I’ve heard some uncouth people, naysayers and sour grapes most of them, voice the extreme, malicious opinion that video games are junk food for the mind.
And what about the recent video games qCraft (by Caltech) and QuantumCats (by University of Waterloo in Canada) which promise to teach quantum mechanics to children? To the naysayers, those video games are poison too, quantum junk food, a way of wasting, piddling away the precious, jam-packed, fleeting years of youth.
It occurred to me that such opinions could be put to the test scientifically. So I was very happy when, while poring over the Lancet, a journal which I read faithful every Sunday, I came across the following article about a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic on this very subject.
Clinical Study of the Effects on Children of Playing Video Games qCraft and QuantumCats
by Mayo Clinic, Oct 1, 2015
We conducted a 1 year study on a group of 20 school children, ages 10 to 18, who showed an early interest in math and science.
10 of the children were our control group A, and 10 were our video gamers group X.
The children from group A were given classroom courses by really good high school teachers in Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Biology, Physics, Chemistry. They were encouraged to consult Kahn Academy, Wikipedia articles, take MOOC courses and read books on science and math. Those yearning for hands on experience were encouraged to join a Ham radio club or local Hackers club and build their own electrical devices or else join an open source programmer’s group and start writing computer code at an early age.
Group A children were also encouraged to do some physical activity by going to a court or gym and practicing a sport, and joining a youth sport team if possible. Bicycling, swimming, jogging, dancing, etc. were all encouraged
The children in Group X were told that before taking a math or science course, it would be better if they first learned the basics of Science by playing some video games. By practicing how to build a quantum computer out of imaginary Lego blocks or throwing quantum cats with a catapult, they could learn the basics of quantum mechanics first, and then, if after a year or two of that they showed any promise, they would be permitted to take courses in science and math, and consult Kahn Academy, Wikipedia and all those other old-fashioned, boring resources.
If the children from Group X wanted to do some physical activity by playing a particular sport, they were told that it would be better if they first learned the basics by playing a video game about that sport. If after a year or two of that they showed any promise, they would be taken to a court or gym to learn the physical part of the sport.
We found that 95% of the children from group A went to good colleges. 5% never made it to college because they had already started their own high-tech businesses in high school and saw no need to go to college.
We found that 95% of the children from Group X never went to college, because they were recruited by the Army right out of high school as drone plane operators. 5% did make it to college, mostly MIT, where they eventually became professors.
The figure above shows a typical child from Group X, after 0,1,2,3,4 months into the clinical study. His cranial capacity diminished by 15cc after 4 months but we were told by Caltech and Waterloo that if we had run the study for a longer period of time, we would have seen that cranial capacity reaches a minimum after 4 months and then begins to increase. They also pointed out that our study was flawed in methodology and too low in number of children to be statistically significant.