Sherry Turkle: Video games and computer holding power

posted Apr 9, 2012, 11:22 PM by Nick Bader
I really like this article.  "Computer holding power" refers to the hold computers have on us.  This goes back to our early discussions, and a favorite topic of mine: are we blessed with new access to amazing new resources, or are we compelled to interact with our devices even when it is counterproductive?  (Probably both.)  This article is from the mid-eighties but the issues are the same.  The surly teenager playing Asteroids in the cafe has a modern analog: the part human, part smartphone hybrid.

One fascinating thread in this piece is about video games as an orderly corner of your disorderly existence.  Jarish the 12 year old, upon completing a game, must "...walk out of the arcade and it's a different world.  Nothing that you can control."  Jarish has put his finger on exactly what I like about video games.  While real life is ambiguous, in some video games it is possible to play them "exactly right."  The more hectic and confusing my real life is, the more I want to play a game.

Turkle dispels early on that the addiction is mindless.  She compared Pac-Man and chess, which is absurd on the face of it, but at the same time I buy it.  The question isn't really about mindlessness, it is about control of your mind.  For the example of Marty, who replaced a practice of transcendental meditation with playing Asteroids, I have this to say:
1. Really??
2. I recommend the Civilization series.  (I had Civ II as a graduate student and eventually was forced to delete it for fear of it taking over my life.)