Video game can be described as a game in which there is an interaction with a user interface. This interaction leads to the generation of a visual feedback on a video device. Though traditionally, the word “video” in “video game” was taken to mean a raster display device. The electronic systems that are used to play video games are known as platforms and range from large computers to small palmtops.
Video and computer games, like many popular, entertaining and addicting kid activities, are looked down upon by many parents as time-wasters, and worse, parents think that these games rot the brain. Also, violent video games are readily blamed by the media and some experts as the reason why some youth become violent or commit extreme anti-social behavior. But many scientists and psychologists find that video games actually have many benefits – the main one being making kids smart. Video games may actually teach kids high-level thinking skills that they will need in the future.
A new study compiled by scientists at Yale University, has found that video games are not harmful as long as those who play do not spend most of their time engaged in them. The Yale study says that the boys who played video games had better grades then those who did not, on average, and were less like to smoke cigarettes and engage in consumption of banned substances like marijuana. Only 5 percent of them had behavior patterns like relieving tension only through gaming, having potent urges to game that they cannot control, trying to limit time spent on video game and failing. (Peart)
Form the study we can see that video games teach many skills to the developing child. Examples of these skills include problem-solving abilities, perseverance, pattern recognition, hypothesis testing, estimating skills, inductive reasoning, resource management, logistics, mapping, memory, quick thinking, and reasoned judgments (Sheff, 1994). Many of these skills are abstract and require higher-level thinking, which schools do not often teach children. By including a way to choose one’s own level of difficulty in most, if not all, video games, one can tailor the degree of intricacy of the tasks in the game to meet one’s own skills. After the tasks are completed at an easy level, a child will feel motivated to attempt a higher degree of difficulty. By slowly ramping up the difficulty, the child is able to accomplish goals and learn while increasing his or her self-efficacy.
Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions. Video games can be used to train soldiers and surgeons, according to the study. (Benson)
As Tapscott (1998) noted, “Engaging the child in an interactive experience, developing hand-eye motor skills, giving the child a sense of accomplishment, keeping the child off the streets, and just encouraging having fun are all judged by many parents to be valuable or, at worst, benign” (p. 162). In shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, their speed, where the gun is aiming, if the gunfire is hitting the enemy, and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in their hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games. There have been even studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. In addition, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games.
“Violent video games are like peanut butter,” said Christopher J. Ferguson, “They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems.” That is the other study from Texas A&M International University by Christopher J. Ferguson. It shows that players who have personality or mental health problems would be influenced by video games, but majority of players don’t have those problems. And also, Ferguson suggested that video games could increasingly be used in therapy with young adults and teens. Violent games may help people work through their frustrations with real life and calm down without increasing aggressive behaviors in real life. (Feuguson).
Also, Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that playing a video game is similar to working through a science problem. Like students in a laboratory, gamers must come up with a hypothesis. For example, players in some games constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy. If one does not work, they change hypothesis and try the next one. Video games are goal-driven experiences, says Gee, which are fundamental to learning.
Although video game has those benefits, we still cannot ignore its disadvantages on players. Most of the bad effects of video games are blamed on the violence they contain. Children who play more violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping, according to a scientific study (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). In another study conducted by Gentitle, Lynch, Linder & Walsh “adolescent girls played video games for an average of 5 hours a week, whereas boys averaged 13 hours a week”(2004). The kids in school spent a lot of time for playing video games. The interactive quality of video games differs from passively viewing television or movies because it allows players to become active participants in the game’s script. Players benefit from engaging in acts of violence and are then able to move to the game’s next level. The brain, Douglas Gentile says, becomes what it practices. Violent games teach aggression efficiently by featuring clear objectives, multiple difficulty levels, a pace set by the player, repetitive practice to produce mastery at an unconscious level and reinforcement with rewards. These are strategies that could be put to better use in non-violent digital media, he argues. Unlike many other learning situations, video games usually require true mastery of skills at one level before the player can move to the next, and players often become nearly monomaniacal about conquering the challenge.
Video games also encourage players to identify with and roles play their favorite characters. This is referred to as a “first-person” video game (Anderson & Dill, 2000) because players are able to make decisions affecting the actions of the character they are imitating. After a limited amount of time playing a violent video game, a player can “automatically prime aggressive thoughts” (Bushman & Anderson, 2002). Meanwhile, women are often played as weaker characters that are helpless or sexually provocative. The researchers concluded that players who had prior experience playing violent video games responded with an increased level of aggression when they encountered confrontation (Bushman & Anderson, 2002). This shows that exposure to violent media can elevate aggressive feelings and thoughts, especially in children. These effects on aggressive behavior can be long-term.
Academic achievement may be negatively related to over-all time spent playing video games. Studies have shown that the more time a kid spends playing video games, the poorer is his performance in school. (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Gentile, Lynch & Walsh, 2004) And, the more time a person spends sitting on the computer or sitting on the couch and playing video games, the less time they are spending outside playing with friends or outside doing yard work. Basically the more time spent playing video games the less possible time to take part in healthy, physical activities. With the increasing amounts of obesity found among Americans today, the fear about the lack of physical activity is reasonable. Along with the fear of the increase of obesity, there is also a fear of lacking social skills. Some parents worry that if their children spend a lot of time playing video games they’re missing out on the time that could be spent playing with peers. Some argue that people interact with others while playing video games. For example, in the popular video game Call of Duty there is a lot of interaction with others through the game itself. This creates a debate on whether or not the interaction served through the video games allows for the same interaction one gets from a face-to-face encounter. Regardless of this, there is still the existing fear that when a person spends their free time playing video games they will not receive the necessary interactions and therefore might lack social skills.
Another research is made by Bushman and Gibon that the researchers randomly assigned college students to play one of six different video games for 20 minutes. Half the games were violent (e.g., Mortal Kombat) and half were not (e.g., Guitar Hero). To test if ruminating about the game would extend the games’ effect, half of the players were told over “the next 24 hours, think about your play of the game, and try to identify ways your game play could improve when you play again.” Bushman and Gibson had the participants return the next day to test their aggressiveness. For men who didn’t think about the game, the violent video game players tested no more aggressive than men who had played non-violent games. But the violent video game playing men who thought about the game in the interim were more aggressive than the other groups. The researchers also found that women who played the violent video games and thought about the games did not experience increased aggression 24 hours later. This study is the first laboratory experiment to show that violent video games can stimulate aggression for an extended period of time. The authors noted that it is “reasonable to assume that our lab results will generalize to the ‘real world.’ Violent gamers usually play longer than 20 minutes, and probably ruminate about their game play in a habitual manner.” (Bushman & Gibson, 2010)
Consider those studies about video games effect players’ behaviors on positive and negative side. The strangest of the positive effects of video games can be seen in the healthcare sector. People (especially youngsters) who are undergoing painful treatment for ailments like cancer can use video games to distract themselves from the pain for extended periods. Video games have positive psychological effects as well. Certain games that are used as part of a comprehensive program can further help autistic children and other children with developmental disorders. Studies have also shown that playing video games can improve mental faculties, such as hand-eye coordination. More intelligent games such as strategy and puzzle games can also improve problem solving, and provide intellectual stimulation as well.
There is a wide range of reported negative effects of video games on behaviors; however the actual evidence of games directly causing certain negative effects is very weak. Other negative effects are usually due to prolonged excessive play of video games. Parents concerned with the amount of time their children spend on video games should encourage them to balance the time out with other activities. Extremely adverse effects such as hallucinations are very rare and could be caused by other unknown factors. People who live a sedentary lifestyle (poor exercise, rather inactive) and do mostly sitting activities such as playing video games usually suffer from some sort of ailment later on in life, such as heart and muscle problems and obesity. This is usually combined with a poor diet, such as genetically modified foods and junk food.
There is also research that suggests that there is a link between violent games and increased aggression, however the research is rather limited and usually does not take other variables into account such as upbringing and environmental conditions.
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