Video Games: Addictive Destroyers or Something Else?

January 2, 2018
By ryanhu PLATINUM, West Windsor, New Jersey
ryanhu PLATINUM, West Windsor, New Jersey
20 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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Don't cry that it's over, because it happened.

They have been called addictive and mind-destroying, blamed for causing mass shootings and outbursts of violence, and accused of innumerable health problems on people globally. What is this horrible atrocity? Is it a new potent form of cocaine? A mass-produced assault weapon? No, something “far worse”: video games. Since the time they were introduced into the market, people were skeptical of video games, with parents leading the charge. Even though people claim that videogames are horrible inventions, video games actually are quite underestimated in their ability to help not only children but adults as well.

A common claim that parents and other people make about video games is that video games cause countless social issues among gamers. They believe that the time spent on the videogame disrupts the person’s ability to socially interact and socially isolates them. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. Almost all multiplayer games contain a large online community, with people from all over the world. People who do not play these games, such as parents, do not see this community, and if they do, they believe that such groups of people only have malice towards each other. In contrast, online communities have a special bond, one that is created from hours of playing with each other, working together for a common goal: to win. This bond cannot be understood unless one has personally been apart of such a community. 999 times out of a thousand, the other players you are playing with only want to win in the game, and with games that cost money, such as Overwatch and Minecraft, predators and criminals would not generally spend money on a game to lure other people into traps, as their are much easier and cheaper ways to achieve their goals. Not only that, but almost all gamers are intelligent enough not to tell someone else their address or personal information. Playing these video games requires a lot of social interaction, as the most popular ones are team games that need every player to communicate with each other. The trite misconception that playing videogames harms gamers socially results from others assuming things without experiencing them for themselves.


Another claim from anti-video game people is that video games provide little to no educational or healthy value, and people's’ time is better spent on other things, like studying. In truth, video games provide a form of education, knowledge, and training combined with entertainment that one cannot get from other things. For example, video games improve basic visual processes. A complaint constantly argued by the opposing side is that video games can make you go blind, but anything can technically make you go blind if you spend enough time staring at it. However, video games provide benefits visually in people instead of negatively. According to the American Journal of Play, by Adam Eichenbaum, Daphne Balevier, and C. Shawn Green, a study by them showed fifty hours of action video game play improved visual contrast sensitivity compared to the controls who did not. In another study, from University of Rochester in 2009, shooting games actually improved the gamers vision in noticing subtle movements and changes. Other healthy benefits of video games is that they improve spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and decision making. In a study by APA in 2013, scientists discovered that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensional space, react to things happening around them, solve problems creatively such as in Minecraft, and make quick decisions based on the situation occurring. Furthermore, video games enhanced these skills just as well as academic courses do. According to the researcher Granic, he states “This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” These studies among countless others demonstrate the educational impact of video games.

A third claim is that video games simply rots the brain and does not prepare for a child’s future. However, video games actually can slow mental decay. In a study by the University of Iowa, it was revealed that 681 individuals aged 50 years and older who played 10 hours of video games were able to stall the natural decline of cognitive skills by up to seven years. Explained by Jason Allaire, an associate professor in the department of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, he states: “Whether it’s a specially manufactured game or something like ‘World of Warcraft’, games are cognitively complex and require mental energy and abilities to play them. Whenever you do anything that requires mental energy, you’re exercising your abilities -- it’s just like if you exercise your muscles, you get stronger.” In addition, video games can actually help people in preparing for jobs. In one study, by Rosser in 2007, it was discovered that young, inexperienced surgeons who were also avid gamers outperformed the most experienced, non gaming surgeons in their field. In another study, by McKinley in 2011, video gamers were better than non-gamers in ability to fly and land aerial drones and were essentially as good as trained pilots on this skill. These studies show how video games can actually help gamers in their future occupations.


A fourth claim by anti-gaming people is that video games are horribly addicting and cause emotional problems. In addition to the points explained previously, there is a reason why some people become addicted to video games. No, it is not just because they are fun, although they undoubtedly are. A study in 2013 by APA showed that easy to access games, from mobile phone games to computer games, improved players’ moods, promoted relaxation, and warded off anxiety. A second study by the American Pain Society in 2010 showed that video games, more specifically one’s that take place in an alternate world, have proven effective in reducing anxiety or pain caused by medical procedures or chronic illnesses. These studies show the positive impacts video games have emotionally on players. Most people haven’t stopped to think just why children are playing so many video games in the modern world. Currently, grade inflation is very high in schools, with mounting pressure on students to repeatedly perform well, especially when compared to others. Anti-gaming people most likely haven’t thought that maybe children play so many video games to get away from the problems and struggles of the real world, or to deal with the depression and emotional instability caused by constant obsession with grades, college, and projects by their parents or supervisors.


A fifth claim, and perhaps one of the most well known, is that video games cause aggression and violence. Recently, in mass shootings such as the one in Munich, the killer apparently played violent video games. This sparked an uproar, with people panicking that their children would grow up to be remorseless killers like him. In addition, there have been multiple reports that apparently linked violent video games with aggressive behavior. However, this data is actually exaggerated and assumes many things. According to Whitney Decamp, an associate professor of sociology at Western Michigan University, it isn’t accurate to see the correlation between video games and aggression and state the cause as video games. Like the famous quote that states: “correlation does not imply causation”, it is not necessarily that video games cause aggression, but people who are aggressive before playing video games are drawn towards violent games. In a study by Decamp, in a 2008 Delaware school, he found that playing video games, no matter how bloody, did not predict violent behavior. Thus, this shows how there is essentially an extremely insignificant link, if there exists a link at all, between violence and video games.


On a personal note, parents wonder why children become so angered when they are interrupted while playing video games, and decide that video games cause this. In reality, the impudence of the intruder is the reason. In a study by the Universities of Rochester and Wisconsin, researchers performed an experiment on the effects of technology use on attention and cognition. They discovered that the gamers outperformed non-gamers in every given task, ones that all required attention, cognition, and concentration. This study shows the positive impact video games have on concentration. This also explains the anger of children when interrupted while playing games. Playing video games requires a lot more concentration and mental capacity than people think, so gamers have to focus especially hard on the task at hand. It is similar to working on a project at work (and yes, a study I mentioned earlier does show that video games require the same if not more mental capacity than academic activities do). If you are focused on completing a project and are completely engrossed in thinking/working, would you appreciate it if someone barged in and told you to stop working? Not many people would appreciate that. It is not aggression from games when gamers are livid when someone interrupts them, it is a natural reaction. Maybe parents should think twice before barging in and yelling at their children to stop playing games!


To conclude, video games aren’t addictive, brain-rotting, time-wasting things, and are actually complex, beneficial tools for people everywhere. The reason people hate video games so much is that they don’t understand it, and have either gamed very little or not at all. It’s important to understand that not everything is as bad as it seems, and things like video games have many underlying positive effects. Yes, playing for 10 hours straight is bad for you, but so is studying for that amount of time. Video games are more than just games; they are entertaining ways for people to relax and become happy, or focus and improve their capabilities. Despite this, it is important to realize that video games aren’t wonder-machines that solve everything, but they aren’t negative either. People should stop blaming video games for everything, and should actually appreciate the effects they can have. The next time you feel angry or stressed, maybe it’s time to pick up a video game and try it out; it may prove more beneficial than you think.

The author's comments:

I wrote this piece as a result of countless arguments with my parents. I hope to share my views with other teens or adults.

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