Video: Mind games

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/19/2005 7:35:13 PM ET 2005-05-19T23:35:13

If you're in the $10 billion-a-year video game business, L.A. is the place to be this week, at something called "E3," the Electronic Entertainment Expo. It's an enormous, raucous trade show, where the likes of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft show off their latest game boxes as they shoot it out for the hearts, minds and fingers of America's youth.

The noise from hundreds of video games going all at once is deafening. This collection of high-tech toys raises the perennial question: What are these games doing to our kids?

Some who've studied the subject say, surprisingly, video games, played in moderation, can actually help young people develop mental skills that will serve them well in adult life.

"It's not the button pushing that's important," says Mitch Wade, an information consultant for firms like Google and Rand Corp., who co-wrote a recent book called “Got Game.” "It's the problem-solving. And we saw that when we surveyed professionals who grew up playing video games. What's a surprise is that they're better at things you need in business — like team play and careful risk-taking." 

Wade says smart businesses are learning to take advantage of these skills, like multi-tasking.

Another surprise: It isn't just young males playing video games these days.

Twenty-two-year-old Tanya Jessen tests game software.

"I've been playing games since I was about 5 years old," she says.

So what's the downside to all of this?

"About one out of eight gamers, youthful gamers who play games, develop all of the patterns similar to an addiction," says Dr. David Walsh with the National Institute on Media and the Family.

The gamer generation is already bigger than the baby boomers, more than 90 million strong.  So one thing is clear: Their strengths and weaknesses will have a huge impact on society.

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