The dangers of online games

A friend has  become something of a game player. She seems to spend an inordinate amount of time playing others at games of “Words With Friends” and “Bejeweled Blitz“. This latter game is where you have to rearrange diamonds across a screen so that they can be “blitzed” and you can pick up as many points as you can.

She plays these games with a number of her friends on Facebook. It has become something of a personal thing for her to beat her friends. Every Tuesday her score is wiped out and she has to start a new quest. She loves it but I have a number of concerns.

My first concern is that these online games are addictive. I do not know how it works in terms of neuroscience, but I do know that all the usual signs of  addiction are there, the compulsion to play at different times of the day, the highs of wining and the lows of being beaten. She sometimes plays  the game until the late hours of the evening trying to better some fiend’s score that will be wiped out in a new competition a few days later!

My second concern is that the time spent on the internet playing these games could be used to greater effect. There is a world of information, entertainment and communication out there and yet so many of us seem to spend hours and hours playing games.

My other concern is in the gifted people who spend their time in designing these games. They have to create graphics of a high order to compete with games where graphics and animation is of a high order and where games players are used to powerful effects. They include music to create atmosphere and they have to work out a process for different levels of difficulty. All this requires a high level of programming skills showing creativity and imagination.

I just wonder what other projects these people could be doing that might make a difference to our planet. It worries me when I watched a recent edition of the BBC’s “Click Online” to see how, at a recent international congress of games makers in Los Vegas, U.S.A., highly intelligent people were talking about the world of online games and how it is now worth billions of dollars every year. There was talk of more and more powerful machines showing more realistic animations for our children and indeed us to get involved in. The social consequences of this addiction were never discussed and I did not see any discussion about alternatives to games playing as the major use of our new technology (after social networking).

I have read about the educational value of games for children’s hand-eye co-ordination and that computer games develop strategic and other skills. Surely though we need to consider whether some of our best efforts in programming and technological development lie in creating more and more powerful means for us to waste hours of time in games that will not really add to the stock of our knowledge or develop means for us to survive an uncertain future.

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