VIDEO GAMES: THE GOOD, THE RAD AND THE UGLY (LEGISLATION)

It’s unBAD FOR YOU day, as we present the latest positive news on computer gaming. We begin with “Eye Soccer,” which looks like it could become a tool for understanding the optical impairments of schizophrenics. Scientists at the University of BC discovered that schizophrenics had a tough time tracking the little digital soccer ball on screen, as well as anticipating its future movements. This “broken connection” between what schizophrenics see and how visual information is processed may lead to new theraputic approaches in the future. Dr. Miriam Spering, who led the research team, sees “a lot of potential,” in the new study’s results: “I think we are some years away from actually making this a standard therapy, but it could become a tool.” All from a simple video game about soccer.

Ain’t that a kick in the pants!

Next up is a video game that helped scientists find brain cells (instead of destroying them, as some parents believe). Professor Michael Kahana and a team of researchers from UCLA and Thomas Jefferson University, have found a group of brand new brain cells which “helps humans navigate in unfamiliar territory.” The discovery was made thanks, in part, to a bike riding computer game. Epilepsy patients, with electrodes already implanted in their noggins, provided researchers with the ability to map what was happening, brain-wise, as the patients did a little virtual bicycling. By focusing on the connection between navigating the video space and the parts of their brains that were activated, researchers surmised that without these newly identified “grid cells, it is likely that humans would frequently get lost or have to navigate based only on landmarks.”

Now that scientists have discovered these “grid cells,” let’s hope they don’t lose track of them.

Speaking of tracks, after taking the top trophy at the Nationwide Series race track in Watkins Glen, Brad Keselowski asserts that it was video games which helped him master the course. “I remember I spent a whole summer when I was kind of locked in my parent’s shop,” Keselowski recalled of his childhood. “And I remember…sitting on the computer in the office area running Watkins Glen as a video game.”

Wow — can you beat that?!

Well, if you can’t (beat ’em, that is) then join ’em. At least, that’s the attitude the usually book-centric libraries of America has adopted — like in Baltimore County’s Sollers Point, where every Wednesday they let kids compete on an array of computer games, with a weekly Xbox afterschool program for teens. And Sollers Point library is but one of many using video games to lure in teens: “According to a study published in Library Journal last year, about 15 percent of libraries in the U.S. currently lend games to cardholders to take home. But other research shows that gaming in the library is far more prevalent — and teenagers game the most.” Part of the libraries’ reasoning for embracing Xbox is that teens may also bump into a real book or two, inbetween battling it out in a virtual world. There’s real evidence to back that up, too. According to Sandy Farmer, manager of Central Youth Services for the Houston Public Library, they’ve seen an increase of 15- to 20-percent in the number of books being checked out as a result of the Nintendo Wiis, DSs, Xboxes, iPads and PlayStations the library also offers.

Looks like video games not only help race car drivers, schizophrenics, and brain-cell researchers, it also helps with general circulation!

Too BAD (you just knew we’d have to use that word again) that New Jersey thinks video games are so potentially dangerous that they deserve a special pamphlet to WARN students about them. In June, the NJ Legislature passed a proposal requiring that the Department of Education must give out to incoming students “research and statistics on how violent behavior increases after exposure to violent [media]” and “scientific findings that show children who play violent games are more likely to be involved in physical altercations.” The only problem is the data on the negative influence of violent video games is highly debatable.

If you want to find out more about that, you can pick up a copy of BAD FOR YOU this November.

Link to the Jersey bill here.

 

SUSPENSION SUSPENDED

Remember the story from the BAD FOR YOU post on June 6th? A kindergartner brought his cowboy cap gun to class and after two-hours of interrogation, he walked out of the principal’s office with a 10-day suspension (for “possession of a look-alike gun”) and peed-in pants (because he was scared).

Well, he can stop shaking: the county school chief reversed “in its entirety” the boy’s suspension after “carefully considering both the needs of the student and those of the school system.” The boy’s attorney also called for the kindergartner’s criminal record to be “wiped clean.” He argued that the boy was clueless when the conduct code was presented because he did not know how to read and could not “grasp the gravity of the rules.”

The codes were handed out to students the first week of school in the form of coloring books.