posted by Joe Anaya on May 14th, 2012

While visiting my sister one Saturday, my 15-year old nephew got on the phone and started calling his friends. “Can you play?” “Yeah, what about in an hour?” He’d call his next friend with a similar patter. “No, he can’t play until 2:30. Okay, cool.” I waxed nostalgic for the days of calling around to my friends in the neighborhood to see if we could get enough guys to play a game of baseball or Pop-fly or whatever. We’d all meet at the playground with our mitts, bats and balls.

Around 2:15, my nephew grabbed a bag of chips and headed downstairs to the den. I casually ask, “Aren’t your going to meet your friends?” “That’s where I’m going.” I think I understand, “Oh, they’re coming here.” My nephew laughs, “No, we’re meeting online for Call of Duty.” They made plans, not to get together, but to stay home and play in a room by themselves and “virtually” play together.

There are some things that video games are good for. They can enhance spacial reasoning, pattern recognition, strategizing, puzzle solving, some games like Call of Duty, even require cooperation and teamwork. But it turns out something video games are bad at are helping kids learn to recognize facial expressions. I read an article that mentioned several studies indicating a decline in empathy from younger kids. The premise was that spending so much time looking at the internet or video game was hurting the development of the parts of the brain that read and understand facial expressions.

So, those days as a kid, touching a chess piece to see how your opponent would react, did actually teach us something. Or playing Bullshit, trying to read if your friend was lying, did give us useful training for the future. Even playing Battleship slowly calling out C—-7 to try and catch a hint of where the P.T. boat was hiding, was teaching us to read the subtle cues of body language and facial expressions. Apparently, playing with all your friends staring at a screen instead of their faces, not so much.

Now if you take into account how many hours these boys spend playing video games and then add the fact that men (mind you, men who didn’t grow up addicted to video games) pick up subtle signs of sadness in a female face only 40% of the time, you’re asking for trouble. By comparison, women pick up subtle signs of sadness in a male face 90% of the time. Women also don’t spend much time playing video games. So, really, a woman’s cry of “I shouldn’t have to tell you,” is falling on deaf ears. There’s no hope for tomorrows women to ever get a guy who doesn’t have to be told how she’s feeling.

Is it any wonder none of these boys have girlfriends?

File Under Mr. Cool