Everything Bad Is Good for You (Essay)

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The Innovation of Educational Tools
Playing video games and watching TV shows are beneficial types of popular culture. Conventional wisdom would argue that new media is a bad influence and that the only way to be intelligent is by reading. In the book Everything Bad is Good For You, author Steven Johnson, argues that even though our popular culture seems to get dumber, it is actually getting smarter. Johnson proves his arguments by comparing and explaining the benefits of the complexity of modern video games, television shows, and movies that require active participation and critical thinking in order for players and viewers to understand what is going on. Modern popular culture requires a lot of mental work, active engagement and problem solving. Rather than being the mindless, mind-numbing time-wasters as conventional wisdom believe, these activities strengthen problem-solving, reasoning abilities and skills that can help people in their daily lives and professions. In addition, Johnson explains that the reason why popular culture is becoming harder is because our brain likes to be challenged and the entertainment industry makes a profit by creating complicated video games, TV shows and new technology because that is what people want. As a result, new media should be approached as a new tool that helps society to become more analytically prepared for real life situations.

According to Johnson, popular culture improves the way young people think. Video games for example require that players improve their skills and master certain levels before moving to the next one. Popular culture critics judge video games by its content, not by the way it is played, which challenge the players to solve problems. Although the old fashioned entertainment of reading has a lot of rewards, so do video games. For example, Johnson at one point points out that, “the culture is getting more intellectually demanding, not less” (9). Our culture is getting more complex; therefore, we are getting smarter in mastering it and video games are part of that reason. Johnson says that people get smart because video games are not just about eye and hand coordination; video games require thinking: “when you put the game down and move back to the real world, you may find yourself mentally working through the problem you’ve been wrestling with, as though you were worrying a loose tooth” (25 - 26). Games are clearly not just shooting something down; it requires strategies, it is challenging, it is frustrating and not always fun. Gaming improves the way people think because even after playing the game, players continue formulating ideas in their brain on how to overcome challenges they face in video games. As a result, video games are not “dumbing people down;” it makes players “think outside the box” in order to understand its complexity and overcome obstacles. Video games are popular, not because of their flashy graphics, but because of the way it inspires players to think and seek out rewards and explore environments. Johnson describes how video game players have to work mentally while playing in order to progress in a game: “…the mental labor of managing all these simultaneous objectives [is] ‘telescoping’… this skill lies in focusing on immediate problems while still maintaining a long-distance view. You can’t progress far in a game if you simply deal with the puzzles you stumble across; you have to coordinate them with the ultimate objectives on the horizon” (54). In order for a player to beat the game, the player must organize short and long term objectives psychologically while playing the game. It shows that playing video games requires critical thinking to prioritize objectives and be successful. Conventional wisdom believe that playing video games does not require thinking. However, playing video games clearly requires a more complex type of thinking than reading books because the player has to act in the moment, while planning his/her next move....
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