Video gaming is a highly controversial issue. It is often argued that it is very harmful to the players, gives them nothing, and is plainly a waste of time. On the contrary, large numbers of people still play games very often and enjoy them much. Which opinion is true?
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In our paper, we will consider both negative and positive effects of video games, mainly on teenagers, and will argue that their adversity and beneficence are not fixed and depend on many factors.
We should also indicate that in this paper, we will often use words “video games” and “computer games.” This is done for the sake of linguistic diversity, and also because effects discussed hold for all computer games, both those which can be played online and those who are only for offline leisure. If an effect holds for online games only, we will use the respective term.
It is said that computer games can have various adverse effects on teenagers. Let us explore these possible effects one by one.
One of the most often mentioned effects is an increase in a child’s readiness to violence after prolonged playing violent video games. Indeed, research shows that violent game causes an increase in teenagers’ aggressive behavior, angry thoughts, and feelings, and decrease the number of helpful attitudes, as well as make the childless sensitive towards real-life violence (Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman 495).
Clearly, many games can teach children contradictory or even plainly negative values, and simplify their worldview. For instance, a “good-evil scale” commonly exists in games; often, good people kill bad people, and vice versa.
What is the difference, then? Both sides are murderers; it is only a conflict of power. Why use such loud notions? Such simplification might take ridiculous forms; it appears likely that children playing such games will at least partially adopt such views.
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Another point is that games sometimes become an escapist’s sanctuary. Being bullied by peers and having little friends, a child or a teenager might want to hide themselves in the exciting imaginary world of a game, where they constantly progress, gain more power and money, have their revenge, etc.
And, finally, the most significant problem that makes games’ adversity stand out is the addiction these games cause (also, hence the escapism effect). If a teenager (in fact, anyone) plays computer games all day long, they waste much time, their academic performance drops, and they lose various opportunities they might otherwise have.
In extreme cases, a young person might even (partially) lose the skill to differentiate between the real and the imaginary worlds; cases where a person does something and is not afraid of consequences because they think they can “reload” are not just a fiction.
Besides, using a computer for too long is plainly bad for health; this adversity might be exacerbated by continuous stress a gamer experiences due to the specifics of a game’s plot.
Many of the named effects hold for people of most age categories, but adolescents are more susceptible to most of them than adults.
On the other hand, games have some positive effects as well. Clearly, the most obvious of them is also the cause of their popularity; it is the games’ property of being interesting and exciting. Computer games offer a great pastime for many people.
A less obvious benefit of this is that children stay at home while playing games instead of trying something dangerous. Although this is usually a contradictory and minor benefit (coming at its cost), it might be important in dangerous areas riddled with e.g., gang activity.
Online games players also receive the opportunity to make new friends by getting acquainted with other players. (Or, vice versa, they can enjoy being alone if they choose to.)
Computer games also allow the players to “vent their spleen” and get rid of the stress they suffer from.
The facts that games provide stress relief, allow for making new friends, and are interesting can be summarized into a general category: games allow players to satisfy their needs. Colwell also lists important types of needs satisfied in this manner; they include “‘companionship’ [communicating with those whom you like online], ‘prefer to friends’ [meaning that teenagers prefer computers to people], ‘fun challenge,’ and ‘stress relief’” (2072).
It is also of essence that computer games develop certain abilities in those who play them, and teach them some skills. For instance, it is argued that certain computer games can develop such abilities as hand-eye coordination and accuracy, as well as focusing, quick reaction and multitasking; they might also nurture the skills of strategic thinking and planning, decision-making, and the ability to work in a team (Bavelier par. 1).
Another benefit is related to people who play games in languages that are not their native languages. Such people, obviously, improve their foreign/second language skills, for they have to figure out what they need to do in the game.
It is also noteworthy that, while some games might teach adolescents negative values and be primitive, others may include quite a complicated, thought-provoking plot, that shows the player the worthy values and provides interesting insights on culture (Bradford 54).
Such games may encourage critical thinking and healthy doubt in things, as well as create more sophisticated perceptions of the world. Surely, to be able to comprehend fully and ambivalence of a certain situation, one needs to be quite well-versed in the subject, specifically look for controversies, or the controversy needs to be clearly explained. Nonetheless, no knowledge can be instantly transferred; it always builds up as one learns.
As we have seen, video games can have both positive and negative effects on the players. In fact, it is hard, if not impossible, to make a universally valid statement about which side outweighs. Is reading good? It depends on who reads what.
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We think that Stephen Hawking is good for anybody; Ayn Rand or Beigbeder – very controversial; some famous and smart murderer politician –only okay if the reader has enough intelligence, skepticism, and ideological resistance. Surely, we believe that reading, on the whole, is good, and this is a controversial analogy; but it puts the idea across in our case.
The effects of gaming vary significantly depending on what kind of games are played, how much, and what aims are pursued. If a teenager plays some “Starcraft II” strategy, or some thought-provoking game, with their friends a few hours a week to relax a little, they get some rest, they develop their brains, and they plainly have a nice time.
If, on the contrary, a recently bullied boy turns on his computer so that he might escape this world and go to another reality where he could be having his revenge until tomorrow by “spilling some guts”–most likely, such gaming will only exacerbate his problems.
As we have seen, video games might have both adverse and beneficent effects on the player. On one hand, addiction, bad health, escapism; on the other, stress relief, development of some abilities, and a good time. The effects hold for people of all ages, but for teenagers, they are often stronger.
The truth is, as often, somewhere in the middle, which effects outweigh is a matter of many conditions, including the quality of the game and the amount of time spent playing it.
Bavelier, Daphne. Your Brains on Action Games.
Bradford, Clare. “Looking for my Corpse: Video Games and Player Positioning.” Australian Journal Of Language & Literacy 33.1 (2010): 54-64. Academic Search Complete.
Carnagey, Nicholas L., Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman. “The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-life Violence.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43 (2007): 489-496. Elsevier.
Colwell, John. “Needs Met Through Computer Game Play Among Adolescents”. Personality and Individual Differences 43.8 (2007): 2072–2082. Elsevier.