If They Don't Promote Violence, What DO They Do?

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If you haven't had the chance yet, take a minute to check out my previous blog post, Do Video Games Make Kids More Violent? In it, I delve a little bit into the science behind the debate over violent video games and their impact on children and vulnerable teens. Ultimately, my research has only bolstered my personal conviction that video games don't have as profound an impact on the violent tendencies of children as society has lead us to believe. However, you can take whichever side of the debate you'd like. Now, I'd like to address another aspect of this conversation: if video games don't cause kids to become more violent or socially reclusive, what do they do?

Well, as it turns out there are a number of effects - both positive and negative - that video gaming can have on children and young teens. One of the more prominent among these undesirables is depicted in a new study, which shows that violent video games can reduce self-control in teens. The study, originally published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, involved a team of researchers from the United States, Italy, and the Netherlands who analyzed 172 Italian high school students between the ages of 13 and 19. The students were asked to take part in a series of experiments to determine how violent video games affected their personalities. For the first experiment, participants were required to play either a non-violent or violent video game. While they were playing the games, a bowl of chocolate (which they were told to eat freely) was placed next to the computer. Results revealed that participants who played violent video games ate more than three times as much chocolate, compared with those who played the non-violent video games. In the second part of this same study, the teenagers were asked to solve a 10-item logic test. For each question they answered correctly, they were rewarded with one raffle ticket that they could exchange for prizes. The investigators told the participants how many questions they answered correctly and asked them to take the correct amount of raffle tickets from an envelope. However, the researchers knew how many tickets were in each envelope so they would know if any of the participants had taken more tickets than they had earned. Results from this experiment revealed that the teenagers who played violent video games cheated more than eight times more, compared with those who played non-violent video games. So while violent games may not necessarily cause children to become more violent themselves, there may certainly be other negative impacts associated with exposure.

A second study, done by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, highlights some of the more beneficial effects gaming can have on a child's mental health. Dr. Daniel Johnson, the director of the university's Games Research and Interaction Design Lab, along with his gaming research group, combed through 200 papers and reports from around the world to find out when and how video games can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of young players. Their research challenges the belief that video games breed socially isolated, aggressive and lazy teenagers. As a collective effort, the team's research found that:

  • moderate levels of playing are associated with positive emotions and improved mood, improved emotion regulation and emotional stability and the reduction of emotional disturbances
  • playing video games can be a healthy means of relaxation, stress reduction and socializing
  • people who play video games in moderation have been shown to have significantly less depressed mood and higher self-esteem compared to those who don't play or who play excessively

In addition, it is becoming commonplace in the gaming industry to develop games directed entirely at assisting in the development of young minds, using educational themes and puzzles to accomplish tasks rather than conventional means. While these titles don't currently hold quite as much leverage in the marketplace as titles such as Gran Turismo® and Halo®, they are certainly crucial stepping stones toward the future of educational gaming.

So there you have it folks, that about wraps up my discussion on the many impacts that video gaming - both violent and non - can have on the minds of the world's youth. Of course the depth of my posts were limited in the interest of time, but there's a vast array of information on this heated debate available wherever you look. If you're at all interested in the sciences behind the brief overviews that I've laid out for you, I encourage you to do a little digging of your own. There are some really interesting psychological concepts at work here.


1 Comment

I was just reading an article about a benefit of video games that really surprised me.

Heres the link to it:

Apparently, there's evidence to suggest that playing video games can actually improve a normal person's eyesight. Even more surprising was a study done by the director of the Visual Development Lab at McMaster University in Ontario, Dr. Maurer. She found that when people with cataracts played first person shooters for a set duration of time on a consistent basis, their vision improved. I found that finding amazing, because I always assumed that playing video games strained your eyes and could lead to problems down the road.

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