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Humans and technology

Video games: scourge or savior?

For the past four decades our writers have explored whether video games are a plague upon our youth or the key to the future of education and computing.
December 27, 2019
June 1983 cover

June 1983

From “Will Pac-Man Consume Our Nation’s Youth?”:

Some opponents of the video-game craze see the best minds of the next generation being destroyed by the computer. They point to evidence that devotees will resort to anything to feed their habit. This February, police in Tokyo nabbed a five_boy video gang that had stolen an estimated $39,000 in cash and jewelry to bankroll their habit. In South Florida, some residents have complained that the opening of video arcades seems to correlate with an upsurge of petty theft. Others, however, point out that at least young people are doing something basically harmless with their money. “It’s a good substitute for bad vices,” Don Fudge, head programmer at Avant_Garde Creations, asserted at a recent Applefest in San Francisco. Fudge speculated that the quarters teens pump into arcade games might otherwise be spent on drugs.

Dec 1993 Cover

December 1993

From “Video Games That Teach?”:

Experts on learning emphasize that the secret to education is to motivate the student give him or her a compelling reason to want to absorb the information. In a good game, players lust after high scores and, more fundamentally, staying “alive.” Adventure games also motivate the player by indulging the urge to explore: “If you succeed, you get to go somewhere new,” explains Michael Knox, president of Park Place Productions, which makes video game and computer software … So far, the marriage of education and video-game-like entertainment has produced some not-very-educational games and some not -very-entertaining learning activities … These technologies will result in a more satisfying crop of products only if the two cultures that dominate our children’s lives education and entertainment do a better job of figuring out what the other has to offer.

March 2002 Cover

March 2002

From “From Playstation to PC”:

The school bell rings, and teenagers flood the hallways. Many pull out Cybikos popular handheld devices that are a combination personal digital assistant, wireless messenger and game machine. This is the new face of video gaming mobile, networked, interactive. More to the point for society at large, its rapid adoption by a generation of young computer users may herald aspects of the future of computing in general from PCs, to personal digital assistants like the Palm, to cell phones. You may soon be able to take a virtual walk through your computer’s contents, interact with scores of people in real time and send artificially intelligent agents out to do your bidding; and if you do, you will owe a word of thanks to game devices like Cybikos. “The segment of software that has pushed hardware development most is games,” says game developer Bernard Yee.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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