We’ve all heard the accusations, right? That video games promote a sedentary lifestyle. That video games promote obesity. That they promote violence and aggressive behavior. The funny part is that a recent study in the UK found that violent video games are no more destructive than those considered perfectly acceptable for children to play. In fact, another recent study has been boasting the benefits that gaming can have on society:
- They’re training more accurate surgeons because games lead to less error-making.
- They help overcome Dyslexia by boosting reading comprehension.
- Improve your vision, assuming you don’t sit too close to the TV, since a study has found that players can distinguish between different color variations and shades easier. Probably the cause of those dark dungeon crawls…
- Lead to career boosts, because players tend to be more assertive, with better leadership skills.
- Promote an interest in history, because…Assassin’s Creed.
- Promote more physical activity because of factors like VR and Wii games that require you stand and do motions. Other times, it’s simply because seeing Nathan Drake scramble away from Nadine’s henchmen like a repulsed monkey makes you realize how large you’re getting.
- Slow the aging process, because you’re holding onto your youth. Not to mention all the problem-solving, memory and puzzle elements.
- Ease pain through distraction. Oh, and also it produces a pain-soothing chemical in the brain.
- Help make new social connections through online multiplayer.
- Help improve balance in MS sufferers, not by correcting the nerve damage, but by slowly restoring a little sense of balance through simultaneous visual and physical stimulation.
- Help improve decision-making skills. This is a given, right? All those timed moments when you can either save your annoying buddy and win good karma, or kick him off the cliff and side with the bad guys that are sure to stab you in the back come the next cutscene.
- Curb cravings. Who has time to get up for food in the middle of a boss fight? No one.
- Reduce stress, because you’re not thinking about your horrible job during a game.
- Make players less likely to bully, because playing as a remorseful hero tends to rub off. But maybe they just get their fill of bullying in the virtual world. That’s a possibility for anyone who actually played the game Bully.
- And help those with autism by encouraging group activity and celebration.
Warning Label: List of Effects Is Based On Possibility, Not A General Fact For All Subjects
Of course, let’s point one true fact out: these benefits, and even the negative effects that parents tend to rant on about, are all subject to speculation. No two people are the same, not even twins. To assume that because a game had a positive effect on one player, it will have that same effect on other players, is erroneous. It could, and it couldn’t. It all depends on who you’re talking about. That being said, the list of potential benefits seems to extend far beyond the list of negatives. It seems as though parents are quick to judge the gaming hobby of their children, and reproach despite the longer list of benefits. But that begs the question, are the developers to blame, or are the parents responsible for the games that children play?
Moral Dilemma: Who’s To Blame For Negative Effects?
Sure, developers make these games, but it’s understood there’s a large, adult market for them. Using GTA as an example, developers aren’t making that series for the sake of your typical 13 year old. If a 13 year old happens to gravitate toward that game, it makes sense, because of the early teenage curiosity and want to rebel. But wouldn’t the parents be to blame, at that point? It’s a tricky situation–developers need to make sure their games are targeted at the right people but parents should also keep a close eye and make sure children are following that targeting.
Rather than assume that games have any effect, positive or negative, let us consider the people playing the games. Let’s look at the players, and all their individual personalities and tendencies. Their individual needs, medical status, and lifestyles. From there, one can gauge whether a specific game, or game genre, can improve them in some way. The task every developer should set out to accomplish is not just to merely entertain. Anyone can do that with a simple joke. The primary effect of a game could be to improve a skill set through an entertaining experience, whether it be reading comprehension, mathematics or problem-solving.
Furthermore, parents and guardians should be researching the games their children play. Research and dissect story elements, morals, and graphic violence and sex scenes, just like they should be doing for anything media-related like TV shows and movies. Getting the product, exposing youth to it, and then blaming developers isn’t particularly fair. Should bakeries stop making sugary cupcakes because it can lead to medical complications? No, you should just stay away from them if you’re worried. Or eat in moderation!
If you want to chat more about the effects of gaming on society, we might be doing a longer article or podcast episode about the topic! Email Raghav ([email protected]) if you are interested. Stay awesome!