Question: are video games bad for you?

 

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I was recently watching an interesting BBC documentary Are Video Games Really That Bad? (2015). A bit of context, I used to play games, but stopped when I was about 18-20. Amiga 500 was what I grew up with and enjoyed, and later we had PC games. These were good for unwinding after school and I sometimes miss them. I wondered why I quit and maybe was a sense of wasting precious time that could be used on something more meaningful. But even without noticeable benefits or results, it’s okay sometimes just to have a good time. I haven’t really followed the evolution of games in the 21st century, so there’s lots of things about current games I don’t know, although I still find it interesting to look at new developments.

 

Video games stand accused of making us violent and causing addiction. The addicts favoring immediate rewards rather than delayed gratification in the future. The academic division on the topic is rarely mentioned in the media, as scare stories continue to dominate the news. A typical newspaper headline could be “gamers can’t tell real world from fantasy”.

 

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There are proven benefits of video games. Designed by professor Adam Gazzaley, Neuroracer (watch a short clip here) is a game to sharpen the minds of seniors in terms of attention span, memory, and multi-tasking. And apparently it works!

 

For those becoming surgeons, the game Underground (here’s a trailer) was developed to help them improve their skills at depth perception when performing keyhole surgery.

 

A test was created in which the subjects had to identify the number of changing objects on a screen, and the result revealed gamers scored better than non-gamers, because of their ability to keep track of a bigger number of objects.

 

The naysayers will argue for the negative impact on gamers, especially the aspect of enjoying violence in for example first-person shooter Call of Duty. As opposed to TV, you are tied to the violent character and directly rewarded for behaving in an aggressive way. Yet the team competition against others is regarded as a sport and tournaments and professional gamers exist.

 

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Professor Craig Anderson, a psychologist, believes violent video games (such as controversial Carmageddon) teach us to look for enemies in real life, seeking aggressive solutions (see image above). For example when someone pushes you at school, you could perceive this action as a threat and not an innocent accident.
A study was done in which two groups were tested. There was a measurable desensitization towards images of real violence among those who played games. Those who hadn’t played video games were more prone to sensitivity towards real violence.

 

Dr Andrew Przybylski claims there is no evidence that video games increase crime rates, violence at school, or domestic violence. Chris Ferguson, professor of psychology, points to a survey in which youth violence in the US dropped by 83% in the two decades leading up to 2013. A period in which there was an explosion in violent video game popularity. He doesn’t know why that is, but attributes this statistic to youths immersing themselves in games and spending less time on real life trouble making. Still, it’s impossible to claim gaming has caused crime to drop. Family background, poverty, mental health, even simply being male are thought by some to be more closely correlated to aggression than video games.

 

Debate.org ran a poll asking if violent video games are good as an anger outlet, with differing opinions on the matter.

 

 

Where do you stand on video games? Are games part of your everyday life now or previously? Are violent games bad for us? 

13 thoughts on “Question: are video games bad for you?

  1. My main objection to gaming is that a lot of obsessive gamers are just such boring people because their interests are so narrow. All their free time and attention is taken up by this one thing and they aren’t interested in talking about anything that isn’t connected to gaming. Any other interests they have get so little attention that they really don’t have anything original or interesting to say about, for example, politics, art, current events, history, movies etc.

    My nephew sort of acts like he learns about history from one of his games (Assassin’s Creed maybe) because he knows a handful of (sometimes dubious) factoids about the Knights Templar (or whatever) but I am unconvinced that he’s learning anything relevant for a discussion with anybody other than another gamer or maybe a very short and detail-free exchange with a Secret Society enthusiast.

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  2. I guess I should stress that it’s not just gaming. Fans of super-hero movies, comic books, anime, genres like that, can also be kind of clueless about anything outside of their interests. (But because I have some knowledge of these mini-cultures, it’s not quite so noticeable. I played video games in the 1980s but haven’t had much interest since then (except to watch my brother play Saints Row. He also has a WW I aerial combat game that I find fascinating to watch. My brother knows A LOT about weaponry from both world wars … but not from playing video games!) )

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    1. @Hoosier X: I’m against putting individuals in boxes as “gamers” or “comic book fans”, as people keep changing and growing. The way I see it, we can’t be compatible with everyone. If you are bored, find other circles to mingle in, which you probably already have. Some people prefer to have a narrow range of hobbies and we can’t expect them to change (to suit our needs) if they are happy.
      Your comment about the Knights Templar is pretty funny. True enough, learning facts from video games is not ideal, but there are benefits to gaming which I highlight in the post, such as learning to work as a team etc.

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  3. I do play a few video games but it’s only to pass the time. Really just puzzle games which I like. I used to be into violent games in the past but I’ve lost interest. I prefer puzzles or if I own a console, something like Super Mario Bros., Zelda, or Lego games. Nothing too serious though I do like old war games like the Medal of Honor series.

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    1. @thevoid99: Puzzle games can be fun and challenging, I remember playing Phantasmagoria in the 90s, which was a big deal at the time, but found it pretty difficult. I prefer video games that are simpler, I use games to unwind and relax

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  4. I played a fair few video games when I was younger, but I think I reached the same conclusion as you. Though an enjoyable way of spending time, I always felt like it was time I”d never get back…when there was so much else I wanted to do.

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    1. @Rol: I had fun playing games with friends and look back on those times fondly. When I became an adult I wanted to try new things and the games felt a bit empty. It was time to move on and I haven’t played or bought any in years. Though I do like quizzes, sports and board games so I’ll always be a game person I think.

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  5. I used to play video games and I guess I still do occasionally, but I’ve never really been all that good at them (though I was pretty serious about Championship/ Football Manager for a while and had great success…). I’ve only saw a handful of console games through to the end. I still enjoy a bit of escapism from the stresses of work and all the rest of it and games are great for that. So too are other things, right enough…

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    1. @J: The escapism and de-stressing of games is definitely appealing. And if you are not the most talkative person (like myself) playing any type of game shifts the focus away from conversation 🙂 Remember I had Sensitive Soccer but didn’t figure it out. Beating my golf scores got so addictive that I literally broke the tiger woods cd-rom so I wouldn’t be tempted. The tennis game got chucked as well, I could win every point in a match with the weakest settings against the strongest opponent, not a realistic match in the slightest!

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  6. It’s an interesting topic. I play video games nearly every day, sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for an hour or two. They are the same as movies or TV shows to me — just a way to pass the time — though games are more active than passive. Gaming is like any other hobby, it’s fine in moderation. If someone is playing games all day every day, then yeah they have a problem. But is gaming itself inherently bad? No, not any more than any other form of media.

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    1. @Eric: You’re right, films and TV can be a passive experience. I think the future of movies is active audience participation(Ready Player One kind of thing maybe ). I try and counteract the passivity aspect by reviewing what I consume, so I’m in a critical dialogue with the content.

      As long as you keep enjoying video games then I can’t see why you shouldn’t continue. There are so many games and possibilities now. Different to the C64/Amiga days. As you say, it’s like any hobby.

      I’m sure I could find recent games that would interest me if I looked carefully. Although I won’t be killing pedestrians for bonus points in Carmageddon any time soon 🙂 Yeah, a game is not bad in itself. Games become bad when turning users into addicts or aggressive people. Thanks for chiming in

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  7. Thought-provoking stuff. I used to play my Gameboy as much as I could, my parents usually limiting my time with it to the weekend, and while I still enjoy it every now and then, I too have fallen away simply because I’m using my time elsewhere. Personally, I can’t believe violent games haven’t contributed to aggression in some way. I even did a persuasive presentation on the subject recently.
    The Columbine shooters, for instance, were obsessed with violent games, and the level of detail has only gotten more realistic and brutal. I am all for puzzle and adventure games that offer the benefits you mentioned, but games designed to be as violent as possible leave a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not necessarily for banning them, but game designers and parents need to be more aware of their potential influence.

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    1. @sgliput: Yes, the school shootings certainly are disturbing and food for thought, I would say it’s the easy access to weapons in the US which is the biggest problem. Ban the sale of guns and I predict there will be less of those horrible events.
      In the wrong hands, violent video games certainly are dangerous. We had our own mass shooting a few years back in Scandinavia which is being turned into a new film Utøya 22. juli (2018). Has since been revealed the gunman used Calll of Duty as “training”.
      But as Samuel L Jackson said in an interview for Channel 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zu2hGlhwcj8) , there’s violence in the Bible, so has always been present in some capacity I guess. Jackson suggests gun safety training for kids. Thanks for weighing in.

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