Angry Birds? Flappy Birds? Enough Birds! But Are They Building our Brains?

I asked him to bring his breakfast dishes in from the family room.  Then I asked him to put his clothes away from the dryer.  Finally I asked him to put down the damn computer game and finish his chores.

And my son said, "But I'm playing 'Flappy Birds.'"

Flappy Birds?  Then I read in The New York Times about how this addictive game -- which is nothing more than trying to keep a cartoon bird in the air -- is taking over America.  It's the new "Candy Crush." 


I'm lucky, I'm not one of those people who gets all caught up in these silly games.  I remember my sister-in-law (who is two months shy of 61) hyperventilating about "Angry Birds" (what's with all these birds?) and thinking, well, that's just menopause. But then I started seeing on Facebook all these other people who buy new sneakers and make fancy meals and go to parties where they wear eye patches on their faces and other normal (boring) things they post about, doing it, too. 

So when I saw Nick Bolton's column on how addictive games may build better brains, I knew I had to read it.  As Bolton laments, "So many of the games that we download on our smartphones are a waste of time, but we can’t seem to stop playing them."

"Using neuroimaging techniques, researchers are peering into gamers’ heads, hoping that the data they collect will help them make video games that change as you play, getting easier or harder, depending on your performance," Colton writes. "The idea is to keep people at the addiction point."

Huh?  Isn't that what all these fancy rehab places are for?

“By scanning the brain during game play, we are hoping to discover the areas of your brain that are weak, and then guide a more powerful experience to help improve how your brain works,”Dr. Adam Gazzaley, associate professor and director of the university’s Neuroscience Imaging Center, tells Colton.

Sounds good, but really?  

But it's even more than that.  “With these types of games — and with most addictive games — as we play them, we’re trying to fix something,” Colton quotes Ian Bogost, a video game designer, critic and professor of interactive computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. “We’re saying to ourselves: ‘If I can just get this bird past these pipes, I’ll fix it. I’ll save that little bird, and everything will be O.K. in the world.’ ”

As Colton says, if only life were that simple.
Can it fix an almost-13-year-old?  I'll play it.  But I guess for now, I'll just settle for cereal bowls in the dishwasher.  


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