Upon the introduction of a new technology into society, there is also a discussion about the impact of that new technology. Video games and video gaming culture has grown rapidly since we first saw the Atari. Gaming has since become a multi-billion dollar industry, with companies like Microsoft and Sony fighting over their share of the market.
For millennials, video games are just a part of life. They have always been there for us, as a way to kill time or bond with friends. However, our parents are eager to know if there is too much gaming going on.
It has been a widespread belief that there are only negative impacts on children that game too much; some fear that children will become anti-social; withering away in our basements. By contrast, there is some evidence that gaming can have some positive effects on the way your brain works, as long as you don’t overdo it. The idea has been met with some controversy in the medical community, but many accept video gaming addiction as an actual medical issue; that necessitates treatment.
While parents everywhere are pleading with their children to turn off the video games and get outside, there is at least some support for the positive impact of video games on young minds. According to research being reviewed by the American Psychological Association, different types of games actually help strengthen and grow different parts of your brain.
Violent shooter games such as those in the Call of Duty or Halo franchises have been met with contention about their content, and what it teaches younger gamers. However, these violent games may just be helping. Some professionals believe that these violent games help strengthen different cognitive skills in children; spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception are all included.
In addition to shooter games, other types of games can have positive effects on the brains of young people. Strategic and role-playing games can have an effect on problem solving skills, as well as creativity too. One of the biggest myths about video games is that children who play too much become socially isolated. However, at least 70% of gamers play with at least one other person. Don’t be too quick to negatively judge gamers.
One interesting piece of research has been released by the Millennium Cohort Study, a United Kingdom-based study group who has been tracking some 19,000 individuals who were born in 2000 and 2001. They found so far that use of modern technologies for at least three hours per day were more likely to develop relationship problems, emotional symptoms, and behavioral problems by the time they were seven. Interestingly, they did not find any negative behavioral changes in children who would play video games for at least three hours per day.
For all the perceived good things about children playing video games, there are those that boast negative effects as well. One of the biggest concerns has to do with the violence that is depicted in many games. The fear, is that increased exposure to violent acts could desensitize them, and blur the line between what is reality and what is in the game. Also, gaining rewards in the game for killing or maiming other players could endorse violent behavior.
In addition to the violence that makes many uneasy, some also wonder about the role of women in these games. Women many times appear as weaker characters with less important roles in the games. For example, the game Grand Theft Auto many times shows the male characters as the most important, and reserve the women’s roles for things like prostitutes.
Much of the criticism of video games comes from not trusting our children to be able to tell fantasy from reality. With increased playing of these games some younger gamers run the risk of going overboard, and becoming addicted.
Video game addiction is not accepted everywhere, however it is starting to gain steam as a serious illness that requires treatment. The signs of gaming addiction, in many ways, mirror the signs of other addictions. Some of these signs include: needing to play in increasing amounts, feeling depressed when not gaming, lying about the amount of gaming that is being done, and refusing to fulfill any normal responsibilities for the sake of playing more video games.
The seriousness of this problem should not be overlooked. Although, video games are not as obviously harmful as some other addictions like smoking, drinking, or other drugs; they can still cause some serious harm mentally, socially, and emotionally. A video game addiction can spur violent or other troubling behaviors based on the addicts need to play, and what games they play.
Although, video game addiction is not formally recognized everywhere, there are ways that one can receive help if addicted. Popular treatments include different types of therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help correct the compulsive thoughts that lead to gaming addiction. Family therapy, can help a troubled home that might be the root of too much gaming, while residential therapy removes the addict from technology in order to rebuild healthy behaviors. Video games are fun, and they aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe we should be more careful about how much we’re playing.