Video games have a near-universal reputation for being bad for us, our youngsters and society generally . But what does the scientific evidence need to say about all this? Author Pete Etchells has the answers.
Conventional wisdom, for what it’s worth, has long held that video games are responsible for just about everything that’s wrong with society. They encourage violence, isolate gamers in lonely digital silos, narrow our minds and rob us of leisure that would be such a lot better spent climbing trees, fishing and playing football. Of course, we’ve got the hyperactive red-top media responsible for never letting the reality get within the way of an honest story. But what’s the reality about video games? What does this picture appear as if once we go behind the headlines and take an extended , hard, dispassionate check out the research project and data?
This is an issue that author Pete Etchells sets bent answer in his myth-busting and quite frankly surprising book ‘Lost during a Good Game’, during which he peers past the media hype to present us with the target reality of what he (along with the data) considers to be a much-maligned pastime. Etchells, who may be a reader in psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, says: “First and foremost, what I’m trying to try to to within the book is to supply a corrective around a number of the broader moral panics that accompany video games. We see many stories within the news saying that video games are fundamentally and inherently bad, harmful things. And yet we don’t really have those kinds of conversations about taking note of the radio or reading books.”
It’s almost as if, says Etchells, the computer game has become a special media form “deserving a special sort of attention. which attention is invariably negative.” As an expert on the psychological effects of video games (who is incidentally of the opinion that the planet Health Organization’s plans to classify ‘game addiction’ as a danger to public health is both supported bad science and a nasty idea), “I thought it had been time to be objective about this, not just in watching the consequences video games wear us, but also in watching where these negative perceptions came from within the first place. I also wanted to seem at the great things about them, and what positives we will deduct from that.”
If you’re of the opinion that it’s simply axiomatic that video games are bad for you, you’re not on your own. But the ‘fundamental question’ is why we expect this. Etchells says that one among the most reasons for this prejudice is that, compared with, say, reading or taking note of the radio, there’s a way higher technological bar to entry into the video games world. Essentially, he says, the mindset that can’t engage with the complexities of getting started within the first place – downloading software, learning handset controls then on – is susceptible to a sort of technophobia that instinctively dismisses the concept out of hand
Anyone for tennis?
A significant moment in gaming history came in 1952 at the University of Cambridge. During the method of working towards a PhD in theoretical physics, a student called Alexander Shafto Douglas wrote software to run games of noughts and crosses on the university’s landmark Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator. The program was notable because it had been the primary time a video game had included graphical output to a CRT display. But it wasn’t until 1958 that a more complete first prototype of what might be considered a computer game was made. That was ‘Tennis for Two’, and its creator was William Higinbotham.
Higinbotham may be a well-known name in science, but not for his contribution to video games. A physicist by trade, in 1943 he began performing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he would eventually lead a team of electronic engineers that might develop the electronics systems for the primary nuclear bomb. Later, and more importantly, he would become a founding and prominent member of the nuclear nonproliferation group, the Federation of Atomic Scientists. In 1947, he took employment at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he was eventually promoted to go of Instrumentation. during this role he would inadvertently develop the primary true computer game prototype. Every autumn, the laboratory would host a series of open days for the general public . By most accounts these were dry affairs, but in 1958, in an effort to form the visitor days a touch more exciting, Higinbotham drew up plans to link a computer to an oscilloscope to showcase an easy game of tennis. Although the thought never went any longer , ‘Tennis for Two’ was, in essence, a forerunner to multiplayer games arcade machines.
Little blue hedgehogs aren’t the sole important innovation to possess come from gaming.
Sonic arrives on the large screen this month after 30 years battling Robotnik on the tiny screen and, indeed, the very small screen. While it’s going to be outside his temperature , it’s not really a much bigger pond for the small blue hedgehog. The games industry was the new kid on the block some time past , but today it’s bigger than the movie and music industries combined.
Did anyone see that coming? once I was covering the defence and aerospace sector in electronics back within the 1990s, they weren’t the large volume drivers but they were vital in terms of investment and technological innovation. Defence suppliers would place orders for silicon (or more likely gallium arsenide) chips within the mere dozens, but the defence industry was doing the research and development that might at some point bear into everything else, including computer games. it had been within the ’90s though that chipmakers started saying sorry, no, we don’t have the time or the inclination to drop everything and cause you to a couple of dozen devices any longer . We’re just too busy making parts for Nintendos and Segas, many thanks considerably .
Somewhere along the way the flow of innovation and inspiration got switched around. Professional flight simulators that when cost thousands made their way onto PCs for just a couple of dollars. computer game , head-up displays – you name it, it started in defence and aerospace. Yet it wasn’t long before changing industry economics meant defence and aerospace were looking to off-the-shelf developments from the games and show business .
It’s an observation echoed by BAE Systems principal technologist Jean Page in her interview with Nick Smith. Three decades ago, she says, “when I first started during this business, these technologies were driven by the defence industry. But today, it’s increasingly the gaming industry that’s driving the technology.” they’re also taking inspiration from consumer technologies like augmented reality and autonomous vehicles, also as medical technologies.
But gaming’s influence is to be found everywhere in electronics. Chris Edwards looks at how gaming technology has profoundly changed computing over the last three decades.
Siobhan Doyle talks to experts at the UK’s first dedicated wargaming centre for the combined defence services. Could hacking games be a gateway into serious cyber crime? Is what looks like a crime having more serious consequences? Ben Heubl talks to hacker Jake Davis (aka Topiary) about how his career started with ‘3D Pinball’ on his own PC.
This month’s author interview in our reviews section is with Pete Etchells, who argues that gaming provides many positives and doesn’t deserve the negative press it receives for its effects on our society. Like most parents, I remain sceptical. Admittedly, I once stayed up all night reading ‘Catch 22’, but reading in the dark usually just sends us to sleep – not so playing games that involve more interaction and adrenaline. But perhaps i’m just the type of prejudiced parent he argues possesses gaming all