Fast Kids and Slow RPGs

Just watched a video at Tedx Rainier of Dmitri Christakis. His research argues that kids and mice who watch quick-changing TV stimulation during early life are likelier to have a hamstrung attention span. A 10% greater chance per daily hour of TV, in fact. He found frenetic media like Powerpuff Girls and baby Einstein was bad, violent programming (which shifts more rapidly) was twice as bad, but slower-paced programming like Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood had no increased risk of attention deficit.

He hypothesized this is why children act up: their early development prepared them for the world in which they would live, and geared them up for “frenetic animated violence”, but our world doesn’t actually have those things in it except in those media. That is, if you go to a farm, the pace is slow. The same goes for reading a book or painting a miniature. These kids would not enjoy those things because the stimulation level is too low.

Further, experiments with mice showed they were more active, learned or cared less about their environment, and engaged in dangerous behaviors more frequently.

I could say something glib about how player-characters were probably all raised on bad TV and that’s why they act like that in the town and dungeon.

Here’s what interests me from a D&D perspective: Dmitri placed the rise of baby TV viewing as beginning in the 70s. Which means D&D sprang up while these babies were being born. But the pace of TV wasn’t as unreletingly fast as it is now, which means the children born in the 70s and maybe even the early 80s probably missed the potential harm. It’s at that time we see the beginning rise of video games in the home as well (the NES in the late 1980s after the failure of the video game market).

D&D is a slow game. You have to wait for your turn. The spectacle is low: no flashing lights, few sound effects. It’s social, which means it moves at the speed of human communication. You have to do your own math!

Is it possible the market slip of wargames and tabletop RPGs (and board games, etc.) is not just because video gaming provides a superior spectacle (among other benefits)? Could it be that young people have been conditioned by early TV to prefer the higher stimulation levels found in video games and related media? Even fast-paced RPGs are still slow in comparison to any CRPG.

It’s a complicated topic. It would be too easy to grab this research and make a lot of hypotheses, and likewise too easy to shrug and ignore the research because it doesn’t jive with our biases. What I take from it is again probably a little too glib: Powerpuff Girls and similar shit will ruin your child’s life. Play with him instead, and watch good TV in moderation. Doesn’t every parent want to raise a successful child who will outcompete the scrubs in his age group? It’s like 4d6 drop lowest for stats.

Speaking of attention deficit, this post has been a lot of soapboxing so HERE SI JOESKYTAX !

Sage Excuses Table
(Roll on this table to determine why the sage you hired isn’t getting the job done)
1 – Doesn’t actually know much about the topic, just sounds good at a cocktail party.
2 – Never studied, had someone else do his homework.
3 – Keeps getting distracted by his gardening.
4 – Drunk all the time.
5 – Spends all his time (and your money!) on his lady-friends.
6 – Has the wrong reference texts.
7 – A colleague keeps spoiling his notes.
8 – He’s being extorted by the Thieve’s Guild (beatings, smashing up his library, etc)
9 – Too busy hunting down ravenous Bookworms in his library.
10 – Evangelists from the local temple chanting outside his windows keeps him up all night.
11 – Voices in his head.
12 – Forgetful – keeps misplacing his notes.
13 – A nypmh from the nearby forest sunbathes every morning and he has a nice view from his tower windows.
14 – His students bother him too much with their personal problems.
15 – Someone cursed his beard to grow back to full length every hour if shortened and he’s trying to stop it.
16 – Fumes from the local tannery waft through and knock him out regularly.
17 – Street youths have taken to throwing mud on his windows and he spends too much time cleaning it up.
18 – *opens curtains to a beautiful sunrise* How could I possibly be expected to do research on a day like this?
19 – Too busy playing Papers and Paychecks with his chums at the tavern.
20 – He was shockingly overstimulated as a child for experimental purposes and now he has runaway ADD.

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