Video Games in society’s eyes: Harmful or helpful?

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When observing people playing video games, have you ever considered what they might be gaining? Is their seemingly undivided attention to the images on the screen purely for entertainment, or does it serve to provide some higher purpose? When used in recreation videogames can offer a form of psychological release. Additionally, videogames can provide an increase in brain function and usage. These benefits are however not yet widely accepted. One common myth often portrayed by media and concerned parents is that videogames create a level of anti-social characteristics in those who engage in them. Commonly considered to be true is that once a child, or adolescent is immersed into the vast world of gaming, they become consumed by it; to the extent that real life communication is no longer deemed necessary. To this point, organizations have been formed to limit and prohibit the age at which certain videogames may be played by consumers. Some people have even deemed videogames a detriment to society. Common myths such as these are simply not true. In fact, playing videogames are beneficial for the players.

The statement that gaming is productive may be met with some resistance. Studies, however confirm these findings. “Video games help gauge a child’s cognitive development and facilitate individualized learning” (Loo, sec. 6). In “How games make kids smarter,” speaker Gabe Zichermann cited a Minnesota school teacher, Ananth Pai who replaced the curriculum within his class with a videogame-based curriculum. Understanding and comprehension in reading and math rose one- and one-half grade levels within that environment over an eighteen-week period. Engaging in video games accelerate problem solving and reaction time as well. Alternate reality games (ARG’s) provide the user with unique problems to solve to progress into further levels. This reward-based system helps to motivate the player to discover and determine new ways to progress through puzzles or challenges. First person shooter type games as well as platform styled interfaces accelerate motor vision skills and improve reaction time. In the American Psychological Association review, Granic, Lobel, and Engles state that, “while one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception.” Cognitive improvement is only one benefit to video game play.

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The act of being immersed into a virtual world is entertaining to be sure, however the entertainment is secondary to the psychological benefits a virtual environment provides. In an article written by Queese, psychologist Robert Leahy explains that the psychological stability of the average teen is equal to a mental patient in the 1950’s. The escape afforded to a player in any virtual world provides a level of stress relief. By simply turning on the console and wearing a headset a player can become who they want, through internal customization of character. Due to the nature of the environment within the game, real world stressors, and problems become secondary. A short stint into a virtual world can relieve the stress felt in daily life. According to the study “Relation of Adolescent Video Game Play to Time Spent in Other Activities,” Cummings and Vandewater concluded that children who play video games regularly are generally better adjusted than those who don’t. Communication plays a big role in video gaming today. A common misconception among those who lobby against gaming, is that personal communication becomes less desired to the player.

Many games are co-op, meaning that cooperation is necessary to advance through the levels. Through the use of peripheral communication devices, advanced problem solving is elevated between a party. Typically, a problem or situation is presented, and it is up to the player to determine how to proceed, but when introduced to a party, multiple inputs add individual ways of problem solving. Many studies have proven that high density teams, such as those found in Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, which pairs many members together, have higher levels of information sharing and collaboration leading to better performance. Another psychological benefit to online gaming is the comradery and lasting friendships that can emerge from a group atmosphere. Eight years ago, in the widely known first person shooter, Call of Duty: Black Ops, I personally forged several lasting relationships. These friendships have crossed over the boundaries set in the virtual world, to the world in which we live.

Still many who oppose gaming believe that engaging in video games is not only a waste of time, but significantly degrades the ability to learn or socialize. There is some merit to the argument that violence in video games, trains us to become more passive at real life violence. “Desensitization to violence was defined in a Journal of Experimental Social Psychology peer-reviewed study as a reduction in emotion-related physiological reactivity to real violence.” This statement does not take into consideration the individual’s propensity for violence. You would be hard pressed to find a home in America that doesn’t have a video game console in it. By this logic, not only are exceptionally violent teens gamers, but their counterpart as well.

There is a similar argument that those who play video games are lazy or have no desire to do anything substantial in their daily life. Lethargy, as well as several other conditions linked to gaming disorders was studied by graduates at U.C. Berkley. The study found that the link to video games is not as clearly defined as just playing vs not playing. Those students that exhibited at-risk behavior were significantly invested in the video game. This concludes that a player’s individual video game experience is directly linked to their ability to distinguish real life problems, from in-game situations. It can be ascertained that an individual’s predisposition to addiction is a major factor when assessing the blame that video games often bear the brunt of.

The most referenced term, when discussing the pitfalls of playing video games is addiction. There are countless accounts of players, particularly teens and adolescents that exhibit seemingly manic behavior when confronted with the loss of their gaming console. The act of dependency on a virtual construct can be born of a simple platform. Video game developers, especially those in the mobile department exploit the player’s need to level up, by charging a fee. Downloadable content has disrupted the gaming experience to some extent, in that to optimize game play, certain items must be bought with real money for online items. Virtually everyone has played, and gotten stuck in Candy Crush, an online-only game for mobile users. Undoubtedly, we have been given the option to purchase a power-up; an item to make the level easier. This seems to be the aim for many of the current video game developers. Although the capitalism that some video games use to extort money from users is a peek into the darkest corners of the gaming community, there is no reason the public can’t enjoy recreational gameplay.

Compassion, empathy and reasoning are qualities within every individual. There is no quantifiable proof that playing video games impact any of these qualities. Contrarily, the benefits far outweigh the negativity that video game fear-mongers embrace so whole-heartedly. In fact, businesses in the private sector, as well as the military have begun to use video game technology to enhance and train their people. Education can benefit from the use of video games as well. The Assassin’s Creed series stems highly from historic events that impacted civilization greatly. Visual and auditory, as well as fine motor skills show vast improvement in those who engage in gaming. Otherwise socially anxious people can reach out anonymously within an individual community. The benefits of playing video games is and will continue to be reaped by today’s and tomorrows generations.

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Video Games in society’s eyes: Harmful or helpful?. (2022, Jul 17). Retrieved from

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