The fear that the human brain cannot cope with the onslaught of information made possible by the latest development was first voiced in response to the printing press, back in the sixteenth century. Swap “printing press” for “internet” and you have the exact same concerns today, regularly voiced in the mainstream media, and usually focused on children.But is there any legitimacy to these claims? Or are they just needless scaremongering?
The journey from playing to designing and making games can be a short one, and brings rich educational rewards for children
Despite their ubiquity, despite the vast sales and the increasing calls for the medium to be recognised as an artform, video games – that most obviously visual of media – still have an image problem. And it is more than superficial, it goes to the heart of the home, where concerned parents worry about the deleterious effect on their sons and daughters. However, while the evils of gaming rhetoric may make the most noise, parents who have fears may be intrigued to know that it is not the only story in town.
Children themselves are now refuting the stereotype that gaming is a mindless, pointless hobby, as the flexibility of the medium allows them to grow from player to creator. And the game-makers agree: “Games as a medium always involve creativity on the player’s part,” says Benjamin Donoghue, creative director at Blackstaff Games. “Creativity is about exploring what you can do within a defined set of rules.” Blackstaff is currently working on DogBiscuit: The Quest for Crayons, a drawing game for mobile devices in which the player designs parts of the game world.
Hyperactivity disorders are now the second most diagnosed childhood conditions in the US behind asthma, with 20% of college students sufffering
The internet might make you feel hyperactive, but do you really have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?
Michael Pietrus PsyD, coordinator of the ADHD assessment protocol at the University of Chicago, explains how the internet encourages behaviour that at least mimics ADHD, and can exacerbate the condition in people who have it already.
Pietrus looks after many students at the college who feel the effects of academic and social pressure. In the US, 11% of children between four and 17 now have a diagnosis of ADHD and the rates have been going up by 5% every year from 2003 to 2011. It’s now the most commonly diagnosed condition for children in the US after asthma. Twenty per cent of the US college population now have ADHD, which appears as hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity, and are at higher risk of substance abuse and self medication, depression and a host of other consequent conditions.
“People with ADHD are hardwired for novelty seeking, which until recently was an evolutionary advantage,” said Pietrus, speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. ADHD sufferers have fewer dopamine receptors, which means that a normally interesting activity seems less rewarding or even boring.
No one can explain the increase in ADHD in the US, Pietrus said. “People engage in compulsion for all sorts of reasons and often because of the way their personality extends into the online space. But compulsive behaviour is reinforced and rewarded, and that has an impact on the ability to plan and organise as well as focus on tasks and self regulate our behaviour.”