Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, March 2, 2006

Games are good for you[r child]

by A concerned gamer

Dear Parents and Guardians,
When your child snags some downtime from schoolwork and plays a video game, he's probably leading an assault with an army of hundreds, collecting resources and supplying his army, spying on the opponent, making important decisions that affect the course of the battle. He is doing all this while you are incessantly nagging him.

The experience varies with different games and genres, but the basic context is the same. Games require players to do a lot of multitasking: gathering information, processing it, making decision and then carrying it out. All this has to be done quickly: as the opponent (be it the computer or another player) is trying to do the same. This is what that keeps gamers so absorbed.

So the next time you start on why your son isn't spending his time on something more productive and practical, consider this: not only gaming increases his brain's ability in activities that require multitasking and rapid search-and-response, it also increases his visual skills, reflexes, hand-eye coordination and short-term memory. Add another to the list: new Canadian research suggest that it also keeps his brain from aging.

Of course, these benefits aren't what keep the gamers interested. Gamers love gaming simply because it's one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences around.

The research from the Canadian York University suggests that playing video games provides benefits similar to bilingualism (speaking two languages) in exercising the mind. Just as people fluent in two languages learn to suppress one language while speaking the other, so too are gamers adept at shutting out distractions to swiftly switch attention between different tasks.

A new study, which tested subjects' responses to various misleading visual cues, of 100 university undergraduates in Toronto has found that video gamers consistently outperform their non-playing peers in a series of tricky mental tests. If they also happened to be bilingual, they were unbeatable.

Video gamers, like bilinguals, have a practiced ability to block out information that is irrelevant to the task at hand. When asked to describe the colour of the word "blue," for example, when it is written in green ink, non-players were far more likely to choose the dominant impulse and say "blue," though the colour is green. "The people who were video game players were better and faster performers," said psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a research professor at York University. "Those who were bilingual and video game addicts scored best -- particularly at the most difficult tasks."

Three other studies published in the past two years have also concluded that action video games can lead to mental gains involving visual skills and short-term memory.

These benefits count. Mr. Evans, a 21-year-old aerospace engineering student, said years of gaming have added valuable dimensions to his thinking. "I grew up with video games, starting with Nintendo and SuperMario… from the age of 8 or 9," he said. "I know it helps with my dexterity; it's good for co-ordination and faster reflexes."

Brain-imaging research shows that the physical inability to silence mental noise is the key in making the elderly prone to distraction and poor multitaskers. That study shows the elderly lose the ability to power up brain regions, such as the frontal lobe, needed to focus on a task, and to turn down activity in inner brain regions that are most active when a person is in idle or default mode. The brain images of people between ages 20 and 30 displayed a far more dramatic see-saw effect activating and de-activating regions as they shifted out of idle to task.

Bilingualism protects from this cognitive decline. So does gaming.

It'd be reasonable to expect today's teenagers to be good multitaskers: they grow up in a world that demands it. This, however, won't help today's gamers to impress their grandchildren when they are in their 70's. Their grandchildren will probably say, 'Hey, he can only play three games at the same time and I play seven.' The impairment is pretty relative.

Of course, all this shouldn't be used as an excuse to justify a mammoth gaming session: too much of anything has negative consequences. But it's nice to see new research finally starting to bring out the good in games.

So the next time your child is gaming, parents and guardians, please remember that gaming is not nearly as bad as you think it is and it does have some pretty nice benefits.

Thank you.
A concerned gamer.

Weird Weddings

By, Tareq Adnan

“ Are we there yet?” I ask.
“ No, “ A cousin replies.
Being stuck in a car with relatives (i.e. older cousins) on your merry way to a wedding can be irksome and the word irksome doesn't even come close to describing that feeling. Specially when you're in a car with people who are supposed to be your relatives (and I have personally never figured out how some people are supposed to be my relatives, being a little dull minded, understanding the complex relation system is too much for me), and the bumpy road and bouncing car are doing all they can to terminally fracture your butt.

“ You know there is disease called diabetes.” I say dejectedly as some more misti is stuffed into my already full mouth.

“ Would you shut up?” A cousin replies.
I've never really understood the whole business of spreading sweets (and consequently causing a lot of cavity in your teeth). Every wedding I've ever visited, I've come back from it with my hatred for sweets substantially increased. It's not like every person attending the oh-so-excitable event has a sweet tooth.

“ Ack… to much perfume… olfactory senses withering… must get out,”
“ Shut up!”

Weddings and such are inadvertently, very effective death traps. Anyone with asthma will literally wither away due to an overload of smelling too much perfume. It's like people can 't get enough of the deodorants or maybe they just like to keep on pressing down on the canister until the volatile liquid inside is drained. I can understand that perfumes and such are necessary for proper hygiene, but there should be a limit to how much a guy puts on himself, I mean he should be able to get near a person with giving him an asthma attack.

“ Hey! See that cute girl over there?”
“ She's your cousin,
“ What!?”

The only time you realize how big your family is when you attend a wedding. There are people around you've never seen in your life and then your mom tells you that they are family. This thing has really irked me a lot. You go through the whole torture some process of attending a wedding; finally find this girl who might just be impressed with you to have your mom tell you that she's family and your chances of ever impressing her fall below zero.

“ Go take some pictures,”
(A few minutes later)

“ You've blurred all of them! And you can't see the Kazi in this one! I thought told you to take a picture of the bridegroom signing the paper!”

I just hate taking pictures. Don' they get it? I am not a photographer, stuffing a camera into my hands won't help. Then there is the whole process of plastering a smile on your face, because obviously those oh-so-memorable moments just have to be captured on film (excuse the phrase, I know a digital camera uses no film).

“ What I'm a supposed to do with this squished mustard?”
“ You're supposed to smear it on the bride and groom.”

I believe the most enjoyable thing about weddings takes place prior to it, at the gaye holud. The extremely happy (yeah right) couple is just sitting there, just waiting to be smeared with yellow goop; this sight does more to make you smile than the actual wedding and I've always enjoyed drawing beards and moustaches on pictures in the newspaper, doing it on a real person was even better.

“ All this food for eating?”
“ Yep,”
“ In that case, got any latch-on stomachs cause there is no way anyone could stomach all this food!”

“ Can't you ever shut up?” (The guy who said it got it right. Nothing helps a bad mood other than spreading it around.)

I've never really understood this; do the guys who serve the food think that the attendees of the wedding are nothing but gluttons? I mean the amount of food served to just one man is enough to feed three. Then the there is the whole exquisite cuisine thing. The items that are served are in no way traditional. Soup and wantons have replaced the polaos and kurmas.

“ The groom's probably thinking, ' I am so screwed', now that he's signed the paper and the brides probably thinking, 'There goes my job,”



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