Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Step up, Real World

So, I just finished reading Everything Bad is Good For You, by Steven Johnson. The thesis of the book is that today's popular culture, which is generally considered to be mind-numbing, and making the average person dumber, is actually, on the whole, making us smarter. It has stuff like diagrams of the relationships between people on shows like Dallas compared to shows like 24, with complexity increasing incredibly with time. It looks at all facets of popular culture, from TV to movies to literacy, but particularly (to my interest) video games.

The book (which was a good short read that I recommend) points out that the brain always seeks to consume more complicated information. The brain is constantly trying to challenge itself - so it seeks situations in which it is challenged most. This is surprising, I find, considering that when the "brain is a muscle" analogy is used, it should be working as little as possible, considering that is what muscles do.

Anyway, the book visited the standard image of pop culture hatred: the 10-year-old white male sitting in front of his video game console for hours on end, eyes glazed over, ignoring the yells and shouts of those around him to "do something productive" - ignoring the real world. Well, maybe, just maybe, the video game world IS more exciting than the real world.

Think about it.

In the video game world (at least a well designed one) goals are clear. You have shiny numbers and a happy sound pop up when you've done something good. A loud honk occurs when you do something wrong, so you try again until you get the shiny numbers. People you meet give you clear goals (my kitten is stuck in a tree! Help!) NPCs that don't like you SAY so, and usually offer a way that you can appease them.

Is there anything wrong with this world? No. Except that spending too much time working on it, and not your real life can, ya know, make your real life suck.

So, Step up, Real World. You can do better. Maybe don't give me clear life goals (mine look something like:

Graduate University
- Pay Tuition for this year
- - Get Scholarship to pay Tuition
- - - Hand in Scholarship Application
- - - - Give Johsa Scholarship Application to edit.

But, at least let me know how I'm doing. Have people come up to me and say "You're looking nice today!" or run in fear if I am disheveled. (Fable, anyone?) Pat me on the back if I've just made you happy. Let me know if I piss you off - don't be passive agressive (you'll probably be ignored).

If you're reading this (does anyone?) make an effort to be honest with the people around you. Let them know how they're doing. Give them points. Congratulate them on their effort. This goes for anyone of all ages. The Real World can definitely afford to step up.

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