Video Games: Are They Doing More Harm Than Good?

Games have taken the world of entertainment by storm. What used to be a pastime for geeks and nerds in the early 90’s has now surpassed Hollywood movies in terms of revenue. But that doesn’t change the fact that many people, especially parents, think that playing games is just a waste of time or that it makes impressionable people (and kids) dumb.

The fact that there are games that display violence, sex, gambling, and drugs doesn’t really help the case. But what if I told you that playing games actually has several positive benefits for the mind and the gamers’ psychosocial development at least, according to Science. Let’s take a look at the postive influence video games have on us.

Why Playing Games Carry A Bad Reputation

Games of all sorts can be pretty addictive; you don’t need to read a 100-page study just to verify that. I am certain that you know at least one person who is addicted to games; he’s weird, he never hangs out with his old friends, he’s probably single, and isn’t getting far in life. And aside from his gaming habits, you know nothing else about him worth noting.

Undeniably, it is very easy to get addicted. And that’s a big problem.

IMAGE: Picjumbo

Performance in school or work may suffer. It is not an exaggeration when I say that many gamers (from simple puzzles down to MMORPGs) even dream of playing games, literally. While at work or at school, thoughts are riddled with games, and in some extreme cases mental images too, while fully conscious — this is known as the Tetris effect. It is distracting and it can cause serious performance issues.

On the other hand, mild addiction to games can also cause social isolation, which could lead to relationship issues. Taken to the extreme, it can lead to health problems. One highly publicized instance of gaming addiction was the death of Lee Seung Seop who played Starcraft for almost 50 hours straight. He died on his chair due to heart failure caused by extreme exhaustion.

But believe it or not, the benefits of playing games outweigh their negative effects.

Gaming In Moderation Isn’t Bad At All

Like everything else, gaming has its own good and bad sides. Everyone knows that there are several kinds of computer games. From simple board puzzles down to the most complex of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).

Many computer games require arduous thinking and strategizing, teamplay, and patience. These kind of games are prevalent today for those reasons and more.

IMAGE: Sean Dreilinger

Mark Zuckerberg, became a programmer because of video games (and he wants kids to play video games like he did too). His father taught him Atari BASIC Programming at the age of 10. He was eager to learn because, according to him, the games available then didn’t satisfy him. He wanted to make them better.

Another staunch supporter of video game playing is Guillermo del Toro, a film director best known for Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim. He absolutely loves video games, which he deems “are the comic books of our time.”

Perhaps Mark and Guillermo is on to something, that playing games can not only inspire people to become great programmers but possibly even improve their problem solving skills and their creativity.

How Video Games Positively Influence The Mind

A study conducted by Andrew K. Przybylski, PhD suggests that video games are quite similar to the traditional ways children played before electronics were used for entertainment. It so happens that video games help the psychosocial development of children from an early age.

But that doesn’t mean it’s safe for parent to just leave their children alone to play all day long, since that might lead to addiction, and to the shortening of their attention span. A study by the American Psychological Association suggests that video games and social media are directly responsible for the impulsiveness and short attention span of kids (which isn’t really much of a surprise, really).

What is a surprise though is that while playing games on excess shortens the attention span of people, it ironically improves the short-term visual memory.

Better Motor Skills

Another study done at the Max Planck Institute found that gaming is beneficial for the brain. In the study, participants were asked to play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day over 2 months.

After the experiment, the gamers’ brain were found to have shown an increase in their grey matter, specifically the areas that are involved in spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning, and motor skills involving the hands.

A New and Accepted Form Of Socializing

For adults, gaming is no longer just a form of entertainment to while away their time — it is a new form of socializing. In fact, games help people interact with others in a more natural way. From playing multiplayer games, talking on chatrooms, and attending public gaming events, it’s not a secret that many friendships and relationships have begun and blossomed through games.

Video Games Can Help Fight Depression

One of my most favorite thing about video games is that they can be designed in a way that can help with fighting depression. In a research involving 15 year olds, a videogame designed to help treat depression was shown to be at least as effective as counseling is when treating depression and anxiety. It fares better than regular treatment in reducing symptoms of depression.

Conclusion

We now live in a world where playing games is no longer the “nerd” thing to do. It has become an acceptable way of life just as much as how we are glued to our smart devices. While more upcoming studies will reveal the emerging effect games have on the mind, society, health, social lives, developing skills and more, like everything we are exposed to in life, we shouldn’t take things to the extremes.

It’s not just games that are susceptible to this. Religious, political, economical beliefs, taken to the extremes will definitely end up with someone on the losing end. But back to the question, are video games really bad? Arguably, the answer is no, so long as it is played in moderation. What about you? What do you think?

Now Read:Evolution of Home Video Game Consoles

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