Mostly not. It can improve reaction time, and foster cooperation and competition. But there is a Dark Side. Players who become addicted lose track of friends in the real world, and enter a kind of Virtual Reality of combat, where everyone who doesn’t look like “us” (whoever the “us” is) are seen as an enemy worthy of dying. Kinda like the ISIS view of US. Or North Korea. A few younger kids who are bullied at school may take their parent’s weapons to exact revenge. The NRA would rather have automatic weapons in wide circulation, with kids being killed by police, as the kids kill others, than to upset the 2nd Amendment…which never imagined such weapons in hands of kids. In some video games you can kill kids and cops with flame throwers, chop up women you don’t like—alive—and then piss on your victims. All “just a game,” they say. No effect whatever? Science not conclusive? Ask Lt. Col Dave Grossman, an FBI and CIA trainer, about that. He wrote for Psychology Today. What about the kids who kept notes taken from violent first-person shooters, and posted messages with direct quotes from games before they went to shoot up a school? Why do we need to have machine pistols for sale at Cabelas? What are you going to hunt with a machine pistol—snipe? Forget about guns, what about the deadening of young player reaction to violence, of older players not wanting to get “involved”…of concentrating on selfies posted to Instagram of fitness “goals?” Half of American culture is a big middle finger raised to anyone trying to “stop them,” whatever that means. Who is trying to stop you, and from what? From climbing a bell tower with a sniper rifle? Currently, few would succeed in stopping you doing that. The police rely on tips, since it’s hard to track lone wolf shooters. What if a shooter or bomber is “off the grid?” What if they are using gaming consoles to communicate, as they did in the Paris attacks? What if they know more about social media than your average bear? …What if they believe in fate and luck, not science…or their own brand of whacked-out religion (sports is also a religion, with concussions affecting the brain, and obsessive attention to “winning,” whatever that means.) All things in moderation, is one quote that comes to mind. Another is from the book “The Beginning of Infinity,” the best science audiobook I’ve ever heard, by a quantum computer pioneer who debunks bad science so well that the NY Times called it a masterpiece. “Differences in degree constitute differences in kind.” That’s one of the laws of logic. Being obsessed, as many are, and addicted to screens instead of the natural world and real friends, is a problem also mentioned by Nicholas Carr in “Utopia is Creepy.” Technology is only great if it remembers that we are still human, while in the meantime the abusers of technology (The Four) are trying to turn us into robots before our time.
One of my novels, “Fame Island,” was narrated by a Star Wars gaming (and movie) actor. He has appeared in many TV series, from The Rockford Files to Law & Order, and the second edition of The Twilight Zone. He is heard as HK-47 on in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Currently he directs Hallmark movies. Met him in L.A., at the Audie Awards.
Unlike the Flat Earthers, who believe the number one threat to society is NASA lying to people, I believe the real threat is giant corporations who have created our fake news culture as a diversion while they spy on us. Latest case in point is the book THE AISLES HAVE EYES. Author Joseph Turow is a professor at the Annenberg School of Communication, and his subtitle is “How Retailers Track Your Shopping, Strip Your Privacy, and Define Your Power.” Your “power” is becoming illusory. Listen to the audiobook HIT MAKERS by Derek Thompson, subtitled “The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction,” (due out Feb. 7.) We are being distracted while our personal data is being mined and sold to third parties under our noses, often within seconds of downloading a “free” app or turning on a “smart” phone. Who is smart? Not the consumer, for sure. Those posting fake news to distract us (or viral cat videos: same thing) are being used by politicians and corporations to manipulate our thoughts and actions. (And how we vote.) If there’s a conspiracy out there, it’s from people like Alex Jones of InfoWars talking about things that don’t matter. Or ESPN. Dan Patrick has a popular radio show that is also on cable TV, with toys for good old big boys surrounding him. Nothing wrong with that, you say? Well, for anyone watching him, or Alex, or the Flat Earthers, or a thousand TV shows, when is there time to read books? Most don’t, anymore. That’s the point made in Hit Makers. Hits are those things that get the most clicks. How do they do this? By advance publicity from influencers and celebs, by market saturation, by slight of hand and tailored ads. Like football, it is a sport with the biggest prize of all: eyeballs. If they can keep your attention focused on what they want, they can control you. It’s as simple (and complex) as that. What chance does quality content have, in this environment? The same odds as a plow horse running in the Kentucky Derby. It may be a smart horse, but that doesn’t matter at all, in direct rebuttal of the saying, “If you’re smart why ain’t you rich?” Likewise, the best things can get ignored. This extends from songs to products. As Bill Gates told Steve Jobs in the film The Pirates of Silicon Valley, “You have the best stuff, but it doesn’t matter.” (At that point Gates had control of the market with an inferior product: Windows was a ripoff, one operating system stacked on top of another, and prone to bugs and viruses. MacOS is still superior, but not as ubiquitous. Jobs ripped off Xerox and improved on it, eventually going viral with iMac, iPod, and iPhone.) The moral of the story? Buyer beware. You’re basically on your own, especially if you don’t read books. Because the major media won’t tell you this. They are in on the gravy train. Watch NBC or CBS or ABC evening news programs, and what happens every time? They start off with a relatively long report on soundbites and viral videos, then move to shorter and shorter items, the drug commercials building momentum until by the end they are saying, “When we come back” within ten seconds of coming back! Then you see another series of Big Pharma ads for diseases we wouldn’t have if we weren’t on our devices or watching the NFL so much while munching on advertised junk food.
Self driving cars? How about a self driving drone helicopter? This is a nightmare drone, too. Imagine another drone hits one of the propellers…you could drop like a stone. No time to get out and deploy a chute. Unless they plan an escape hatch below. Then you have to watch for the spinning out-of-control blades. This is definitely a vehicle for extroverts and action junkies. Or Darwin Award winners.
Speaking of Darwin Awards, heavy soda drinkers qualify too. Bang or whimper?