Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Video Games and War

Oh, BloggingheadsTV, what did we do without you? Other than, you know, not listening in on webcam conversations between stuffy academics and self-important policy wonks.

Here's a conversation between Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom and "philosopher of the mind" Tamar Szabo Gendler on the neuropsychology of video games, and the eternal question of whether video games are corrupting our morals: (note: a few times in the video they mention "alief", which is Gendler's term for conditioned responses, those things you know about the world without being conscious of believing them)

Gendler argues that in most cases, the physical actions portrayed in video games are so alien to the physical experience of playing the game itself that it's hard to see how they could effectively familiarize someone with the actual experience of firing a gun or throwing a punch. Bloom, a video game enthusiast playing devil's advocate, points out scenarios where the experience of playing a video game is very much like the real thing, such as firing a missile in a flight simulator game. Gendler takes the conversation in a completely different direction, so we don't get to hear them hash through what strikes me as a very valid point in this conversation: modern war is increasingly conducted by remote control. The control systems for a Reaper UAV or armed Talon robot look just like video games. They are video games, only with real people dying on the other end, and our video-game-raised youth are very, very good at them. I don't really have a conclusion. I just wish I could have heard their conversation on it. Thoughts?

1 comment:

Shane said...

You're absolutely right.

The vehicle I rode in for the last month has a .50 cal machine gun controlled by joystick. To fire it, the operator watches on the screen where the grainy infrared monitor completely dehumanizes any potential target. No faces, just silhouettes.

Not saying that's not an awesome device for the U.S. Army to own, but it definitely blunts any argument that videogames are too different from actual violence.