We may never fully know how video games affect our well-being
The moral panic around video games has stuck in a way that previous entertainment-fueled panics such as those around rock music and TV haven’t. But the evidence isn’t there.
Media reports that the perpetrators of mass shootings from the mid-1990s onwards were avid gamers, coupled with a slew of studies starting in the early 2000s, fueled concerns that violent games made people more aggressive. These reports found that participants “punished” opponents for longer, gave taste testers larger doses of hot sauce, and were more likely to guess aggressive words such as “explode” in a word completion task after playing violent games. But other researchers have since questioned how effective these studies really were at measuring violent behavior.
A 2020 meta-analysis in Royal Society Open Science, which reexamined 28 studies from previous years, found no evidence for a long-term link between aggressive video games and youth aggression. Lower-quality studies that didn’t use standardized or well-validated measures, it found, were more likely to exaggerate the effects of games on player aggression, while higher-quality studies tended to find negligible effects.
The same pattern has repeated with respect to studies linking video games to poor mental health, which tend to report smaller effects once they use objective data on game duration (as the OII study did) rather than relying on subjective self-reporting from participants, says Peter Etchells, a professor of psychology and science communication at Bath Spa University, who thinks the past 20 to 30 years of gaming studies haven’t had a consistent handle on what they were trying to measure or how to do it.
“New studies like this one can help to draw a line under this whole ‘Are video games good or bad for us?’ line, because it is and always has been the wrong question to ask,” he says. “It’s like asking ‘Is food bad for our waistline?’ It’s a stupid question.”
“My hope is that we can get better at not thinking about it in terms of ‘Are video games, are video games bad?’ but thinking about that gray area in between,” he adds. “Because that’s where all the interesting stuff is.”
Przybylski was among a group of academics who wrote to write to the WHO in 2016 arguing against the “premature” inclusion of gaming disorder in its ICD guidelines, citing the low quality of the research base and the fact that scholars had failed to reach a consensus. Six years on, not much has changed, and researchers are still divided over the extent to which being addicted to games could differ from addiction to substances or gambling, for example.
An interesting next step would be to focus on any participants demonstrating problematic behavior in the OII’s study to see how they can be coached or supported, says Tony van Rooij, a senior researcher at the Trimbos Institute in the Netherlands who focuses on gaming, gambling, and digital balance. Another worthwhile area of study, he says, is the predatory business models that game makers use to exert pressure on players’ behavior, including encouraging them to make microtransactions to skip frustrating levels, play at fixed times, or log in daily to avoid missing out on something.
The Download: sleeping in VR, and promising clean energy projects
People are gathering in virtual spaces to relax, and even sleep, with their headsets on. VR sleep rooms are becoming popular among people who suffer from insomnia or loneliness, offering cozy enclaves where strangers can safely find relaxation and company—most of the time.
Each VR sleep room is created to induce calm. Some imitate beaches and campsites with bonfires, while others re-create hotel rooms or cabins. Soundtracks vary from relaxing beats to nature sounds to absolute silence, while lighting can range from neon disco balls to pitch-black darkness.
The opportunity to sleep in groups can be particularly appealing to isolated or lonely people who want to feel less alone, and safe enough to fall asleep. The trouble is, what if the experience doesn’t make you feel that way? Read the full story.
Inside the conference where researchers are solving the clean-energy puzzle
There are plenty of tried-and-true solutions that can begin to address climate change right now: wind and solar power are being deployed at massive scales, electric vehicles are coming to the mainstream, and new technologies are helping companies make even fossil-fuel production less polluting.
But as we knock out the easy climate wins, we’ll also need to get creative to tackle harder-to-solve sectors and reach net-zero emissions.
Inside the conference where researchers are solving the clean-energy puzzle
The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) funds high-risk, high-reward energy research projects, and each year the agency hosts a summit where funding recipients and other researchers and companies in energy can gather to talk about what’s new in the field.
As I listened to presentations, met with researchers, and—especially—wandered around the showcase, I often had a vague feeling of whiplash. Standing at one booth trying to wrap my head around how we might measure carbon stored by plants, I would look over and see another group focused on making nuclear fusion a more practical way to power the world.
There are plenty of tried-and-true solutions that can begin to address climate change right now: wind and solar power are being deployed at massive scales, electric vehicles are coming to the mainstream, and new technologies are helping companies make even fossil-fuel production less polluting. But as we knock out the easy wins, we’ll also need to get creative to tackle harder-to-solve sectors and reach net-zero emissions. Here are a few intriguing projects from the ARPA-E showcase that caught my eye.
“I heard you have rocks here!” I exclaimed as I approached the Quaise Energy station.
Quaise’s booth featured a screen flashing through some fast facts and demonstration videos. And sure enough, laid out on the table were two slabs of rock. They looked a bit worse for wear, each sporting a hole about the size of a quarter in the middle, singed around the edges.
These rocks earned their scorch marks in service of a big goal: making geothermal power possible anywhere. Today, the high temperatures needed to generate electricity using heat from the Earth are only accessible close to the surface in certain places on the planet, like Iceland or the western US.
Geothermal power could in theory be deployed anywhere, if we could drill deep enough. Getting there won’t be easy, though, and could require drilling 20 kilometers (12 miles) beneath the surface. That’s deeper than any oil and gas drilling done today.
Rather than grinding through layers of granite with conventional drilling technology, Quaise plans to get through the more obstinate parts of the Earth’s crust by using high-powered millimeter waves to vaporize rock. (It’s sort of like lasers, but not quite.)
The emergent industrial metaverse
Annika Hauptvogel, head of technology and innovation management at Siemens, describes the industrial metaverse as “immersive, making users feel as if they’re in a real environment; collaborative in real time; open enough for different applications to seamlessly interact; and trusted by the individuals and businesses that participate”—far more than simply a digital world.
The industrial metaverse will revolutionize the way work is done, but it will also unlock significant new value for business and societies. By allowing businesses to model, prototype, and test dozens, hundreds, or millions of design iterations in real time and in an immersive, physics-based environment before committing physical and human resources to a project, industrial metaverse tools will usher in a new era of solving real-world problems digitally.
“The real world is very messy, noisy, and sometimes hard to really understand,” says Danny Lange, senior vice president of artificial intelligence at Unity Technologies, a leading platform for creating and growing real-time 3-D content. “The idea of the industrial metaverse is to create a cleaner connection between the real world and the virtual world, because the virtual world is so much easier and cheaper to work with.”
While real-life applications of the consumer metaverse are still developing, industrial metaverse use cases are purpose-driven, well aligned with real-world problems and business imperatives. The resource efficiencies enabled by industrial metaverse solutions may increase business competitiveness while also continually driving progress toward the sustainability, resilience, decarbonization, and dematerialization goals that are essential to human flourishing.
This report explores what it will take to create the industrial metaverse, its potential impacts on business and society, the challenges ahead, and innovative use cases that will shape the future. Its key findings are as follows:
• The industrial metaverse will bring together the digital and real worlds. It will enable a constant exchange of information, data, and decisions and empower industries to solve extraordinarily complex real-world problems digitally, changing how organizations operate and unlocking significant societal benefits.
• The digital twin is a core metaverse building block. These virtual models simulate real-world objects in detail. The next generation of digital twins will be photorealistic, physics-based, AI-enabled, and linked in metaverse ecosystems.
• The industrial metaverse will transform every industry. Currently existing digital twins illustrate the power and potential of the industrial metaverse to revolutionize design and engineering, testing, operations, and training.