Video Games, Are they Harming us or Helping Us?
Video games are relatively a new concept in our lives considering how the history of video games only began about fifty years ago. Since the origin of video games, there has been a constant improvement in the quality and looks of video games and this has also seen a rise of people who play video games. With the continuous popularity of video games, some parties have started to wonder what effects video games have on us, humans, in the short and long term. This includes me as I encounter more people every day who tell me that video games are harmful and everyone should stop playing them, or that video games are helpful in multiple ways. This drove me to research more about the effects of video games on us. Some questions I had to ask myself through this process were the following: Are video games helpful to our development? Can video games improve the way we see and interact with the world? Do video games make us stupider? Do video games make us creatures less apt to deal with the real world and social interaction? These questions were not necessarily only asked by me. Previously, these questions have been asked multiple times as researches have tried to answer them multiple times in the past. To date, most of these questions, and multiple more, are still asked by those who believe video games are helpful to us and those who believe video games are harmful to us. The goal of this paper is to dig through the plethora of evidence there exists for both supporters and opponents of video games to claim that their view about video games is correct.
To begin with my research, I decided to find out more about the effects of video games in our early years. In other words, I wanted to learn more about how video games influence children. In recent years, with the improvement of the quality of video games, there has been an ever increasing debate about whether video games can influence someone to be a more violent person. Thanks to this debate, there have been multiple laws created in multiple states which prohibit the sale of video games with violent content to children. This has been without fully understanding the link between video games and violence (Gunter 1348–1355). To gain a better understanding between the link that video games and violent behaviors could possibly share, a study, involving 6567 8th graders, was conducted by a group of researches lead by Whitney Gunter. Dr. Gunter is an assistant professor at the Western Michigan University who has in the past done multiple research studies on the sociology of the Internet ("Western Michigan University"). When the test concluded, it was found that the link between violent behavior and video games influencing those behaviors was, for the most part, spontaneous, or in other words, it was rare to find a child engaging in violent behavior due to being influenced by a video game (Gunter 1348–1355). This result was very intriguing to me as the claim that I hear the most about video games is that they make us violent. However, this study was able to suggest that the link between violence and video games had been exaggerated by both society and previous studies (Gunter 1348–1355). The study clearly was able to dismiss rumors, or at least lower them, about video games influencing a person to act violently.
So, after seeing that there exist studies which dismiss the link between violence and video games, my next question was, where did the belief of video games inducing violent behavior originate? Where is the supporting evidence behind the rumor? It turns out that the rumor originated in the common household after children playing video games would not listen to their parent’s orders in order to keep on playing for longer periods of time video games. There have also been instances where those who engage in violent acts claim that they were inspired to commit violent acts after playing a video game. Take for example the story of Shylo Kujawski, a Canadian man who says he got the inspiration to commit an auto theft from playing a popular, and violent, video game, known as Grand Theft Auto ("Reuters" 1). There exist other instances which are very similar to Shylo Kujawski’s. Stephen Attard, 18, was arrested and charged with first-degree robbery after police say he and a group of teenagers went on a crime spree (Chayes). The teens told detectives they were imitating the “Grand Theft Auto” video-game series where characters steal cars, beat up other characters and commit crimes, authorities said (Chayes). Many more stories similar to these can be found through the world by a simple Bing search of the terms “violence and video games.” These instances have provided somewhat of a solid ground for those who oppose video games, and believe that video games can influence us to become dangerous beings, to claim that their view about video games is correct. However, as I found out earlier, there are studies that show video games do not cause people to become violent.
So, if video games are not damaging to us, then what do they do to us? I encountered additional studies that suggest that those who engage in cooperative video games tend to be more cooperative people outside of the video game. This was a completely unexpected find for me and possibly for those who believed that video games influence people to engage in violent behavior as it can be said that the opposite of violence is cooperation (Ewoldsen, Eno, and et al). It was shown that those who engaged in cooperative video games would latter on engage in cooperative behavior with others more than those who did not engage in playing cooperative video games (Ewoldsen, Eno, and et al). After I found about this study, it was clear to me that video games drove us to be more social and helpful instead of encouraging us to engage in destructive behavior.
I wanted to learn more about the gains we could have by playing video games and I found that in addition to helping us be more cooperative, video games have been, and are used today to help rehabilitate those with disabilities. Video games have, and are employed for some physical therapy patients and also used as a prevention mechanism for future medical problems. I found a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society where patients in the United Kingdom, took part on recent studies which suggest that the Wii, a video gaming console, coupled with its balance board, can aid older adults in preventing falls and aid them to gain flexibility, turn accuracy and speed while standing and walking, and rotational flexibility of their joints (Murray, Teshk, and et al 385-387). A further study which used the data form the previously mentioned study revealed that the consequences of employing the Wii for physical therapy extended to a greater scope than previously thought. Further analysis of the data indicated that those patients who used the Wii showed an increase in their body control overall, balance on both legs and one leg, and walking speed when compared to those patients who did not use the Wii U (Taylor, Shawis, and et al 1781-1783). Additionally, the study showed that there was a reduction in tension, depression, anxiety, vigor, and fatigue in those patients who used the Wii in their therapies compared to those physical therapy patients who did not (Taylor, Shawis, and et al 1781-1783). These two studies indicate a strong relationship between the potential that video games have when paired up with patients for medical improvement purposes. It is clear to me that video games, not only aid children in their development, but also, when it comes to older adults, are a beneficial factor in their recovery and improvement.
The research I have found so far has only focused on the physical gains attributed to the continuous use of video games. Therefore, I began to wonder what about the cognitive consequences of playing video games. To find out more about the cognitive consequences of playing video games, I turned to a research study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. The study, labeled “HomeNet,” focused on “the impact of computer use on cognitive skill and academic development, social development and relationships” (Kaveri, Patricia, and et al 7-30). The study reported that “The very popular action games, which are spatial, iconic, and dynamic, have things going on at different locations. The suite of skills children develop by playing such games can provide them with the training wheels for computer literacy, and can help prepare them for science and technology.” (Kaveri, Patricia, and et al 7-30). This study not only reported that children who play video games are more computer literate, but it also reported that they foresee an improvement in their literacy levels in the future. “The strength of the effects on visual intelligence could change with increasing sophistication of the graphics” (Kaveri, Patricia, and et al 7-30). Additionally, this study found that those children who play video games show an increase in spatial representation. “skills such as mental rotation, spatial visualization, and the ability to deal with two-dimensional images of a hypothetical two- or three-dimensional space,” iconic skills, visual attention, and academic performance (Kaveri, Patricia, and et al 7-30). To me, this study showed that there are clear cognitive gains that come directly from playing video games.
So far, it seems to me as if the influence video games have in our development is a heavily misunderstood topic in our society. There exists, however, some research studies which have suggested that video games can be damaging in certain ways to adolescents. However, those studies have either not been conclusive, or end up contradicting themselves with their own data. An article by Jami Van Puymbroeck, an Assistant Professor at Indiana University, published in 2006, cites multiple studies which have found some detrimental effects related to video gaming. In this article, Puymbroeck claims that “90 percent of college students surveyed knew other students or they themselves had their social or academic lives interrupted by video games” (Puymbroeck, Marieke, and et al 24-29). This by itself could show that video games are bad for our society. He also claims that due to these students not having sufficient social interactions, it became more difficult for them to maintain social relationships because of all the time they had spent playing video games. (Puymbroeck, Marieke, and et al 24-29). Puymbroeck also cites previous research which suggested that young children were at a heightened violent state right after they played a video game (Puymbroeck, Marieke, and et al 24-29). It is important, however, to note that Puymbroeck contradicts himself later on in his paper once he begins to mention the positive effects of video games. He claims that “video games can serve as a central activity for interpersonal interaction, providing an activity for friends to participate together” (Puymbroeck, Marieke, and et al 24-29), which is a direct contradiction of his previous claim that video games make it harder for those who play them to engage in social interactions.
Having in mind all the research articles I found, all the different news reports, and all the scientific journals I consulted regarding the effect video games have on those who play them, whether they are violent video games, or simple, passive video games, it is clear that the data provided by these studies heavily supports the idea of video games being helpful instruments for the development of children, adolescents, and for physical therapy patients, or those who are simply looking to remain fit, regardless of their age or sex. I have found through this research multiple instances where video games have shown to be helpful in the development of cognitive skills while also being helpful in the development of social skills. While some sources claimed that video games were damaging to people, those sources either contradicted themselves, and therefore failed to provided conclusive evidence for their claim, or could not relate directly their claims of video games being responsible for the illicit actions of people. This research also led me to realize that video games should be incorporated in the physical therapy of most patients as the evidence provided by the sources I looked at shows a clear correlation between video games and a greater improvement in mobility for those who used video games in their physical therapy when compared to those who did not use video games in their physical therapy. This research has led me to conclude that overall, video games are beneficial as I had previously suspected and that claims that video games are dangerous and damaging to people do not have any evidence to support their claim and therefore I found them to be baseless.
Chayes, Mathew. "BRIEF: Cops: Grand Theft Auto video game inspired teen crimes." McClatchy - Tribune Business News [Washington] 27 Jun 2008, n. page. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.
Ewoldsen, David, Cassie Eno, et al. "Effect of playing violent video games cooperatively or competitively on subsequent cooperative behavior.." Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking. (2012): n. page. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.
"'Grand Theft Auto' Fan Arrested For... Guess What?; VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Sept 20 (Reuters) - A Canadian man's apparent fondness for the video game "Grand Theft Auto" has led to his arrest in connection with an auto theft, police said on Wednesday.." Reuters [New York] 21 Sep 2006, 1. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.
Gunter, Whitney. "Causal or spurious: Using propensity score matching to detangle the relationship between violent video games and violent behavior." Computers in Human Behavior 28.4 (2012): 1348–1355. ebscohost. Database. 11 Oct 2012.
Kaveri, Subrahmanyam, Greenfield Patricia, et al. "Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology." Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 22.1 (2001): 7-30. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.
Murray, Griffin, Shawis Teshk, et al. "Using the Nintendo Wii as an Intervention in a
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Puymbroeck, Jami, Marieke, et al. "Parks & Recreation." Parks & Recreation. 41.8 (2006): 24-29. Web. 18 Oct. 2012.
Taylor, Matthew, Teshk Shawis, et al. "Nintendo Wii As a Training Tool in Falls
Prevention Rehabilitation: Case Studies." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 60.9 (2012): 1781-1783. Web. 11 Oct. 2012.
"Whitney D. Gunter | Sociology | Western Michigan University." Western Michigan University. Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University. Web. 22 Oct 2012.