Type A: Me, then ChatGPT

My Take:

I’m sure you’ve heard these a million times: “Video games rot your brains,” “Playing video games makes you violent,” or “You’re wasting your time playing video games.” Are these true? Do video games merely exist as time-wasters and life-ruiners? I don’t think so.

In his book, Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson makes the argument that video games are just another tool available to the modern-age man to hone his skills, comparing it to math: “Learning algebra isn’t about acquiring a specific tool; it’s about building up a mental muscle that will come in handy elsewhere. […] So it is with games. It’s not what you’re thinking about when you’re playing a game, it’s the way you’re thinking that matters.”

As a child, my brothers and I would complain about our math classes as many of our peers did: why did we have to learn complex math functions and terms? My father gave an answer that mirrors Johnson’s argument: while we might not use the direct skills we learn from taking algebra—we can use the logic and reasoning that we develop through learning math to help us make decisions later in life.

Since the age of twelve, I’ve participated in martial arts—taekwondo and jiujitsu. In spite of my training, I’ve been fortunate and have never had to use the surface-level skills I’ve learned from taekwondo or jiujitsu in real life. However, I have used the less-visible skills that I’ve learned from martial arts: self-control, focus, and perseverance. This mirrors Johnson’s point above—it’s the way we think while we do something that matters, not just what we think.

Similarly to martial arts, I’ve never used the surface-level skills that I’ve learned from playing video games—I’ve never had to delve into monster-infested caverns, orchestrate a siege on an enemy nation, or defend my house from a myriad of zombies with the help of my neighbor’s plants—however, I believe that I have learned how to manage resources, solve problems, and make decisions quickly—three attributes that we can agree are positive

Before mistaking video games as some kind of holy grail of education or quick and easy roads to success, I want to clarify that I don’t think video games should replace high school algebra or history classes. I do, however, think that video games have been mistakenly labeled in the past and can prove to be beneficial in improving skills—just like martial arts and algebra.

ChatGPT’s Take:

Prompt: Howdy ChatGPT, can you write a 250-word blog post defending the merits of video games? Can you reference Steven Johnson’s book, “Everything bad is good for you?”

In a world where video games are often met with skepticism, Steven Johnson’s book, Everything Bad Is Good for You, comes as a refreshing revelation. This book not only challenges prevailing stereotypes about video games but also highlights their numerous intellectual merits.

Johnson’s central argument is that video games, far from being mindless distractions, are cognitive workouts that stimulate our brains in unique and valuable ways. He presents the case that modern video games are increasingly complex, requiring players to solve intricate puzzles, make strategic decisions, and engage in sophisticated narratives. These cognitive challenges, he contends, help players develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.

One compelling aspect Johnson addresses is the “telescoping” effect in video games, where players must manage multiple objectives and track numerous variables simultaneously. This multitasking is akin to real-life decision-making and can enhance our ability to process complex information.

Moreover, video games foster collaboration and social interaction. Multiplayer games demand teamwork and communication, nurturing skills that are invaluable in the real world.

In essence, Johnson’s book underscores the idea that video games are a powerful form of interactive media that engage players on multiple levels. They invite us to think critically, adapt to changing scenarios, and immerse ourselves in captivating narratives. Rather than dismissing video games as mere entertainment, we should appreciate their potential to sharpen our minds, promote social connections, and provide meaningful intellectual challenges.

So, the next time someone questions the merits of video games, consider the insights from “Everything Bad Is Good for You.” It may just change the way you perceive these interactive experiences and their positive impact on your cognitive development.

Image Credit: Viktor Hanacek



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Responses to “Good Things Come to Those Who Game”

  1. Sarah Bettinger Avatar
    Sarah Bettinger

    I find it super interesting that ChatGPT gave such an accurate description of “telescoping” in its post. I asked it to provide specific applications of telescoping in the context of a specific video game, and suddenly ChatGPT couldn’t explain it so clearly.

  2. Traci Bullock Avatar
    Traci Bullock

    I love what your father told you! I think what he said is a good summary of the lessons learned from “Everything Bad Is Good for You.” Like many things that we teach ourselves or learn in school, it is the skills that we learned from these things that we carry with us for the rest of our lives.

  3. Catherine Eyre Avatar
    Catherine Eyre

    Like you say, video games aren’t a “holy grail of education”, but what is? There’s value to diversifying the way we learn. Reading can have a lot of benefits, but reading books or playing video games or learning taekwondo aren’t mutually exclusive. You can do multiple, and take away different things from each.

  4. Brian Croxall Avatar

    I appreciate the comparison to your martial arts training, Elijah. That seems like a good way to frame Johnson’s perspective on video games.

    ChatGPT’s take is pretty good (albeit still way too much summarizing) until it hits the penultimate paragraph where it talks about immersing ourselves in captivating narratives. Johnson more or less blows that idea up, although I’m sure many of us could name games with compelling narratives.

  5. Hannah Benson Avatar
    Hannah Benson

    I like how you connect your experience with martial arts to video games. I think it’s good to make those connections especially when there are people who are more closed-minded and biased towards gaming culture. I connected it through baking and crafting which to me is what I enjoy.