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”.
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.
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?