Erik Bascome, Sports Editor
Throughout our country’s history we have constantly sought to find a scapegoat for the problems of our youth. While our sights used to be set on things such as rock music and gangster films, we have shifted our focus in recent years towards the demonization of video games.
Being an avid gamer since I got my Nintendo 64 at five years old, I’ve heard it all.
“They’ll make you violent.” “You’ll melt your brain staring at that TV.” “Video games make you anti-social.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that none of these things are true. In fact, it’s actually quite the opposite.
The most common assertion we see about video games is that they make the players violent. However, not a single study has been published showing any significant correlation between the use of video games and acts of violence. It has been theorized by some that video games can have the opposite effect. Proponents of the Catharsis Theory claim that by expressing their aggression in other ways, people are less likely to act on that aggression in the real world.
Video games also do not melt your brain, they actually help develop and maintain your mental health throughout your life. Regularly playing video games heightens the player’s perception, attention, and memory. All of this allows the person to be quick and efficient in problem solving and decision making situations. Video game players also multitask more efficiently due to their ability to focus on various things at the same time. While it may not appear that ducking from the enemy sniper while capturing the objective and dodging incoming frag grenades will have any practical use for you in the real world, it is keeping your mind sharp. Gamers also have increased mental flexibility, or ability to switch rapidly throughout tasks without error, than the average person. While it may seem rather unlikely to occur, the same quick instincts that saved your life from the speeding car in Grand Theft Auto V can one day have the same effect in real life. The cognitive benefits of video games also extend far past the younger demographic that is typically associated with the product. Numerous studies have shown that playing video games can help reverse the mental decline that comes with aging. Elderly people who play video games see an increase in cognitive flexibility, working memory, abstract reasoning, and attention. So even if your grandmother still thinks they’re all named Pikachu, at least she’s keeping her brain healthy!
As for video games’ detrimental effect on your eyes, that is also nonsense. Playing video games can actually improve your vision in multiple ways. The first way they benefit your vision is by increasing your visual contrast sensitivity. This allows gamers to distinguish between subtle changes in color. Gaming also improves spatial attention, the ability to quickly locate a target in a field of distractors. It also reduces impulsiveness, allowing gamers to refrain from responding to non-target stimuli. Essentially, shooting the “bad guys” and avoiding the civilians allows us find things quicker and more efficiently in the real world.
Perhaps the most ridiculous claim made about video games is that they make you anti-social. On the contrary, in today’s day and age, gaming has become a social phenomenon thanks to the wonders of the internet. Almost all new games feature a multiplayer function and many games can only be played with others. Many of these games encourage players to strategize and work as a team to reach a common goal. This ability to communicate effectively and work cooperatively is essential in today’s work environment, and many of our young employees learned it while trying to defuse a bomb on “Search and Destroy” in Call of Duty.
Video games have always been a huge part of my life as both a form of entertainment and as an educational tool. I am proud to say that my experiences with video games have helped shape me into the person I am today. As YouTube gamer/songwriter Nate Smith said, “Things that fail to kill me make me level up.”