Can Video Games Make Us Smarter? The Disembodied Head of a Japanese Professor Seems to Think So

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chris-littlechild - December 6, 2012

Behold Exhibit A, above. An innocuous little fungus-man, stabbed in his deformed mushroom bollocks. This is evocative of the media's inherent prejudice for gaming. Newspapers across our fair nation (and everybody else's, naturellement) revel in the latest ghastly atrocity. Whether it's mass murder, surreptitiously approaching a passing pensioner and shouting boo so they piss their OAP-diapers or even -most heinous of all- knocking on somebody's door and running away (they'll be mildly inconvenienced and bemused upon opening it, you antisocial fiend! What if they were mid-dump, and arose with their pants akimbo lest they miss the UPS man? Those flecks of shit across the carpet are your fault. Oh, the humanity! Won't somebody think of the children?) news guys are all up in that shit.

Further, upon finding even the most tenuous of links between the perpetrator and a proclivity for violent video games, these ravening bastards' euphoria reaches such intensity that a little piss leaks out and/or they must be excused to touch themselves in the office bathroom. The ensuing shitstorm doesn't seem to heed one simple fact: anybody committing such wanton acts of bastardry must have already gorged themselves at the trough of crazy. In summation, crushing an Elvis impersonator into splattery viscera and bone fragments 'neath the mighty wheels of your Grand Theft Auto ice cream truck -as it plays a soothing, jangly rendition of The Baby Elephant Walk- does not (in and of itself) a real-life homicidal maniac make.

To peruse potential positive effects of gaming, ‘smarter' is an ambiguous term. Is our intellect going to be bolstered to such lofty heights that we may middle finger robo-genius Stephen Hawking (we jest, doctor. There's no need to bust out your boxing glove attachment from The Simpsons and smite us in the mansack with it)? It isn't. Regardless, many aficionados of the digital crack that is Tetris report of their heightened ability to pack their groceries in supermarkets and suchlike. They're largely taking the piss, we'll concede, but these are enhanced capacities nonetheless. As such, a chronic case of Tetrisitis does indeed render us eligible for MENSA membership.

This image is eternally burnt onto the retinas of players worldwide.

One legitimate attempt to bolster our brainmeat is found in the shenanigans of Dr. Kawashima. His Brain Training franchise has accrued, in the technical jargon of financial analysts, more cash than you can brandish your solid gold, diamond-studded genitalia at. These DS-dwellers offer a series of logical (and batshit illogical) conundrums, arithmetic and other wonderment. A daily test will determine your Brain Age, calculated by the speed at which you performed the array of tasks and your general performance. Your aspirational goal is to reduce this age over time, hence you are again smartifying in some manner or another.

The good (disembodied) doctor.

Indeed, Nintendo's handheld is oft-regarded as a bastion of brain-aerobics. This is also the home of the replete-with-taxing-puzzles Professor Layton series; such offerings render the device a favorite of grandmas whose brains are ponderously sagging into a jello-esque puddle as inevitably as their boobs are. The XL iteration of the DS was presumably fashioned with these old bastards in mind. (As was the advertising slogan: ‘The DS XL, far more exciting than a visit from your son. He and his family don't come to the home any more, do they? They might, if they didn't have to hose down your piss-soaked bedsheets each time.'A controversial PR maneuver, indeed, but an effective one.)

In summation, then, there is some meager benefit to our mental capacities from gaming. If you need their aid in retaining a PIN number/shopping list/wife's name in your skull for more than three-eighths of a nanosecond, they're capable. For actual knowledge-facts of a more conventional manner, we must look to the horrors of edutainment. That ghastly crock of shit from the depths of Satan's anus, though, we'll save for next time.

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