Saturday, January 22, 2005


The BBC science web site has a dinosaur game called Big Al , which is a pretty mild form of infotainment. You run around as a baby Allosaurus, you eat things and get bigger-- pretty garden variety stuff. My oldest son, however, has become completely sucked in. Just under the impetus of the game, he's learned how to start the internet connection, Google for Big Al, and launch the game. Breaking him away from the game is a parenting nightmare. The longer he's been at it, the worse the come-down is.

We had a big scene today, and with my earlier post about cocaine still fresh in my mind, I couldn't help wondering if the game wasn't triggering a related activation of the reward centers of the brain. I think the point of the scientific article was that-- no suprise-- these parts of the brain do function in normal life, and can be more moderately activated by non-cocaine stimuli. (BTW, I now have it on good authority that nursing a baby, although it's relaxing, does not neutralize fatigue. Nor have I noticed any withdrawl symptoms in my wife when the kids stopped nursing and switched over to carrot puree.)

I know exactly where my son gets this tendency. In fact-- no joke now-- Thomas Kuhn once described the scientific personality as an addict to a particular sort of puzzle. When I was a kid, I would play Atari (yes, I'm that old) until my eyes were burning and my joystick wrist ached. And I still get sucked into conquer-the-world games, to the point that the house could probably burn down around me, as long as I was showing the evil Ant People who's the mack. So when my son is basically quivering in a heap on his bedclothes, I know what he's going through- it's withdrawl.

Still, I had to get him off the machine. I wanted to check my site meter.

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