Friday, 31 May 2019 19:28

COLUMN: Are video games harmful or helpful?

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The violence that characterizes many video games has long been cited as a possible source of unwanted behavior in young people. For years it has been debated whether certain games can influence people, primarily children, in negative ways. Scientific studies regarding this notion have shown mixed results.  


According to a recent article in the National Center for Health Research, “Aggressive behavior is measured by scientists in a number of ways. Some studies looked at self-reports of hitting or pushing, and some looked at peer or teacher ratings on aggressive behaviors. It is important to keep in mind that violent video game exposure is only one risk factor of aggressive behavior. ” 

Intuitively, it would seem that video game play could prove conducive to experiencing any number of a wide array of feelings. Just as watching a show or reading a book can evoke emotions, either positive or negative, video games can do the same, and perhaps to an even greater extent. 

Possible negative effects of video game indulgence are many. The likelihood of developing desensitization to aggression and death remains a viable topic of study in relation to exposure to video game violence. A decrease in prosocial behaviors such as helping another person and feeling empathy (the ability to understand others) is another concern. 

There is also recognition that video games can be quite frustrating for some and, as a result, possibly lead to heightened emotional discomfort. It has been hypothesized that the significant level of time investment and/or general effort usually associated with video game play may serve to exacerbate subsequent psychological effects.   

However, a recent study indicated that such fears may be unfounded. An Oxford University analysis of the subject was conducted in February 2019 and it was found that any possible correlation between exposure to violence in video games and ensuing demonstrations of aggression was relatively nonexistent. In fact, other studies have even shown that video games in general can improve cognitive function and certain attributes such as hand-eye coordination and reflexes.

There is also the matter of personal satisfaction that may serve as a positive result of video game play. Progressing through levels of video game challenges would logically render a feeling of achievement, as would the thrill of advancing in ranks compared to other players, or the pride of receiving recognition for your skill set. Each of these is definitely a great thing for a “gamer” to experience.  

As is true with most activities, the “appropriate” degree of involvement is logically a key to maximizing the positive aspects and benefits of video game play while minimizing any negative effects. We can only hope that future studies will serve to definitively prove or disprove the debate one way or another, but for now, “all things in moderation” may indeed be the best adage to follow.  

 

Jaron Guinn is a Hamlet native and video game enthusiast.