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Video games

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Whenever the issue of the benefits and harms of videogames has been brought up, the responses are always controversial. The importance of this subject is derived from its popularity amongst the masses, most significantly in children of the ages of 11-16. If these children are going to make up the next generation, it is imperative that we investigate the effects they have.

The incentive people have to play videogames stem from the idea that they are real-life simulations from the graphics and sound to the interactivity. In addition to this, the game developers are employing a new strategy in order to attract customers: they claim, while backed up by doctors and researchers, that they have medical benefits. This is in the midst of research and claims linking videogames with violence, crime, photosensitive epilepsy, headaches, hallucinations, nerve and muscle damages and even obesity in the long run. While it is confirmed that long hours spent playing videogames could cause Repetitive Strain Injury, this would apply to almost any other activity which involved computers and the television.

Videogames and Violence

The notion that videogames are linked with violence is a very common objection people have with videogames. In the year 2000, the observer reported that a “definitive” piece of research had been published showing that “physiological damage could be inflicted on even occasional players of videogames”. They cite as an example of this the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado where two teenage boys killed twelve class mates in addition to the teacher and themselves. In a video they left behind, they stated that the slaughter would be just like “doom”.

Game developers and those working for them disagree. They bring forward the principle “correlation is not causation”. They assert that such people as the teenagers mentioned above were already mentally disturbed which is why they were attracted to the game in the first place. They contend that the results would be similar whether they watched a violent or TV program and that the game did not specifically alter the workings of their brains to cause such results.

On the other hand, the study cited by the Observer, maintains that playing such videogames are more detrimental since when watching a violent movie you are merely observing, while the player of the videogame is actively identifying his/herself with the aggressor. Another study, also quoted in the Observer’s article, run by someone who had studied 300 college students declared that the adolescents who make up the majority of the demographics with regard to videogames, are still in the process of developing their ideas and attitudes. He believes that the graphically violent scenes of many of the games are going unnoticed by parents and are affecting the children.

What are clear, lucid and obvious, however, are the common themes of violence running through many videogames. After weighing the evidences, it is clear that although the arguments with regards to this are polarized i.e. the game developers claiming that videogames are an outlet for children to release their aggression in a way that does not affect anyone while others claim that these themes in the games increase the chance of the players acting violently when interacting with others. In my opinion, these opinions are too simplistic and naive: both have the potential of being a reality and this depends on many factors.

Firstly, it should be known that certain children could play an endless amount of violent videogames without being affected in the slightest way. On the other hand, others could be affected by playing the game with a minimal amount of violence. In other words, there are always exceptions.

Secondly, the importance of caring, understanding and openly talkative parents is a major factor. A child, spending endless hours playing violent videogames, who has not other means of venting frustration and no real guide to help him distinguish between the fantasy gaming life and the real life, would most probably be greatly affected by the games.

Another important factor, I believe, is the styles and objectives of the game. A real-life scenario setting is obviously going to have more of an effect on the child than a fantasy setting. In addition to this, if the player is winning points for the violence, as in the case of games like Doom and Carmageddon, the children are likely to respond with violent behaviour.

Videogames, Addiction and School Work

There have been a number of cases where “videogame addiction” has been diagnosed. This refers to a compulsive use of computer and videogames which interferes with the essential tasks of life such as study. There is a vast amount of debate and discussion as to what this constitutes, what its consequences are, how serious it is and whether it should be classed as a physiological disorder.

There have been many groups who believe it should be classified as a psychiatric disorder. They include the American nation’s largest Doctor Group. They claim that videogame addiction is as serious as the likes of alcohol addiction due to the compulsive element that it entails. On the other hand, the videogame makers in addition to their mental health experts believe that their products do not cause any form of dependence.

One of the studies which support the existence of this addiction was implemented by Hauge and Gentile. The study’s results stated the following points:

* Addicted adolescents spend more time playing video games

* Males were significantly more likely to be addicted than females

* Addicted adolescents were significantly more likely to report having been in a physical fight in the last year

* Addicted adolescents had higher hostile attribution scores

* Addicted adolescents had more arguments with friends and more arguments with teachers

* Addicted adolescents reported lower academic grades

It is clear from the studies which have taken place as well as first hand reporting that Videogame addiction exists, is a serious problem, and impacts the victim in their lives due to their neglect for ordinary day-to-day duties.

Despite the above, it is also clear that the ratio of those addicted compared with those who are not is minute. With this in mind, I believe it is safe to conclude that an average player who is supervised and whose hours playing are restricted and balanced out with activities such as household chores and homework will not be affected. In this respect, the verdicts of the game makers could be accepted. However, players who are not restricted starting from a young age are far more likely to develop this addiction due to the fact that they seek to fulfil their physiological needs through the virtual games rather through reality due to the artificial rewards, freedom and friendship through connection with other players.

A separate, perhaps less serious, issue is the videogames effects on the vast majority of children and adolescents lives and their studies. According to Michael Brody ((Psychiatrist), M.D., head of the TV and Media Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry), the use of videogames has the effect of displacing “physical activity and time spent on studies, with friends, and even with family” on certain individuals. For this reason, many people are totally against the use of videogames.

Nonetheless, most game makers respond by saying that there is no difference with regards to videogames than any other type of leisure activity. Whatever one does in excess one will necessary fail in other aspects of life. They assert that there is no solid evidence to differentiate videogames with any other form of leisure activity and hold that if one were to ban or place restrictions on videogames one should do the same for all other types of entertainment including the television and computer.

Upon weighing the evidences and conclusions of both sides in respect to addiction as well as the general effect on studies and life, I believe it would be safe to conclude the following:

1. Game addiction is a serious matter which clearly exists and displaces the essential tasks of an individual

2. This type of addiction is relatively rare

3. For the vast majority of children, video gaming is no different from other leisure activities and everything should be done in moderation.

The Benefits of Videogames

So far, the discussion has been about the harms of videogames. In this section we will explain people’s views on the benefits of videogames.

According to a study conducted by Mark Griffins, playing videogames of whatever genre causes a number of benefits which include reductions in reaction times, improved hand-eye co-ordination and a raise of the players’ self-esteem. In addition to this, the engaging and challenging nature of videogames has the capacity to incorporate educational themes so that the player is learning as well as having fun. He does admit, though, that most games n the markets are not of this type. Furthermore, Griffin maintains that videogames can be used as a powerful distraction from mental and health conditions. Examples include those with attention deficit disorders, children undergoing chemotherapy and treatment for sickle cell anaemia.


Although many would disagree with me, I sincerely believe that the situation is not as black-and-white as it seems too many people and even some specialists. Firstly, it is important we acknowledge that there are always exceptions presenting examples of extreme reactions. Such are the examples I have mentioned earlier on violence in games: certain people would only have to play for half an hour on a violent game to have the themes stuck in their head and to have that particular type of behaviour manifest through their interactions with others, but this is clearly not the case for the vast majority of people.

Another example is of videogame addiction: although it does exist and has affected many people, the vast majority of people are not affected. This is also true with other conditions possessed only by a minority of people such as photosensitive epilepsy. On the other hand, others are not at all affected even after playing violent games for hours on end. What is clear is that the majority of people are affected negatively by videogames due to its overuse.

That is to say they restrict most of their free time to playing these videogames, often times without support from parents/carers. The solution to this, in my opinion, is the job of parents: it is their duty to balance their children’s time with videogames with other activities such as homework. In addition, it is their duty to monitor the content of the games and talk to their children about the behaviour they witness when playing. If these simple guidelines were followed most people would not be affected negatively by videogames whether it is violent behaviour or addiction.

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