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Are Video Games Harmful For Players?

In the recent years, the conversation surrounding the impact video games have on the mental health and behavioral patterns of those who play them has been a heated and frequent one. So far, there seem to contradict two distinct and largely opposite positions on the topic. Some people believe, that video games have the potential to enhance the brain development, aid in learning more about the world and exploring creativity, and spend time in an engaging harmless manner. Others, however, argue that video games negatively affect the mental health of its users, causing aggression whiplashes and increased isolation tendencies. This paper sides with the first of the aforementioned positions and utilizes deduction and induction to strengthen the point. It also attempts to counter the prevalent arguments of the opposition by pointing out the fallacies in those.

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Before engaging in deductive and inductive reasoning, it is necessary to outline the specifics of the chosen position in greater detail. As any other advancement in the modern digital technology, video games are an improvement of life for many reasons. Despite not having the easily perceived or tangible value, video games greatly enrich the daily experiences of those who play them. Such games exist in many genres and types, but no matter the way facilitate human interaction with the digital world in an engaging form. Its’ game developers, devoted players, certain psychologists and many among general public view this form of technological entertainment favourably. They focus on the learning opportunities the games provide, its’ potential for facilitating collaboration or even observations regarding gamers’ superior manual dexterity. Many of the modern games touch on relevant social topics via their mechanics, with some of them letting a player avoid any violence in their actions.

After establishing the chosen position in detail it is appropriate to use deductive reasoning to argue for it. Deductive reasoning assumes that the general premise is true, consecutively perceiving its’ particulars to be true a well. Scientific development and digital advancements are generally beneficial, since these things enhance the daily life, making it more comfortable, interesting and productive. The video games are a particular example of digital advancement, and continue to improve in line with technological progress. Consecutively, in accordance to the statement A on scientific development, video games are making life more comfortable, interesting and productive. In this way, the principles of deductive reasoning are followed, since the argument goes from the general, the notion of scientific advancement, to the particular, video games. The statements on digital advancement being beneficial for the society, and video games being part of digital advancement process, are the first and the second premise respectively. Finally, the conclusion of video games being therefore beneficial for the society is an inference.

Second, one might apply an inductive argument to support the same statement. Inductive reasoning, as opposed to the deductive reasoning, follows from the particular to the general. An overall conclusion is reached based on the analysis of a piece of data that a researcher has access to. Say, a particular video game was widely and successfully implemented at schools for middle grade students. The tasks and quests of the game allowed the students to enhance their mathematical skills and perform better, as measured by school assignments. Thus, from this piece of evidence through inductive reasoning one can arrive to the conclusion, that video games have the capacity to be implemented in schools as learning tools. Furthermore, from this intermediate conclusion one might state that video games are beneficial to the intellectual and personal development of its player base.

As stated in the introduction, however, this position is far from being a universal agreement on the topic. Counterarguments on the matter can be separated into two broad categories, with the first actively assigning harmful consequences to playing video games, and the latter describing those as meaningless. The following counter argumentative section is aiming to address both of the categories. The first group of arguments usually include notions on the supposed links between playing video games and violent behavior. The second group trivializes the cultural potential of video games and the connection those have as a part of media landscape with the rest of modern arts.

One of the potential counterarguments against the position in question is the recurring belief of video games potentially stumbling the players’ emotional development. Those who support this point of view argue that frequently violent content of video games desensitizes the players to the violence conducted against real people. Certain instances of fear mongering have come so far as to link the interest in video games to mass shooting incidents in the American high schools. Furthermore, when taken to a logical extreme, this argument connects preference for video games with fictional violence to higher potential of lashing out in socially unacceptable or even dangerous ways. Such belief is largely outdated and easy to dismantle by discussing the established links between video games and emotional intelligence.

This argument can be dismantled on two levels. First, it operates under the false assumption that a player cannot separate the real life from the virtual world they engage with for their entertainment. Particularly the most extreme cases of this opposition argument do not hold the test of logic, as these cases insist that in the mind of a gamer there is no difference between a real person and a target character in the game. Due to the recent advancements in the study of virtual reality in general and video games in particular, such extreme opinions are admittedly becoming rare. Yet the idea of video games sometimes negatively impacting one’s personal qualities and ability to sympathize with others is still a popular concern.

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Modern video games rely heavily on the simulation component, introducing extended dialogue scenes with in-game characters to enrich the overall experience. Namely, narrative elements in games contribute to the development of empathy and understanding by simulating dialogue scenes between a player character and various NPCs (Halbrock et al., 1100). For many socially isolated teenagers or even adults these virtual interactions provide a safe space for experimenting with various dialogue lines without the risk of hurting a real human being. Despite this opportunity, many players report re-starting a route or the entire game after accidently upsetting one of the characters in it (Halbrock et al., 1099). Such findings on the links between video game narratives and empathy development effectively disprove the idea of this media form negatively affecting its players’ emotional intelligence.

Furthermore, an entirely different lens can be applied to the undeniable fact of wide popularity of often graphic violent content in gaming industry. With games acting as an escapism tool that allows players to distract themselves from perils of their daily lives, the conditional participation in animated violence allows a player to relax. Negative emotions can be sublimated into in-game shootings and explosions without any harm being done to real people. From this point of view, even the undeniable parts of the oppositions’ argument are turned to further the idea of the beneficial impact of video games.

Another common argument utilized against the idea of positive potential in video games concerns its supposed shallowness and lack of substance. This reasoning relies on a superficial idea, that as a commercial and technological product, video games cannot be real art, and are therefore not worth respect and recognition. Furthermore, it creates a false dichotomy between an idealized image of refined high art and something entertaining, and, therefore, useless and meaningless. In game-critical media in particular, the time spent in game is often depicted as wasted, even if it was a part of a person’s spare time to begin with. Most of the time, such claims are factually false, as video games of today contain an impressive amount of effective and interactive social commentary. Yet, it is the argument itself that deserves greater attention in this paper, as it is a faulty and invalid one. An example of logical fallacy can be extrapolated from such argumentation, which is discussed in greater detail in the following paragraph.

The line of argument mentioned above is an example of creating a false dichotomy and making an opponent choose between two concepts that do not contradict each other. Art and entertainment are not and have never been at odds; in fact, these two areas of culture often intertwine (Williams, 2). The idea of putting the two in opposition is nothing new, and has been around as a tool of implementing classist prejudices into the perspective on popular entertainment. Upper classes have positioned their entertaining activities, always more expensive and sometimes more demanding in terms of educational background, as exclusive and refined. Naturally, the widely available types of entertainment were by contrast classified as low-level, uncultured and shallow. Similar fallacies of a falsely created difference, that does not need to be in place, are clearly visible in the video games bashing narratives of this kind.

In conclusion, video games have the potential to positively influence both the educational and developmental processes of its players, and the level of societal comfort on a grander scale. As any other tool it has the capacity to be misused or implemented in toxic environments, which can be easily observed via the instances of the gaming addiction. Due to the sheer size of the gaming community, the presence of the extremes and the associated toxicity is unavoidable. Yet when these instances are brought up, they are most frequently misused and turned into fallacies, namely appeals to emotions and prioritizations of specific cases over the general subject. Whereas in general and as a tool video games are inherently beneficial to the society and to its players due to the educational, communicational and somewhat therapeutic potential conveyed in its mechanics.

Works Cited

Halbrook, Yemaya J. et al. “When And How Video Games Can Be Good: A Review Of The Positive Effects Of Video Games On Well-Being”. Perspectives On Psychological Science, vol 14, no. 6, 2019, pp. 1096-1104. SAGE Publications.

Williams, Allissa. “The Dawn of a New Era in Entertainment History,” Global Tides: vol. 14 , no 7. Web.

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