Whenever there is a shooting committed by a young person, many people seek an outlet to vent their frustration and confusion. Unfortunately, the most common scapegoat used by the media is violent video games. I find it ridiculous that just because someone played Call of Duty last week, it is therefore undoubtedly true that he/she shot someone, because, as the media says “it’s seen as OK in Call of Duty” – I’m sorry, WHAT?! Using video games constantly as a scapegoat for this kind of situation is completely illogical but unfortunately, because the media extensively covers it, it is believed by many to be the absolute truth. Now, many people have begun to believe that video games are bad, and are supposedly to blame for causing violence, aggression and anti-social behaviour in today’s society. But purported negative effects such as increased aggression, violence and various health problems such as obesity and repetitive strain injuries tend to get lots more media coverage than the positives that are associated with playing video games. Video games can benefit players in many ways, and this is something that isn’t often discussed or even recognised by many people. In this feature article I endeavour to, for once, discuss the potential benefits of playing video games.
It is often the case that shooting bad guys in a video game is viewed as bad as it promotes and rewards violence. However, shooting bad guys in video games can actually unexpectedly give you better vision, according to a University of Rochester study. In this study, some people were asked to play Call of Duty, whilst others played The Sims 2. Those that played the first person shooter experienced an increase in their “contrast sensitivity function,” or the ability to make out slight changes in the brightness of an image. The ability to pick out bright patches is crucial to daily tasks like driving at night. Read more about the study here.
Video games also have great educational potential in addition to their entertainment value. There is now a ton of research which shows that video games can be put to effective educational uses, regardless of whether they are violent shooter games or not. The interactivity found within video games can stimulate learning, allowing individuals to experience curiosity and challenge that stimulates the learning experience. Games specifically designed to teach a specific skill have been very successful, precisely because they are motivating, engaging, interactive, and provide rewards to improve learning – an example of this type of game are the brain training games on the Nintendo DS.
A common view amongst society is that playing video games is a lazy hobby; however, playing videos may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception. Furthermore, many studies also reveal that playing video games can improve reaction times and hand-eye co-ordination. For example, research has shown that spatial visualisation ability, such as mentally rotating and manipulating two- and three-dimensional objects, improves when people play video games.
The other common stereotype of a gamer is that they are a bit of a loner, and that they have no social life as all they do is stay inside and play video games. However, a study done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology found that playing online games does not replace offline social lives, but expands them. You can find more information about this study here. Games that involve multiple players encourage players to work cooperatively to achieve certain goals. When you play a co-op game, you learn to listen to others, formulate plans with other players, and distribute tasks based on skills. Some online games, such as Call of Duty, are even played internationally, and this can introduce players to people of different nationalities and cultures. This allows players to create friendships among different people whom they wouldn’t have usually met. I have a lot of great friends online that are based all over the world, but I do not see these as fake “online” friendships – I have a genuine social life when I am amongst these people – and I have a damn good time.
Other studies have also revealed that video games can be put to therapeutic uses. Simple games that can be played quickly, such as “Angry Birds,” can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and get rid of anxiety. You can find some more information about this here. A lot of the gamers I have personally spoken to have said that they play video games, particularly RPGs, to immerse themselves in another world and to escape from their problems in reality. Video games, then, can act as a sort of comfort for some people. In addition to this, a person may play a violent video game to release pent-up aggression and frustration. I, for one, can vouch for this as whenever I come home from a stressful day, I really feel like jumping on Call of Duty or Destiny, and shooting some characters to get rid of my anger – and it works a treat.
So, there we have it…there are many positives that are associated with playing video games, and these are often effects that are overlooked. The media always tends to focus on the negative effects that are supposedly associated with video games as they illogically continue to use video games as a scapegoat for violence in today’s society.
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