Although I've known this all along, recent research indicates that playing videogames makes you smarter. The reason that I know this is that I play videogames for a living. So I'm smart. Which is why I know this. If this makes no sense to you than you haven't played enough videogames.

There's an old saying, "Use it or lose it," which can be applied to the physical and mental condition. If you don't use specific muscles they won't develop. If you don't exercise, your brain, too, will atrophy. You may wonder why you had to learn stuff in school that seemingly had no use in daily life. The point is that you have to expand your mind, and seemingly inane equations and historical references all conspire to make you smarter whether you like it or not. Synapses are formed and thought pattern connections are continually made throughout your lifetime as long as you have some information stored inside that grey matter to attach things to.

I heard the former editor of the online magazine Feed, Steven Johnson, expounding this philosophy on a local radio station while promoting his book Everything Bad is Good For You. Johnson states that videogames are much more complex than they were 25 years ago when "eye-hand coordination" was the buzz phrase used to describe the only benefits that could be derived from playing them. Games have come a long way since Space Invaders. There are puzzles to solve, strategies to implement and situations in which we take control over our own virtual life.

Johnson says that because some games can last up to 40 hours, instant gratification isn't as prominent as detractors think. Videogames require commitment, concentration and intelligence. It's not just about motor coordination and pattern recognition. A walk-through for Grand Theft Auto III contains fifty-three thousands words which is almost as many as Johnson's new book. That's a lot of information no matter how you slice it.

Playing a videogame, in Johnson's own words, is like "Constructing the proper hierarchy of tasks and moving through the tasks in the correct sequence. It's about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order."

He even goes so far as to suggest that videogames are much more stimulating and nourishing than books. Games stimulate more senses than books. You are immersed in a 3D environment in which you use sight, touch and sound. I guess that's why the military uses simulators to teach recruits how to operate a tank, sub or plane instead of just giving them a manual.
Games also promote social interaction with multi-player modes. Book reading is purely a solitary pursuit. Of course these are two different mediums but it's Johnson's mandate to educate those that would dismiss videogames and miss their potential as incredible learning tools.

In the last 25 years, the average I.Q. score has increased. We are a smarter society because we have so much going on that challenges us. Even the TV programming has gotten more sophisticated, but then there is American Idol and the Real Gilligans' Island - so at least there's something to keep the un-evolved happy while the rest of us prepare for our induction into MENSA., thanks to the likes of San Andreas and Super Mario.

By Cole