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Video Games are Irrational

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xeper
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He's obviously never killed Diablo on Nightmare level. :)

Yea, yea, I know, I ain't [expletive deleted] until I've killed him on Hell level...I'm working on it. ;)

Diablo is a putz on Hell level (in Diablo 2, anyway). Beat the Elders in the expansion on Hell difficulty and then we can talk.

Also, read the excellent Everything Bad is Good For You and discover that video games make you smarter. I think devoting time to exercising your brain in an enjoyable manner is just the same as devoting time to exercising your body by playing a sport. It's nice to have nothing but the potential death of your character or loss of a game (instead of, say the potential death of yourself or loss of a job) involved in your decisions.

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Also, read the excellent Everything Bad is Good For You and discover that video games make you smarter.

Well...while theorists suggest that game-playing might be increasing critical thinking or problem-solving skills - an actual research gives very little reason to believe that players are developing skills that are useful in anything but very similar contexts.

Research has shown that a skilled Half-Life player, for example might develop skills that are useful in playing Unreal Tournament (a very similar game), but this does not mean that players necessarily develop generalizable "strategic thinking" or "planning" skills.

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Hmm, but there are quite a few games that require you to juggle many different things at the same time. If you are looking at most strategy games for example, then I think it's a very good simulation for real life in the sense that it allows you to practice the first couple of steps in thinking ahead for the longer term, weighing short term and long term interests. Most games are also a very clear example of how wishes don't accomplish anything (unless you use cheats ;)), no matter how badly you want your infantry guy to beat that tank, he will lose every single time.

But learning to manage limited resources is one of the skills you can learn at least the basics of playing games like this; it can be very useful to see the abstract ideas you learn elsewhere concretised like this. It does require you to step back and consider the things in their proper context to draw the lessons from it, and see that what you are doing is actually planning ahead, just like you should do later on in life.

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Diablo is a putz on Hell level (in Diablo 2, anyway). Beat the Elders in the expansion on Hell difficulty and then we can talk.

You are absolutely right. The elders are very difficult. And I don't even care so much for the rest of the areas leading to Baal except that you have to go through them to get to him. And then....MOOOOO!!

I can see how some games can at least give a person some basic ideas in resource management, logistics, etc. I know some games have been modified for use in teaching military/police tactics as well. Our department has the FATS (Firearms Training System) which is essentially a scenario based shot/don't shot game.

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The research that I mentioned was in reference to games which were not specifically designed for educational purposes. It has been shown that mind is not a 'mental muscle' and that fast reaction and sharp thinking in game does not result in increased mental functioning in other situations. They shown that many abilites developed in game - in one context do not transfer well to new outside of the game context. Improvements in any single mental function rarely brings about equal improvement in any other function, no matter how similar. It is very much contextual.

The transfer is much better when the game is a very close and realistic simulation of specific activity like flight simulations used by Air force ect. The reason for that was that in this way the simulation is 'working' the same mental function group as the real experience.

I think it maybe also much better when it comes to the already mentioned strategic planning and resource management.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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RPG's, both computer and non, have also improved my social and communication skills greatly. They have made me overall more adept at learning how to use new computer programs, and often other systems in general.

Quite apart from that, however, there is anecdotal evidence that computer games (and other entertainments) help you become more capable of performing analytical tasks, simply because they encourage you to engage in those tasks.

I don't really care, I'd play computer games anyway, simply because they are fun. The thing is, what makes them fun? It's not the fun of mindlessness, detachment, or stupor; it's the fun of being learning new skills simply because you want to and straining them as far as you can in order to achieve a goal. There's something very enticing about a world that is open to whatever effort you choose to apply; it helps you to gain a sense of what life is really like when you feel stymied.

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RPG's, both computer and non, have also improved my social and communication skills greatly. They have made me overall more adept at learning how to use new computer programs, and often other systems in general.

I have played MORPG and my experience has been similar. I have found, however, that it was not due to the game itself (its mechanics) but instead due to the increased social interactions made possible via the game. I essence, I had more opportunities to practice. I do not think the game itself made me any smarter, eventhough there was a lot of planning and strategizing involved. I have always treat it only as a form of entratainment.

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Diablo is a putz on Hell level (in Diablo 2, anyway). Beat the Elders in the expansion on Hell difficulty and then we can talk.
You got nothing on me. Play Zyel mod for Diablo2 LOD. And just get to Nightmare level, then you can talk to me.

EDIT: Useful addition to the topic follows.

I'll sail along with other posts here. However, I'll expand with more detail.

Yes, playing games can waste your time. But it is in no way deterministic. Games are nothing more than tools. How you use them is up to you. If you play games to escape from reality to experience some "fun," then it is a waste of time.

If, however, you play games for some constructive purpose, then it is a whole another deal.

Consider my thoughts on playing a game:

Playing a game means I won't be producing more for my personal project. However, this alone is not enough to say games are wasteful. For the same reason, one could say that education is wasteful, since you aren't working. But you can be working - improving your logic and reasoning for example.

Take Diablo2, for example. While original game is far too easy. Many mods provide a very tough challenge. And I find myself assessing situation and my armor to see which way I should improve it and how, what spells to enhance and which to drop, etc., etc. This is exactly what I find myself do during programming: finding what should I tackle first, how, what code to improve and which to erase. Thus, I found a way to enhance my skills in a different environment [coding versus playing Diablo2], which makes those skills even better.

If you have played such games like Fallout 1 or 2, and you've spend 2 hours configuring your character before actually playing a game, then you know how much assessment effort can go into the game.

Bottomline: games aren't bad or good. They just are. How you approach them is what makes your interaction with games good or bad. Furthermore, people play the same game differently.

Thus, I come to conclusion that calling games bad and wasteful is the same as calling a hammer bad and dangerous for your fingers.

Edited by Olex
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When I was younger, I got "addicted" to Nintendo 64 (really, Mario 64 was one of the greatest games ever) so much so that I was not permitted to play it for a few years.

My "addiction" was purely my own fault; it was not anything inherent in the video games, but my own lack of restraint.

Now, I play games once in a while, and still find them quite fun, but I limit myself. The point is that video games as such are not irrational, but one can use them rationally (for entertainment or relaxation purposes) or irrationally.

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Well...while theorists suggest that game-playing might be increasing critical thinking or problem-solving skills - an actual research gives very little reason to believe that players are developing skills that are useful in anything but very similar contexts.

Research has shown that a skilled Half-Life player, for example might develop skills that are useful in playing Unreal Tournament (a very similar game), but this does not mean that players necessarily develop generalizable "strategic thinking" or "planning" skills.

Part of the problem with that is that most video games don't involve intensive problem-solving anyway, so theories that current video games won't increase problem-solving abilities aren't surprising. But I do think video games can improve one's capacities in dissimilar fields.

Military training supposedly improves one's discipline, even in non-military endeavors. And playing chess does have research that says it brings about improvements applicable to different fields. Whether or not one considers the previous things to be "games", a good game can encourage attention to detail, concentration, long-term planning, proactivity, etc and these kind of things are easily transferable to non-gaming efforts.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Video games:

- hijack an individual's senses, disabling their ability to perceive reality through reason.

Your abstract language makes it difficult to understand you. You're claiming that video games interfere with one's ability to think rationally? On the contrary, I've found that video games are so thoroughly and intensely rational that many people are unable to play them competitively. People who are not used to analyzing events causally, devising clever methods, and maximizing their efficiency are tremendously impaired.

I give as an example Guild Wars, a MMORPG. In Guild Wars, it's important to devise an effective "build" for your character -- a combination of skills and spells that play off one another effectively. To design a good build requires a significant amount of analytical and hypothetical thinking -- "How will x, y, and z affect a and b?" "How will others react to e and f?" Because Guild Wars is an intensely competitive game, it forces the player to either think critically or fail. It can be seen as practice for rational thinking and real-life decision-making.

- encourage participation in an economic system that sets the individual as a financial means to others.
This is, once again, abstract enough to obscure what is actually happening. If I'm really self-interested, I don't care on principle what economic systems my activities foster -- leave that to the altruist. I care much more about whether the economic system in which I take part enables my pursuit of happiness. If I enjoy playing video games, and they provide for me an entertaining and mentally stimulating diversion, then I'll buy them and be happy.

- in the making may involve the sacrifice of the physical and/or mental well being of others (see: EA's treatement of employees).
Who are you, Ghandi? I'm self-interested, so I don't especially care if others were unhappy making my games. Moreover, they chose their profession and chose to work for demanding companies. I simply participate in the same system in which they have chosen to participate by buying their games. If for some reason I want to be nice, the least I can do is enjoy the fruits of their labors.

- are the means to short-term happiness, and thus inferior to long-term happiness as potentially acquired by alternate uses of one's time.
When one video game is finished, there's always another. Therefore, video games function as a long-term, mentally stimulating diversion -- much like any other art.

- detract from the productive potential of an individual.
Two errors: First, although successful production is objectively measurable, the decision in which pursuit to be productive is subjective and individual. If someone decides to become the best video game player in the world and succeeds by beating all the other best players, he has made a real accomplishment -- something tangible and quantifiable. One might retort that beating a video game provides no inherent benefit to a person's life -- true, but neither do the green slips of paper we call money. We assign values to things based on how difficult they are to obtain or do. Therefore, being the best in the world at anything is highly valuable.

The second problem is a bit deeper -- the assumption that any moment not spent working productively is being wasted. On the contrary, a rational individual understands that working effectively requires that sometimes he stop working and relax. The most obvious example of this is the necessity of sleep -- stop sleeping, and at first you'll gain extra time for production, but you'll rapidly lose the ability to work entirely. It's the same with entertaining diversions -- lose them and you gain more time for working, but eventually you lose your motivation to work. The object of your labors ceases to be meaningful to you. In short, you burn out. A healthy-minded objectivist can see past the naive absolutism of "Never Stop Working," and recognizes the necessity of entertaining diversions.

- may lend to a form of addiction or dependancy, unnecessarily debilitating the player's capacity to actualize themselves as a heroic being in the objective absolute of reality.
The obvious reply is, "Well, don't do that." You might respond, "What if I cannot help my addiction?" at which point you lose the right to call yourself an objectivist. You have the willpower to use video games as a mentally stimulating diversion and no more. If you become addicted to lights moving on a screen, that is your fault.

- potentially suggest immoral behaviours and beliefs.
Enough of the moralizing, Ghandi. If you're an objectivist, you know that seeing another's behavior does not force a person to imitate that behavior. You should have the willpower to see something, appreciate it aesthetically, and then do something else entirely. Anything less indicates that you're a slave to irrational impulses.
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I just had to add this to this topic;

Civilization Anonymous

In particular, click on the Truth about Civilization link higlighted by the yellow and black hazard scheme at the bottom of the menu bar on the left side. It leads to a hilarious video.

The page has a minor factual error on the welcome message. Firaxis (a game design company) did not exist in 1991. Civilization was originally designed and published by MicroProse. Firaxis wasn't formed until 1996, and they were not involved in the Civ franchise until 2001 or so.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It doesn't look a lot worse than The Sims, just more options. Whoopie. I have a friend who plays on RetroMud, which is text-based, and you have just as much of an "alternate identity" there . . . he owns a castle (which he has to maintain, and a big godzilla-like monster may appear and wreck it at some point), rents rooms out to other players, buys, sells, and trades equipment, etc.

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