Does video gaming really breed antisocial behavior and isolation?

Video games are one of the most misunderstood forms of entertainment. So let us try to understand why?

If you haven’t had much direct interaction with video games, watching someone play for a prolonged period can be a pretty unsettling experience. Gamers can often give the impression that they’re glued to the screen, absorbed in what feels like the digital equivalent of junk food. At best, it seems like a pointless thing to do; at worst, we worry that games are socially isolating, or actively harmful.

In this article we will take a little time to uncover the true nature of video games!

Our culture has been substantially influenced by video games for over the last 40 years. Video games started a cultural revolution with classic games like Pong in 1972 and Space Invaders in 1978. Notably in 1981, with Nintendo’s masterpiece, Donkey Kong, and not only the introduction of the titular character, but the protagonist, Mario, who became the mascot of Nintendo for years to come. Other examples include Pokémon, which became the most popular children’s toy in 1999, and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog in 1992, and characters in recent games in 2018 like Monster Hunter World, Dragon World FrighterZ, Moss, Sea of Thieves and many others have served as not only mascots, but also popular culture icons. Every kid who grew up in the nineties has at least heard of them.

In 2019, we are at an age where technology is a society constant. Life at this juncture is practically unimaginable without the technology we enjoy today. In particular, life would not be as it were if not for video games. While, yes, one may think that video games don’t seem as important as telecommunications, and social media, and all the modern day conveniences we need to live an optimal life, we neglect to think about just how much video games influence, shape, and impact our culture, history, and way of life.

Over the last 40 years, approximately 9 generations of video games have been created. It sprang from consoles and arcade games, to online-gaming and virtual reality. The increasing number of people playing video games means that video games are having an undeniable effect on culture. This effect is clearly visible in the increasing mainstream acceptance of aspects of gaming culture. Video games have also changed the way that many other forms of media, from music to film, are produced and consumed. Education has also been changed by video games through the use of new technologies that help teachers and students communicate in new ways through educational games such as Brain Age. Video games during the 1970s and 1980s were often derivatives of other forms of media. E.T.Star Wars, and a number of other games took their cues from movies, television shows, and books. This began to change in the 1980s with the development of cartoons based on video games, and in the 1990s and 2000s with live-action feature films based on video games, and in recent times many violent and horror games have left an impact not only on the society and culture but in our economy as well.

Playing violent video games are blamed by the media and some experts as the reason why some young people become violent or commit extreme anti-social behavior.  But many scientists and psychologists find that video games can actually have many benefits like enhancing mental skills and making kids smart.

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When a child plays problem solving and logic games like The Incredible Machine, Angry Birds or Cut The Rope, he trains his brain to come up with creative ways to solve puzzles and other problems in short bursts.  In shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, his speed, where the gun is aiming, if the gunfire is hitting the enemy, and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in his hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful.  Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games.

In strategy games such as SimCity, Age of Empires, and Railroad Tycoon the player learns to manage resources that are limited, and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life.  Sometimes in action games the player has to analyze quickly and take correct decisions which train the player’s brain to make faster decisions without losing accuracy. In today’s world, it is important to move quickly without sacrificing accuracy.

Many strategy games also require the player to become mindful of sudden situational changes in the game and adapt accordingly. The young gamer reads to get instructions, follow storylines of games, and get information from the game texts.  Also, using math skills is important to win in many games that involves quantitative analysis like managing resources. In higher levels of a game, the player usually need to keep on trying until he succeeds and move on to the next level which increases their perseverance. In few games the gamer must constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy.  If one does not work, he changes hypothesis and try the next one which increases their skill of Inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing.

Also, various studies claimed that video games improve ability to rapidly and accurately recognize visual information, increases concentration, taking risks, how to respond to challenges, how to respond to frustrations, how to explore and rethink goals and teamwork and cooperation when played with others.

Above all we cannot deny the fact that the revenue from gaming industry is massive, reaching an astounding $20 trillion, which represents almost 25% of the GDP of the planet. Also, gaming has created a lot of job opportunities and become one of the best-paid jobs these days in countries like South Korea, Japan and more. With the proliferation of E-Sports tournaments and leagues around the globe, gaming has given a job not only to the gamers themselves, but to the sponsors, organizers, staff, merchandise sellers, as well.

Now let’s understand few negative effects of video games.

The World Health Organization in June 2018 declared gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. A study by the Minneapolis-based National Institute for Media and the Family suggests that video games can be addictive for kids, and that the kids’ addiction to video games increases their depression, violent behaviors and anxiety levels. Addicted kids also exhibit social phobias. Not surprisingly, kids addicted to video games see their school performance suffer.

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Gaming is not a perfect world. There are flaws such as gaming addiction that need to be addressed. But for the most part, it seems that gaming has a positive impact and should be treated as such. As you can see, there is a prominent relationship between playing violent games and aggression. However, not all children become aggressive due to playing violent video games. At the end of the day, not all kids who plays games that has violence will turn into murderers. The voice of gamers is going to play a big role in the future as gaming culture continues to develop and grow. It’s time we started listening to the people that actually play these games rather than people that just want someone to blame for the violence they see on the news.

While yes, arguments can still be made for video games and their connection to violence, there can conversely be arguments made for video games and their beneficial, positive, effect on our world today, the world has been moulded and shaped today by the characters we grow to love and adore, and hopefully, as video games continue to make leaps into a new future, so shall we.