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Three Moves Ahead Episode 151 – If on a winter’s night a gamer

January 12th, 2012 by Rob Zacny · 11 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Rob, Julian, and Hasbro’s Rob Daviau are marooned in rural Massachusetts. To avert cabin fever, they gather ’round the fireplace with a few microphones to talk about whether gaming gives them any carry-over skills for other activities, like cooking and work. Do games make us better at reasoning and problem analysis? Do they provide the same kind of perspective as an econ or stats course, for example? Julian is convinced he’s a better negotiator because of games. Are we talking about gamification as opposed to achievement-ization, and is it helpful to try and perceive an underlying system to everyday tasks?

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A Gamer in the Kitchen

Some guy’s articles about medicine and gaming: Steady Hands Save Lives and Gaming Isn’t Brain Surgery

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Quinten

    I am simply commenting because “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler” is one of my favorite novels, and would make a great name for a Traveler RPG campaign.

  • Bruce

    I think for every example of how someone thinks that games have helped him or her do something better, you can think of an example of how they may have made things worse. If you say that games help people analyze systems, that just makes them less likely to succeed when the system is not rational, or largely random.

    The whole idea of games making you better at things is overstated. I think you’re just as likely to get better at things by doing them. In other words, instead of playing games to help you make a system of going to the gym, maybe you should just go to the gym.

    I’d have more to say, but my copy of Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War just arrived.

    I really liked Rob’s cooking piece, though.

  • Rob Zacny

    Thanks Bruce, and I wish we could have had you there.

    I largely agree with you, except that I think gaming likely gives you some transferable skills that will come in handy when learning new ones. Will gaming make you a better surgeon or trader or writer? Not in a way that is significant compared with training and experience, but I think it’s probably helpful when you are just starting to acquire that training and experience.

    You’re better off going to school or going to work or going to the gym to make improvements to your skillset than you are by gaming, yeah, but throughout you life you will probably be new at something. That’s when I think gaming probably makes the biggest difference.

    Enjoy Crucible of War. I thought it was terrific, although Troy tells me its treatment of Wolfe was likely too harsh. Also love how it recasts the Stamp Act.

  • brooks

    look guys, you have completely lost perspective on this: the small circle of professionals that you interact with through this pod cast represents less than .001 percent of ‘average’ gamers. The regular panel and your guests’ IQ probably range between 1 to 2 standard deviations higher than Joe Gamer. It’s easy to talk yourself into believing that gaming makes you better at a multitude of tasks (learning new skills, giving you new perspectives/approaches to common situations or new challenges) but the reality is that your mind would be racing through new thoughts and approaches regardless. For perspective, think about your average gamer in the US, or North America, or any ‘advanced’ OECD country and think about trying to make a case for arguing that playing video games improves any aspect of their lives.

    Im a ‘gamer’ but I am the first to admit that there are very few redeeming qualities with this ‘hobby’

    Pointedly, it’s an escape…. a stress-reliever….possibly a mild form of meditation if the immersion is strong….but let’s not kid ourselves here…

    anyways, thanks for taking your time to share your thoughts every week and put out an entertaining show

  • Josh

    Just out of interest, Bruce, what inspired you to become a neurosurgeon?

    Was it for the ability to denounce everything as “Not exactly Brain Surgery”?

  • Jon Shafer

    I’d say that gaming definitely has real world value, although probably less so than in the distant past. After all, all play is really just a form of practice that prepares people for the types of challenges they’ll run into elsewhere or later in life. Sure, you could argue the utility of become mad l33t at Call of Duty, but having improved reflexes definitely isn’t a bad thing. Might help you avoid a car accident. Maybe.

    Granted, Bruce’s point about “proper” training being more “beneficial” isn’t really something you can argue. I’d argue that playing pretty much any game is a more “productive” use of time than sitting in front of a TV and watching a sitcom though. :)

    – Jon

  • Rob C

    I agree with Jon, specially about it being more productive then watching most primetime tv. My mom chastises me all the time for playing games (no I’m not in her basement). I’d ask her what she was doing, “oh watching CSI” (or even worse Big Brother). I would argue that at least I am using a few of my brain cells compared to just disappearing into a brainless void.

    Playing Panzer Commander isn’t going to make me a military strategist any more than playing operation is going to make me a surgeon, but it may help my noodle from turning into prime time goo. If playing computer games / simulations didn’t have any benefit, the military probably wouldn’t make use of them.

  • Darren

    I think playing games can be enormously beneficial. Case in point, here in Australia surf lifesaving has moved their theory proficiencies from ‘classroom’ style tests to online – interactive tests. These online tests have much more a ‘game’ feel but the information sinks in way way more than sitting through hours of questions and answers. Perhaps it is the combination of visual and verbal that does this. Of course, the hands-on side is still done traditionally and could never be replaced with online methods.

    When Bruce mentioned in his comments ‘Crucible of War’ I thought he was referring to the books by Barrie Pitt covering the Desert War 1940 to 1943. These books got me interested in history – which got me interested in war gaming – which lead to my current computer game addiction. :)

  • ShadowTiger

    I don’t think that gaming has a big impact on “skills” but definetly its a great way to gain knowledge.

    America’s Army might be an exception, but it was designed to train skills, unlike Call of Duty etc. Even then, I don’t know anything about it so who knows if it actually works well (goverment spenditure != results)

    I think historical games are wonderful, most of what I know about ancient civilizations like Babylon, Mesopotamia, Assyria etc all come from Age of Empires. Most of what I know about medieval castles came from an educational game that functioned like an interactive book.

    I think that tests and quizes are boring but if you can connect knowledge and potentially skill aquisition with a fun gameplay experience, you could motivate people to learn without threatening them with low grades, detention, or a future as a burger flipper. It also helps for people who are busy with work and have to split time between self-improvement and leisure/relaxation. The main problem with gameification as it exists now is that its not connected to knowledge or skill aquisition, and the gameplay elements are terrible games by themselves. Now if you managed to mix [insert favorite game here] with [insert chore you never want to do] then you would either become productive or learn to hate that game…

  • Procyon Lotor

    I think games *can* translate into an increase in useful skills, especially if they are designed to do so. I remember playing an “objections” computer game in law school, and it was really good at drilling you into being able to make the quick, snap objections that the courtroom requires.

    On the other hand, do the games we play for pleasure have any real world application? Other than the “use it or lose it” benefit of any mental challenge, I doubt it.

  • bred

    I don’t learn any skills from games. At all.
    Instead I think games offer a fun and relaxing way to practice skills I already have in a way that doesn’t feel like work.
    I do think I learn things from games though, especially history. I now know a lot more about the 1960 presidential campaign than I would have otherwise.