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Brain games.

John Donvan
Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Just because every debate is a contest doesn't mean we're playing around, when we wrap up our tenth (!) year of debate with this motion: Video Games Will Make Us Smarter.

Our debaters have collected some impressive data – some based on their own lab experiments – that they will use to answer that question.

Of course, since this is a debate, their answers are going to be in conflict. That’s where the game begins!

I’ll be interested to see what we learn this time by asking our audience members to answer some questions about themselves. Their ages, and gender, and their own gaming habits: data that we’ll be mining, and sharing on the night.

It’s the age question I am particularly interested in, because when it comes to digital technology, there is a pretty significant demographic fork in the road: the year 1980. It’s been said people born since that date are digital “natives.” You always had multi-tasking. Interactivity. Speed of access. Stories told more by image than by text. Your brains, for better or worse, were re-shaped for fluency in the way information moves across digital platforms.

As for everyone else: digital may always feel a little like a foreign land to you. You can learn its ways, but to some degree, maybe, your brain still misses the “old country” of analog info.

I’m curious to see how age in our audience will track with a debate that will determine whether gamers are actually mentally sharper in some ways than everyone else; whether those skills apply outside the game setting; whether gaming is a “better way” to learn important lessons about the real world; whether the risk of addiction, aggressive behavior, and other negative outcomes of gaining are substantial, and outweigh the possible benefits.

I know this: when I was growing up, all we heard was that TV was going to ruin the brains of a generation. And you know what? Maybe those long ago doomsayers were right about that, but we’re just not smart enough to know it because of … TV! But this one – on video games -- we’re getting ahead of. We’re debating it now. While we still have some smarts left.

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