When asking the average person, albeit a parent or middle-aged adult, about video games, most will tell you they are a waste of time and “rot your brain.” Video games have gotten such a huge amount of negative attention over the last couple of decades. They are usually the first thing people point fingers at when a horrible act of violence occurs. It seems as though mainstream media refuses to cover the fact that video games also have many positive effects on a person. So what happens when the positive effects and negative effects are stacked up against each other? The results may seem very surprising, as video games have far more positive effects than negative, and are, in general, good for people.
First, let’s look at why video games are always thought about negatively. It really comes down to lack of responsibility for parents, and looking for something easy to blame. Video games have become a very mainstream form of entertainment over the past fifteen years, with more and more people playing them every year, often young children. Parents are busier than ever, and often use things like video games as a “babysitter.” Then, when their child acts out, they need something to blame. Video games are usually at the brunt of this blame. But this blame is very misplaced. Parents act as if there is no way to keep their children from playing games that might be considered violent. But, in all actuality, there are precautions put in place to prevent kids from playing such games. First, it is illegal for someone under seventeen to go into a store a buy an “M” rated video game. Second, there is a rating on the box that gives a detailed listing of the content in the game. It is a parent’s responsibility to know what kind of content their child is consuming. And when the content is so clearly made apparent, there is no excuse.
Speaking of kids and video games, what kind of effects do games have on youth? According to Marilyn Price PhD, a speaker in the field of Human and Organization Development, while there “are incidents where socially isolated, unstable teen have committed acts of violence”, studies have shown there are many more good effects of playing video games on young people . First, playing games appears to make kids closer to their families. Kids are also more involved in activities, and better mental health. It doesn’t end there. Video games that show sharing, cooperation, and empathy help children develop these traits (Price).
These aren’t the only positive effects that playing video games has. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Human development also found many positive effects from playing video games. In this study, they had adults play Super Mario 64. They played for 30 minutes a day for two months. After testing time was complete, they found that playing games “showed increases of grey matter, in which the cell bodies of the nerve cells of the brain are situated.” This can have a positive effect on your brains spatial orientation, memory formation, and strategic planning, and fine motor skills, according to the study (qtd. in Dyer).
The American Psychological Association has also found many positive effects on the brain from playing video games. First, it was found that people who play first person shooters had “faster and more accurate attention to allocation, higher spatial resolution in visual processing, and enhanced mental rotation abilities.” These skills are said to be the same developed when taking formal courses that teach them. Next, it showed that gamers show less activity in their brains when problem solving, which means they use neural resources more efficiently. Evidence also showed that video games helps increase creativity (qtd. in Shapiro).
What about video games effects on emotion? This is another field in which video games can have a very positive effect. If someone is feeling angry, or stressed, they know that a video game is a safe environment to let out all of that anger or stress. They can do this without effecting anyone else, or causing any harm to anybody or anything. Learning the rules of a video game, and then overcoming challenges within those set rules, also has a positive effect on a gamers emotions. It gives them a sense of accomplishment, and can even make them feel better about themselves.
According to the American Psychological Association, video games also help people become more social. People often believe the stereotype that gamers are nerdy, social rejects. But with so many of today’s games being online, people are encouraged to speak to their teammates and work together. The APA states that “70% of gamers play their games with a friend, either cooperatively or competitively.” This can also help promote teamwork, as gamers often have a common objective they are working towards. It has even been shown that these cooperative traits translate from gaming to real life (qtd. in Shapiro).
The biggest argument against video games is that they cause violence. According to a study by Christopher Ferguson at Texas A&M University, “no link between violent game play and actual overt violent of aggressive behavior” could be found. The study took 302 youths from ages 10-14. 75% of them said they played games regularly, with 40% of those being violent games. Out of all of the kids, only 7.3% had actually been involved in some sort of violent crime, albeit assault of theft. The results showed that depressive symptoms played a very large role in violent behavior. It was concluded that violent video games were not a predictor for violence (qtd. in “New Study..”).
The biggest problem with blaming violence on violent video games is that almost everyone plays them. Video games are the fastest growing form of entertainment today, and may soon overtake movies as far as popularity goes. It is hard to lay the blame for violence on something that is so common is everyday life. Not to mention, but the crime rate has actually fallen more and more as video games have become more popular.
Video games have also been shown to be a strong educational tool, mainly in a historic sense. Game like the Assassins Creed series, while putting its own spin on things, delves into many historic events, and often involves many famous historical figures. Not only this, but it can also help people develop foreign languages. Assassins Creed, once again, is a perfect example of this. Instead of going full out with Italian, it drops an Italian word every now and then in the middle of an English sentence. This allows the gamer to use context clues to figure out what certain words mean, instead of trying to learn it all at once.
Gaming has also been found to be a good alternative to sports when it comes to developing hand-eye coordination, according to Deakin University in Australia. Preschoolers who play interactive games, such as the Wii, were found to be better at skill such as “kicking, catching, or throwing a ball (qtd. in Weber).”
According to Lisa Weber, video games “force kids to think quickly.” Video games present people with a problem that needs to be solved, usually “very quickly.” This helps kids develop critical thinking, and forces them to test out “different solutions” to every problem (Weber).
While video games have all of these positive effects, there can also be some bad things that come along with being an avid gamer. The most obvious is weight gain. Some gamers gain a considerable amount of weight, more and more the longer they play. But this can’t be blamed on the video games their selves. A person should be able to have some sort of self-control, and be able to realize that they have a problem, and do something about it. If the case of a child gaining weight, they do not realize the consequences of gaining weight. Therefore, it is up to the parents to realize their kid has a problem, and to do something about it.
Even though there are some health problem that can come with playing games, the positive effects of gaming greatly outweigh any negative effects. The general negativity that surrounds video games all stems from people refusing to educate themselves. They only see one side to the subject, and that is what mainstream media presents to them on TV. As someone who avidly keeps up with studies about the effects of gaming, it is clear that the positives outweigh the negatives. People need to realize this, and start embracing video games for what they are: an art form, and a mainstream way to consume entertainment. The sooner people do this, the sooner they can start looking at the real things that cause violence, or have a negative impact on society in general. Until that time, video games will continue to unfairly be a scapegoat for things it has nothing to do with.
Dyer, Mitch. “The Positive Effects Games Have on Your Brain.” IGN. 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
“New study: game violence doesn’t predict violent behavior.” Destructoid. 18 Dec. 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
Fleming, Nic. “Why video games may be good for you.” BBC. 26 Aug. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
Price, Marilyn. “Effects of Video Games: More Good than Bad for Youth Development?.” RootsOfAction. n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
Shapiro, Jordan. “4 Reasons Video Games Are Good For Your Health (According To American Psychological Association).” Forbes. 27 Nov. 2013. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
Thornhill, Ted. “Video games are GOOD for you: Even violent shoot-em-ups boost learning, health and social skills, finds study.” DailyMail. 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 2 Mar 2014.
Weber, Lisa. “Positive Effects of Video Games on Children.” GlobalPost. Demand Media. n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.