The Effects of Video Games
Video games have been under a lot of scrutiny the last few years. Many people believe that they have harmful side effects, and that children and teens should not be allowed to play them. I happen to love video games, and I wanted to examine for myself the research that has been done, and decide if the critics of video games really have a case. So that is what I did. I found that there are many physical, and mental side effects, but that neither of the two is significant enough to cause alarm.
Video games do produce some mental side effects, but what many people don’t know, is that there are negative, as well as positive effects. The negative mental effects of video games are the single biggest worry, among critics of video games, so lets take a look at them first.
The first big negative effect, is a phenomena called ‘new violence.’ According to Michele Steinberg, in ‘Programmed to kill,’ ‘new violence’ is the use of Nintendo style games, and related means, to transform young children and teens, as well as law enforcement personnel into ‘samurai’-style programmed killers. This wave of criticism was brought on in large part due to the murders of 13 students and teachers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999. It brought about he criticism because both of the murderers came from well to do families, and both were avid players of violent video games. Michele goes on to say ‘The very same video games which were originally designed to train soldiers to kill, are those being mass marketed today–to children!’ Problem?? Could be, we will look more into this later.
Other negative mental effects are violence tendencies and addiction. These violent tendencies are not as serious as the ones previously discussed. They just include children wrestling or fighting with each other, after playing a particular violent game, like Mortal Kombat(which showcases two men one on one, to the death). Addiction on the other hand is when a person maybe plays too much. They don’t want to do anything but play video games, or they ‘just have to finish this level.’ Again we will look at both of these problems later on, I just wanted to give you an idea of what the alarmed negative effects are.
On the other hand, there are also positive effects of Video games. Dr. Steve Dorman says in an article by a Texas A&M Professor:
‘Video Games can enhance certain skills in a child. For example, spatial visualization-the ability to rotate mentally and twist two and three-dimensional objects-can improve in children by playing video games. Students with a high degree of spatial visualization are usually high achievers in math and science. Occupations which require mechanical tasks or machinery operation also demand high spatial visualization skills.’
Another author writes, ‘An early study on the effects of video games on children found that playing video games had more positive effects on children then watching television (Cesarone).’ Other positive mental aspects, that have been accredited to video games are, that children find a sense of proficiency that they might not otherwise achieve (Cesarone), and an improved state of mental toughness. Many athletes play video games in the off-season or before games, because they believe that it prepares your mind for tough situations. Video games can become very intense and if you are playing a sport game you will often find yourself in intense real life situation, and proper repetition will make things come natural for you. So if you encounter situations over the Video game system, your mind will remember and you will be a better player out on the field.
There are unquestionably mental side effects of video games, both good and bad, and now that you have a good understanding of what the effects are, we will go on to physical effects.
Physical effects of video games, as with mental, also come on both sides of the spectrum, some good and some bad. The physical effects, however, are not under near as much analysis as are the mental effects, but all the same they still exist.
One of the physical problems with video games is that they seem to induce seizures. According to studies the bright flashing lights of some games increase the chance that an epileptic person will have a seizure (Singh, Bhalla). Another problem is the awkward postures that are associated with the musculoskeletal disorders (Gillespie). There are more problems listed by Emes in “Is Mr. Pac Man Eating our Children” including: increased metabolic rate, increased heart rate, and tendonitis. Dr. Steve Dorman further broke down the Tendonitis he talked about. And he said that there is now a condition, which is called ‘nintendinitis’ which is just a severe pain in the thumb. All of these negative effects we will, like before, talk about later on in this paper.
And as I said there are also positive physical effects of video games. Playing video games significantly increases hand-Eye coordination. It also improves hand quickness as well as hand strength. In an interview with professional Yo-Yo stunt man Tosh Mackintosh, he stated that there is no better conditioning for his hands then playing video games. He also stated that he thinks that the entire controversy on video games is over rated.
Another benefit of video games is that they actually boost outcomes in chronically ill children. One article says:
“The challenges of managing a chronic disease are particulary tough on youngsters. However…studies show that a series of interactive games designed to educate and motivate children with chronic disease can not only help kids learn to cope with their disease in an entertaining way, it also can make a measurable impact on utilization.
If we could learn to use more games like that, then no one would have any problem with video games.
Well now that you know basically all the controversial effects, I am going to give you the cold hard facts from not just my opinion but from the opinion of many unbiased experts.
“Future generations will look back at today’s controversy with the kind of bemusement now reserved for those grainy black-and-white images of crew-cutted rightwingers denouncing comic books and rock ‘n’ roll back in the 1950’s.” (Keegan). It is true, This whole controversy has come about basically because there are a bunch of worried moms who would rather there kids be doing other activities, but don’t want to be to strict on there kids, so they look for excuses as to why, they shouldn’t play. It is easily compared to the 70’s era of worried parents revolting against rock ‘n’ roll. Well how many of you grew up listening to that satanic, druggy music? And you all turned out all right, didn’t you? Not convinced? Ok lets look individually now at each of the negative effects.
First we have the ‘new violence’ phenomena. Lets look specifically at the Columbine Murders. Sure they played violent video games, and that may be part of the reason that they were as successful as they were, but it was not something that caused the horrific event. Both of the Killers involved were also on mind-altering drugs. They were both into Satanism and nihilism. They were also both teased and harassed, to the point of no control. Both of these two boys had severe mental issues, which no expert link to the violent Nintendo games that they played (steinberg).
As to the statement that the same programs being used to train our soldiers are now being mass marketed to children…Lt. Colonel David Grossman who is an Army psychologist said this:
“Now these simulators are in our homes and arcades–in the form of violent video games! If you don’t believe us, you should know that one of the most
effective and widely used simulators developed bye the U.S. Army in recent years (MACS) is nothing more then a modified Super Nintendo game…Duck Hunt!” (steinberg)
Is this a joke? All this controversy over Duck Hunt? I am sorry but no reasonable person is going to be significantly dulled to killing humans, from a video game in which you shoot ducks. This example magnifies my point, which is that this whole controversy has been grossly exaggerated.
Be that as it may, I am still going to discuss the rest of the Effects. On to violence tendencies, yes it is true, when younger kids play violent video games, they tend to become more violent. But the same can be said about violent television. And the violence that these kids display is not mean violence, but actually playful violence. Almost all kids will wrestle and pretend to fight with one another growing up, kids will be kids. These effects are also just short term, they have not found any evidence showing that there are long term mental effects of playing video games (Cesarone). As for addiction to video games, the ball is in the parents court here, just monitor how much they are playing, set rules and guidelines if you feel your child is playing to much, that will easily solve that problem.
There has not been enough research done on video games to make an accurate conclusion, but from the research that has been done, it is apparent that mental effects are not astoo much to worry about. The physical side effects, however, are easier to draw conclusions. It is not as hard to find out what these effects are. So lets discuss them.
Some people are born in this world with disabilities, or illnesses, and often when this happens these people must refrain from some activity. So just like a blind man would refrain from playing football, epileptic people may need to refrain from playing video games. That is just common sense. As is the simple solution to ‘nintendinitis,’ Dr. Dorman says that the only cure for nintendinitis is to abstain from playing video games for a several days. I myself have experienced nintendinitis, and it is painful, but it is easily taken care of, it goes away quickly and naturally if you just stop playing for a while. As for the increased Metabolic and heart rate, isn’t that a good thing? Is that not what running a few miles will do to you? I mean of course it will get your heart pumping, it is intense, and I have been extremely pumped for a game before. Maybe I am just naive but I don’t see the problem in that. And lastly, I will address the concern that people who play video games can form poor postures. Again, where can a person not form poor postures? All that needs be done, is to use your common sense, and sit correctly, ant that problem is solved.
In Conclusion, to me it is blatantly obvious that the effects of Video games are no need for alarm. There are rare and extreme cases when video games have enough impact on a person to cause harm, but these cases are rare, and not something that parents or teens need to concern themselves with. If we just exercise our common sense, then Video games will not only be safe, but actually beneficial.