think there is in the Smithsonian also, that recently did a retrospective on the history of video games. This [unintelligible] video game as a form of art that is being recognized. So, if you think that going to the museum, going to the Met, looking at the pyramids, looking at Picasso makes you smarter, video games have exactly that same potential.
  • 01:11:04
    John Donvan:
    Okay. In the green shirt -- yeah. [inaudible] thanks.

    Male Speaker:
    Hi. My question is to the side --

    John Donvan:
    Could you tell us your name also?

    Male Speaker:
    Oh, my name is John. And my question is to the side for the motion. Is cognitive development in context of video games a zero-sum quantity, in the sense that if you identify one positive effect, have you looked for or identified a corresponding deleterious effect?

    John Donvan:
    What an interesting question. That's for you, Daphne.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    So, yeah, thanks for asking. There's two different levels. One is, as Elias was saying, research is very, very slow. I presented for you 17 years of research. It took 17 years to have those guys acknowledge, yes, that research is partially solid, right? They wouldn't have done that -- like, we published a paper in "Nature" in 2003, and we didn't have -- I would not have given a Ted Talk in 2003.
  • 01:12:06
    We all know that research has to be replicated, that it's really a slow process. So, right now, there's an experience on nature that's -- actually, the U.S. has accepted to do which is to put very, very young kids on tablets. This is not just video games. This is all kinds of different technology. We have no idea, none, what are the impacts on the developmental trajectory of those children. We have decided it was okay. Like, this is a question. We need funding. We need big funding. We need groups of researchers coming together to accelerate that research because it's a huge worry for people like Elias, Wally, and I and people that are in science. Now, with the video games we have been studying, they all happen to have violence. So, we actually didn't run training studies in children.
  • 01:13:00
    But we go in schools, and that's actually something important for parents out here. And we test -- we use our tests on these school children and we ask the parents, "What are the video game habits of the kids?" But we also asked the kid, "What are your video game habits?" And guess what? They don't line up. So, one recommendation for those of you parents with young children is talk to your children. Even play with them. You'll see whether they play at your friend's house because you'll see their level. And begin to address also the type of problems that Elias was mentioning like, you know, too much playing can be debilitating. There is really a need for education. One that's worthy is a great program right now in Geneva which is being launched because a number of us have advocated for giving digital literacy class in schools from very early on and actually getting the kids to understand what are all this different technology, what they do to their brain and behavior, and what are danger of it?
  • 01:14:04
    And I think we really need that in school.

    John Donvan:
    And I'm just interrupting because I want to get back to the question which was -- and I -- which of you would like to take this? The question is, "Are the skills that are developed at the -- as the result of gaming that have been measured, paid for at the cost of the loss of some other skill, cognitive skill?" Wally Boot, do we know?

    Walter Boot:
    Well, yeah, I mean, we're kind of living that experiment right now. We don't know. But I'd like to say time is a zero-sum game. If you're using that time for a video game, you're not using it for something else. So, there are going to be costs that, if you think, for example, that action video games might improve -- or any type of video game might improve reading ability or might improve working memory so that people with ADHD, children with ADHD can concentrate better in schools and they're playing those video games, they're not doing other things that could potentially be more beneficial for them.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, I think we have time for one more question. Right down in the front here. And the mic's coming down the left-hand side.
  • 01:15:00
    Female Speaker:
    Sorry. Hi, my name is Kathleen, and my question is for those against the motion, specifically on the subject of -- I guess a lot of this has come down to cognitive ability versus as a learning supplement, and so the question of cognitive ability and your study about attention and people fixating on things or not being able to focus. If these things make them more engaged, my question is the relationship between engagement and information retention and brain plasticity and whether there's any relationship possible in that for the motion.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you. Thanks. Elias?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    Well, I mean, when you look at traits of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and rates of stimulant prescriptions that I mentioned earlier, there is a correlation between that and the amount of time that kids, especially, spend playing video games. But we don't know how some video games can indeed maybe help in cases of attention deficit.
  • 01:16:00
    I mean, it could be that, as a result of, you know, promoting engagement, then in some cases they can help ADHD. But that's not what the bulk of the research shows. And that -- and the connection with ADHD is one that has been tested across cultures and age groups and genders. So, it's pretty established. But there are cases and reports of particular games helping, in some cases, with inattention. But more research is needed. I mean, there's -- we can't make any conclusions based on what we know.

    John Donvan:
    Response from the other side very briefly?

    Daphne Bavelier:
    Yeah, so --

    John Donvan:
    Daphne.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    -- there is evidence that one of the gateways to brain plasticity and learning is this type of attention control we have been actually studying not only for obvious reasons. Right now, it is the choice of paying attention to me and learn from me. But you could pay attention to your neighbor and whatever they are doing and then you wouldn't actually learn from me, right? But, also, because attention control is linked to the release of a variety of neurotransmitters that have been shown in animal studies to facilitate learning and brain plasticity.
  • 01:17:04
    Now, that's one answer. The answer about video game is as I told you, not all video game boost attentional control, that's for sure. And it's even more complicated than that. The same video game may boost the attentional control of Jim, but will not boost the attentional control of Joe that actually has ADD/ADHD. So, we know from our work that those video games that boost attentional control in normal healthy individuals don't work in ADD/ADHD individuals, and that's actually why we are working on [unintelligible] interactive. We know why. People that have ADD/ADHD get into those games and they don't play in a proactive fashion. They always play in a reactive fashion. They spray bullets all over. They're just having fun, but they don't plan ahead. So, you need to design a game that's actually forces the player to plan ahead.
  • 01:18:03
    It's actually doable, but again, it comes back to design. There's nothing magical about video games going to be a specific problem and specific design solution given what you want them to learn.

    John Donvan:
    And, Asi, are you -- after hearing these arguments have you changed your position at all?

    [laughter]

    Asi Burak:
    No, I haven't changed my position. I do see a tension between, you know, this side -- our side trying to claim that, you know, there are strong case studies and I could name many more that some of them, by the way, go to clinical trial and done clinical trial so I don't think it's accurate that they -- that there's none. But this would be almost like pioneering examples. You know, these would be exemplars and I think that we need to understand the context. The context is it's a young medium -- very young medium. Movies have developed for decades. TV same thing, and not to mention books.
  • 01:19:04
    We're talking about the very young medium in terms of research, but also in terms of design and -- but to me, the second we can start to identify those very, very strong pioneering examples, some of them like this Sandra Day O'Connor story, are in the real world. To me that's -- that shows a promise, because with evolution we just -- we can just become more sophisticated.

    John Donvan:
    And I'll give Elias the last word, your opponent saying he's excited about the promise, and your response is?

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    I want to be excited about the promise.

    [laughter]

    The evidence so far, 20 years into the digital revolution, is not very encouraging and I hate to say that.

    John Donvan:
    And that concludes round two of this Intelligence Squared U.S. debate --

    [applause]

    -- where our motion is, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.”
  • 01:20:00
    And now we move on to round three. Round three, brief closing statements by each debater in turn. Immediately after that you will vote a second time. The motion again Video Games Will Make Us Smarter. Here making her closing statement in support of the motion, Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Geneva.

    Daphne Bavelier:
    So, I'd like to go back to a personal story. I'm the mom of three children. Actually, they are young adults now and when they were developing in adolescence, I really had the prototypical gender stereotype at home with my son playing action video games and strategy games and my two daughters being much more into texting, into new technologies like, you know, social media and a lot of media multi-tasking, meaning that you check your Facebook page, you do your Instagram, you text at same time, and you do your math homework. Believe it or not, I've always fought only my girls based on what I know.
  • 01:21:00
    First, because we shouldn't mix old technologies. There is definitely real research coming out suggesting that multi-media tasking, switching between different media, which by the way Steve Jobs sold to us beautifully as you're going to be more productive, has -- is linked to deficit in attention and attentional control. The other reason why I also been fighting my girls is that and wondering like, you know, how can I do better is that there is this really big offer for boys and video games that are potential enhancers of things like [unintelligible] spatial cognition, which is very good for science and technology and when you look at the video games that girls are attracted to, there are very few games that have those kinds of cognitive benefits. They are much more on the social side.
  • 01:22:00
    We are glad they are social games, but we would love to see a better ecosystem of games that are preparation for learning in all different domains for all different genders, for all different background and ethnicity. We are really pushing here and asking you to vote yes for the motion that, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter,” in the sense that video games really have amazing learning power. We need to produce those video games. Thank you very much.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Daphne Bavelier. App The motion again, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.” Here making his closing statement against the motion, Wally Boot, professor of psychology at Florida State University.

    Walter Boot:
    So, I'd like to make the case that the evidence simply isn't there yet. We don't have the studies with the right control groups, with the right methods, with the right statistical approaches, to show us that action video games or any other types of video games can really make us smarter or improve general cognitive abilities. These effects don't always replicate. I'd like to kind of make that point again. And also, that when you look at meta analyses, kind of large -- kind of overviews of studies, oftentimes, when you correct for publication bias and other types of methodological flaws, these are fairly small effects that we're seeing.
  • 01:23:10
    So, those are one thing -- that's one thing I want to make kind of clear. But also, I'd like to talk a little bit more about opportunity cost, which I think is really, really important. If we think about, for example, your aging parent, or grandparent, or just an aging friend trying to improve cognitive ability, trying to improve their cognition, there's going to be an opportunity cost. They're going to be playing games. And if these games aren't improving their cognition, then they're not doing other things. They're not spending times with their -- time with their children or grandchildren. They're not engaging with their community. I think there are costs there. So -- and they're not doing other things that might be more better for their cognition -- might be better for their cognition, such as aerobic exercise or any other of these types of things I think have a lot more evidence for them. Aerobic exercise, you can go all the way from the mouse model all the way to the human model.
  • 01:24:01
    Intervention studies for the animal models. You can open up the brain. You can see neuroplasticity. You can see new capillary beds and all these other types of things. We're not there yet for action video games or any other type of video games where we have that level of evidence that can trace, "What is the active ingredient that's causing all these changes, that's causing such unbelievable effects?" So, I ask that you consider it both a general weakness, I think, of the evidence in the video game literature right now, but also the consequences if we recommend these things too soon, if we recommend these prematurely for interventions for reading, cognitive aging, and other types of issues. Thank you.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Wally Booth. And the motion again, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.” And here making his closing statement in support of the motion, Asi Burak, chairman of Games for Change and CEO of PowerPlay.

    Asi Burak:
    Thank you. So, as you probably saw through the debate, in my personal view, there is an answer to the question, will video games make us smarter?
  • 01:25:00
    And I would even go beyond that from the cases that I've seen, both in practice and research. Games could do other things as well if they're well-designed and designed for a purpose. They could make us smarter. In some cases, they could even make us healthier. They can help us learn about the world and broaden our horizons. Again, well-designed and for a purpose. Not every game. And as you saw, Daphne and I will be the last ones to say that there are no negative outcomes, and we don't need to address them. And this is my main point, if there's one takeaway that I want you to go home with -- is that point of, how do we do a better job as parents, educators, players to understand this medium? Because what is a fact that I'm sure you won't to be arguing about is that it is a super powerful industry.
  • 01:26:01
    It's about to cross the threshold of $100 billion worldwide, which means that it's bigger than the music industry and the film industry combined. Time of play on a weekly basis, worldwide, 7 billion hours. Okay? So, to my colleagues, I would say, rather than fight it, fight this amazing phenomenon, join it in the sense --

    [laughter]

    -- that your expertise -- but it's serious -- your expertise and our expertise could help all the people in the audience and all the people that we'll interact with understand how to deal with it better, rather than banning it or -- I mean, it's not going to go away. It's just going to grow stronger. So, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to vote yes for the motion. I want to you say with us that video games will make us smarter, but also that we need to be smarter about video games. Thank you.
  • 01:27:03
    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Asi Burak.

    [applause]

    And that is the motion, "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter." Here making his closing statement against the motion, Elias Aboujaoude, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford Medical School.

    Elias Aboujaoude:
    The bestselling video games of 2016 have titles like Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, and Infinite Warfare. It's hard to imagine how playing these games hours upon hours has raised our average IQ. On the other hand, these games, I think, like the Internet at large can nurture some rather negative personality elements, aggression, narcissism, impulsivity being some examples. There's evidence about violent video games leading to downstream offline future violence. And, for evidence on how online narcissism and impulsivity can lead to offline narcissism and impulsivity, you can find examples from both sides of the aisles from the last election.
  • 01:28:00
    It's not possible to turn the clock back on technology. This is not something that is feasible nor advisable. Yet, some of us are trying to achieve some kind of balance between our online and our offline lives. But, in trying to achieve that balance, we're faced by two formidable obstacles. The first obstacle we can do nothing about and has to do with how our brains are wired. And they're not wired necessarily in a way that makes us able to resist these technologies and to take them in small doses only. But the other obstacle is huge industry interests and huge marketing campaigns that are trying to convince us that these technologies are actually making us smarter, they're good for us, we should embrace them even more. I'd like to end by bringing up a case of a patient I saw a couple weeks ago. I'll call him Jeff, a 21-year old who achieved one of the highest possible schools on a shoot-them-up game.
  • 01:29:03
    However, he was so consumed by this game that he was failing three of his classes. I think that the least helpful intervention I can make, the least compassionate statement, maybe, is to tell him that, "I know you're failing, but your processing speed is off the charts." I think it would be the wrong message to send him and I think it would be the wrong message to send the culture at large. So, I urge you to vote, "No," on the motion. I think it's the most intelligent thing to do.

    [applause]



    John Donvan:
    Thank you Elias Aboujaoude. And that concludes round three of this Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate where the motion is, "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter." And now it's time to learn which side you feel has argued the best. I want to ask you to go, again, to the keypads at your seat and vote as you did in the beginning. "Video Games Will Make Us Smarter," if you agree with this motion, push number one. If you disagree, push number two. If you remain or became undecided, push number three.
  • 01:30:01
    Okay, while we're doing that, I want to point out that there was a lot of high risk of agreement between the four of you tonight. And the reason for that is that you were all willing to concede well-made points by the other side. And I have to say that, at Intelligence Squared, we respect that impulse. It's -- you weren't -- it wasn't, "Win at all costs." And if your opponent said something you respected, you acknowledged it. So, I want to congratulate you for that and for the whole style in which you brought this.

    [applause]

    I did notice that when Daphne was giving parents advice on how to sort of keep an eye on what their kids are gaming, that there are lot of kids in the audience and they were all doing like a lot of that. But I think that this was a really interesting debate, in fact, from all sides for parents and I thank you for that. And we have an unusual number of kids tonight, so I hope that you enjoyed it. And I noticed that almost none of you were texting throughout the evening as well.
  • 01:31:04
    So, I want to let you know a few things about IQ2. First of all, one of the most important things that I say at the end of every debate, especially to the newcomers, is that Intelligence Squared U.S. is a philanthropic activity. We know that most of you bought tickets to get in here and we appreciate that. But the ticket price covers only a fraction of the cost of putting on one of these debates. And we -- in fact, we set them off into the wild basically for free. We give it away. The podcast is a free product and it's used now we know in public schools and other schools across the country to teach debate which we think is a key to developing critical thinking, critical reasoning. It's kind of a game played between two sides. But, all that said, we would really appreciate it, if you're moved to support this, to keep it going, to help us grow, which is definitely our plan. You can go to our website and -- at iq2us.org, but you can also text using your phone.
  • 01:32:00
    If you text the word “debate” to the number 797979, you'll get a link and you can make a contribution. It's something that we would really, really appreciate because we want to keep this -- we are going. I'm not going to say we want to keep it going, we want to get it bigger and go to more places and do more debates. And speaking of more debates we have one more coming up in this season, not in New York, though. We're going to be in San Francisco in partnership with the National Constitution Center and we're going to be looking at a debate that examines the challenges faced by tech companies when governments are demanding customer data. It's a legal statutorial issue, a constitutional issue and it's very, very rich and it's very, very relevant. It covers something going on right now. Our debaters will include Stewart Baker who is a former general counsel to the NSA, John Yu [spelled phonetically], who is a professor at Berkeley Law and a former justice department attorney, Catherine Crump [spelled phonetically], who is also a Berkeley Law Professor and a former ACLU attorney, and Michael Chertoff, who is the former secretary of Homeland Security and has debated with us a few times and is just spectacular in debate.
  • 01:33:04
    If you're listening via podcast and you're on that side of the country, you can get tickets to that now through our website and also, we're going to be back of course here in New York in the fall, so please be sure to sign up for our mailing list for all of our latest updates. And again, I did mention this in the beginning. There are lots of way to follow and catch our debates. We've now done more than 140 debates, I think, and 136 somebody told me in my ear and they're all available and most of them -- most of them are still relevant. A few, a very, very small number were outdated by events. Some of them got even better because of events. So, they're available via our app, which you can get through the Apple Play -- Apple store or the Google Play store and on Apple TV and on Roku. I want to say one more thing before I read the results. I'm not going to bring her to the stage.
  • 01:34:00
    But, since Intelligence Squared was founded in 2006 one of the key members of our team who has been I would say the -- our -- the most superior critical thinker who helps us work through what our issues are going to be, to read through the literature, to help us figure out where the fault lines are to figure out what's relevant, is a colleague of ours named Kris Kamikawa, and she has decided to move on after this debate, after 11 seasons with us and so she's backstage blushing and will not be pulled out, but if you could just let her know that we really appreciate everything she's done.

    [applause]

    Okay. So, the results are all in now. The motion is this, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.” Reminding you that it's the difference between the first vote of the evening when you first arrived and the vote that you cast after hearing all the arguments.
  • 01:35:02
    It's the difference that chooses the winner. The number whose -- the team whose numbers go up the most. Let's look at the results. Before you heard the arguments 40 percent of you agreed with the motion that, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter,” 23 percent of you disagreed with that. A large 37 percent were undecided. Let's look at the second vote. In the second vote the team arguing for the motion their vote went from 40 percent to 53 percent. They picked up 13 percentage points. That is the number to beat.

    [applause]

    Let's see how the team arguing against them did. Their first vote was 23 percent. Their second vote was 32 percent. They picked up 9 percentage points, but it's not enough to win. It's the -- the victory goes, the win goes to the team arguing for the motion, “Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.”

    [applause]

    Congratulations to them. Thank you from me, John Donvan, and Intelligence Squared U.S. We'll see you next time.

    [end of transcript]
Post-Debate
Winner

For The Motion
53 %
32 %
Against The Motion
15 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
For The Motion
40 %
37 %
Undecided
23 %
Against The Motion
Breakdown
For The Motion
6% - Swung From the Against Side
30% - Remained For the For Side
17% - Swung From Undecided
Against The Motion
15% - Remained For the Against Side
5% - Swung From the For Side
12% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
2% - Swung From the Against Side
5% - Swung From the For Side
8% - Remained Undecided
Post-Debate
Winner

For The Motion
82 %
11 %
Against The Motion
7 %
Undecided
Pre-Debate
For The Motion
64 %
20 %
Against The Motion
16 %
Undecided
Breakdown
For The Motion
11% - Swung From the Against Side
59% - Remained For the For Side
12% - Swung From Undecided
Against The Motion
7% - Remained For the Against Side
3% - Swung From the For Side
1% - Swung From Undecided
Undecided
2% - Swung From the Against Side
2% - Swung From the For Side
2% - Remained Undecided
Video thumbnail image.
Play this video clip.
Can video games create a more peaceful world?
Clip: Debaters Elias Aboujaoude and Asi Burak discuss the positive and negative social effects of video games.
Video thumbnail image.
Play this video clip.
Chairman Robert Rosenkranz introduction on video games
Clip: Chairman Robert Rosenkranz introduces the topic, discussing the economic effects that video games have had on the labor market, and the potential they have for the future.
Video thumbnail image.
Play this video clip.
Can video games replace text books?
Clip: Debaters Walter Boot and Daphne Bavelier discuss the possibilities for measuring and gaining intelligence based on digital learning.
Video thumbnail image.
Play this video clip.
What is the relationship between engagement and information retention?
Clip: Debaters discuss the effect that video games can have on information retention.
About The Debaters
For The Motion
An image of Daphne Bavelier
Daphne Bavelier − Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Geneva & Co-Founding Advisor, Akili Interactive
Daphne Bavelier is an internationally-recognized expert on how humans learn. She received a PhD in brain and... read bio
An image of Asi Burak
Asi Burak − Chairman, Games for Change & CEO, Power Play
Asi Burak is a veteran of the videogame and tech industries, and an award-winning executive producer. He is... read bio
Against The Motion
An image of Elias Aboujaoude
Elias Aboujaoude − Director, Stanford University OCD and Impulse Control Disorders Clinics & Author, Virtually You
Elias Aboujaoude, MD, MA, is a psychiatrist and author based at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where he... read bio
An image of Walter R. Boot
Walter R. Boot − Director, Florida State University Attention and Training Lab
Walter R. Boot is an associate professor of psychology at Florida State University and director of the... read bio
Main Points
For The Motion
  • Playing action video games can improve cognitive skills like problem solving, the ability to focus, and reaction times—gains that can carry over into other areas of life.
  • Innovators are creating video games that educate and promote social change for the better.
  • Despite their reputation, research shows that there is no causal link between video games and aggression.  In fact, video games have been used to fight mood disorders like depression.
  • Game-based learning should be embraced by adults and children alike to both garner interest in learning new topics and to help students succeed in an increasingly connected and digital universe. 
Against The Motion
  • Video games are not making us smarter.  Small improvements are offset by the atrophying of other areas of brain functioning and the stimulation of compulsive tendencies.
  • The observed cognitive gains from gaming have not been found to be transferable to related tasks or cognitive performance overall.
  • Gaming can become all-consuming, leading to social isolation and the shirking of real-life responsibilities.
  • Video games rely on binary win/lose mechanisms for evaluating success. An over-reliance on them as learning tools could impede the development of skills necessary to navigate real-world challenges.