Bad Is Good for You Steven Johnson Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1708 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Recreation

¶ … Bad is Good for You

Steven Johnson challenges conventional wisdom and decades of behavior and cognitive research in his groundbreaking and controversial "Everything Bad is Good for You." The book assaults the assault on pop-culture and its effects on American society. Johnson steps outside the box to present cogent and seemingly logical reasons to defend his conclusions that video games, reality television shows and other modern visual vices have tangible and important positive impacts on the individuals enjoying them. Much to the dismay of old school educators and pediatricians everywhere, Johnson firmly believes that playing video games has a multitude of positive effects on young minds. Even more distressing than that to some, is the fact that more and more people who study this theory are starting to feel the same way.

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The developmental superiority of books over video games has been nearly universally accepted since the video games became a relatively routine household item in the late 1970s. As Johnson concedes, there are certain skills obtained through reading that are critical for success in the world of academics and business. Some experts started predicting thirty years ago that books would have become antiquated and maybe even extinct by now, but in fact they are seemingly as popular as ever (Dator 2006, 460). Johnson's argument is not based in prejudice against books or reading. He merely believes that video games have been shortchanged as a learning tool.

Research Paper on Bad Is Good for You Steven Johnson Assignment

Johnson's argument rings true for a large variety of reasons. First and foremost, nearly all of life's activities can be significant learning experiences, in the sense that people become more familiar with certain actions, thoughts and feelings the more behaviors are repeated. This is really the essence of Johnson's argument and those that agree with him. Even the ubiquitous "most trusted pediatrician" Dr. Spock acknowledges that video games could contribute to eye hand coordination. Beyond this potential benefit, though, Dr. Spock discards most video games as an utter waste of time (Johnson 2005, 17).

Those that agree with Johnson are growing in number and stature however. A 2006 article by the U.S. News and World Report advised its readers to "bone up at Video U." Citing to Johnson's book and other clinical studies, the article reports a growing belief among academics and professionals that video games help people multi-task in real time and "improve attention to visual detail" (Terrell 2006). The article lists recovery from strokes and police and military training as possible practical benefits from playing video games. Further the article cites to a study at the Iowa State University in which doctors were tested in their speed and adroitness in placing a medical camera in a patient and maneuvering the camera with a joystick. The study found that those doctors who had played video games for at least three hours a week at any point previously made 37% less mistakes and worked 27% faster than their non-gaming counterparts.

The test by Iowa State suggests a very sensible explanation for the recent embrace of video games. As we move increasingly towards a digital age, digital skills are more highly coveted. No one feels that the person/people who design the video games are "wasting their time." This is because designing video games requires intricate application of a very high-level skill. It is the culmination of years of study and education in respected fields, such as computer design, software engineering etc.… Probably an advanced degree was obtained as a pre-requisite to employment. The skills of video gaming are the same as those of surgeons, police officers and military personnel, so why is the honing of those skills looked down on as wasteful or dreary. One answer is because rather than studying math formulas and scientific theory, gamers are playing football and racing cars. Another answer probably lies in the lack of moderation in which these games are played and the lack of fulfilling other obligations that tends to befall gamers.

But these answers do not speak to the relative benefits obtained by gaming. Instead these criticisms are leveled at the means and not the ends of video games. Also the aesthetics of gaming are traditionally not perceived as stimulating as those of reading. Further, readers are historically described as active participants in life, while gamers zone out in front of the television as life passes by (Johnson 2006, 18). Frankly, this is a somewhat accurate and justified criticism of video games. However, this criticism clearly reflects a failure on the part of parents (for gamers in middle school and below) and the student (for gamers in high school and beyond) in moderating behavior and enforcing guidelines and limitations. The failure is not on the part of the video games, but rather the way in which the user uses the games. By contrast, there is not a single respected scholar who opines that alcohol is good for children. This clearly is a "failure" on the part of alcohol, i.e., its use has not material benefits and leads to poor habits and judgment. While video games may induce the users to form bad habits and use bad judgment in making decisions, the games themselves are proving to have material benefits.

Jim Dator at the University of Hawaii recently wrote an article in an academic journal targeted for reference librarians in which he describes the video game craze as the second of four possible movements in the future evolution of reading and libraries. While the article is a bit tongue in cheek in many places, he earnestly comments on the virtue of Johnson's theory, calling "Everything Bad is Good for You" a must read that captures the essence of the modern students disdain for reading and being taught, when interactive learning experiences through interactive video games have proven to be so effective (Dator 2006, 464).

Dator also cites an excerpt from Johnson's book in which Johnson speculates how books would be perceived if video games were over a thousand years old and books were only en vogue among kids over the past 30 years (Dator 2006, 465). Johnson theorizes that books would be universally condemned because they foster isolation by children, are one-dimensional in their stimulation, stigmatize dyslexic readers as inferior and most alarmingly, they foster passive learning experiences among children as opposed to proactive and interactive learning where the children develops reactive abilities and leadership skills (Johnson 2005, 19-20).

Again, both Johnson and Dator are attempting to soften the several walls of protest that have been placed around video games as a form of cognitive and behavioral development. In this instance, the video game supporters are suggesting that much of the criticism is nothing more than the standard "It's not what I know so it must be worse" argument that seems to strike everybody on one issue or another. Whether the object is music, athletes or neighborhoods, people tend to consistently favor cultural practices and items tied to the generation they most identify with. Practices that preceded their generation are typically accepted as necessary but antiquated steps in the culmination of the perfected practice. Practices that post-date a person's generation tend to be discarded as 'new-fangled,' 'dumbed-down' or 'over-the-top.' Johnson and Dator are attacking this mentality of contempt prior to investigation, which they recognize serves as a bar against all information and will keep a man in everlasting ignorance." (Spencer, n.d.)

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan has studied the effects of web-based games on teaching literacy skills and concepts (Markey 2008). This study builds on the previous findings that games help students develop not only critical cognitive and digital-related behavioral skills by demonstrating that video games can also teach students in the ways of traditional library research skills. The study also attempts to illustrate that the potential benefits of video games on teaching and learning are just now being researched (Markey et. al. 2008, 673).

This study indirectly supports two other arguments which aid the 'video games are good for you' debate. The first is that many video games require a fair amount of reading to be done, either by way of the game's instructions or through playing the game itself. Another is that the researchers concluded that students will seek information directly from books, when they are convinced that is the easiest or the only way to obtain the information (Markey et. al. 2008, 679). The study concludes that additional testing is needed, but the indications support the finding that the game did increase information literacy concepts among the games players.

Steve Johnson's "Everything Bad is Good for You" challenges educators and behavioral experts to re-define how video games are perceived by their fields. The book's purpose is not to condone a lack of outdoor physical activity or to encourage children to boycott reading, but rather to shed light on the multitude of benefits that gaming does have on cognitive and motor skill development. Johnson's position is not only gaining more widespread support among the scholar community, his… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Bad Is Good for You Steven Johnson" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Bad Is Good for You Steven Johnson.  (2010, July 19).  Retrieved February 26, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Bad Is Good for You Steven Johnson."  19 July 2010.  Web.  26 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Bad Is Good for You Steven Johnson."  July 19, 2010.  Accessed February 26, 2020.