X (fill in the name of a video game, reality television show or intricately plotted series like "24") may appear to be (pick one: mindless, stupid or violent). But X actually inculcates important survival skills. X shows how to test ideas, figure out which ones work and grasp the full sequence of steps that must be taken to achieve a certain goal. X makes you mentally alert, even if you appear to be slack-jawed and glassy-eyed. X makes you smarter.Janet Maslin injects some skepticism. Reading her her review of Steven Johnson's "Everything Bad Is Good For You," I got the feeling that Johnson is someone who's thrown tons of time into playing video games, much of that time plagued by criticism echoing in his head -- you're wasting your life -- and plenty more of that time coming up with good-boy answers to that voice. I guess there was only so far he could go with claiming to be improving "eye-hand coordination," and he came up with his ideas about how much his mind was developing through his encounters with the challenges of the game. And that wasn't even counting the mental workout he was getting thinking up the big explanation, talking to that mother in his head.
Or writing it all up into a book. We're proud of you. Thought you'd amount to nothing. But now we're proud!
But the rest of you game-players. Don't let Johnson soothe you too much. You really might be wasting time.