Following the global success of E3 2014 in June, and the prospect of so many new games from Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo, it has been asked whether video games are actually good for people? It is true that video games play a very large role in the lives of both children – and adults – nowadays by appealing to a majority of audiences with the incredible range of different consoles and games that are available. But just because the video game industry is so large, does this mean that video games actually good, or are they simply just a waste of time?
Cognitive researcher Daphne Bavalier conducted a study into this question in 2012 (to see her give a speech on the subject see the above video). Her research has shown that ninety percent of children play video games and seventy percent of parents within a household. It is clear therefore that video games play a very large part in almost every person’s life, so the entertainment industry is here to stay. Bavalier indeed addressed the issues with video games such as ‘bingeing’ and playing too much, but after a series of tests, she was able to give evidence that video games can improve vision, attention and brain plasticity. One of these tests was a spacial thinking task in which a 3D image was rotated and the subjects had to identify the correct rotated image. After said test, the subjects played ten hours of first person shooter (FPS) games and re-took it. The study showed that after playing the video games, the results of the test improved significantly, and five months later, the improved score was maintained in a re-test. Bavalier suggested that, in sensible doses of between five to fifteen hours a week, video games can have significant positive effects on the brain.
A similar study carried out by the University of Rochester showed that while playing video games your brain is trained to make faster decisions with more accuracy and can improve one’s ability to work under pressure in the real world. Michigan State University’s Children & Technology Project also released a report which stated that video games encourage creativity and imagination within children, and there is a definite positive correlation between the two.
Although indeed these are quite positive effects that can be gained from video games there are many negatives which can come from playing them. The National Institute on Media suggested that such problems can be social isolation and a violent influence on players who are quite often rewarded with ‘extra lives’ or money for violent acts in games such as the Grand Theft Auto Series. A study by them also showed a positive correlation between the dosage of violent video games and aggressive behaviour. Rick Nauert P.H.D also suggested that this violent attitude gained through video games accumulates over time and players will eventually become less responsive to violence in real life, so games can have long term negative effects on behaviour.
So are video games actually good for us or not?
Although there are problems associated with video games such as social isolation and an aggressive attitude, more often than not, there are age restrictions on violent games so as to be aimed at more mature audiences. The problem of social deprivation caused by video games is also indeed a problem, but this is an issue that rests not only with video games but within many other aspects of entertainment such as binge watching TV (to read more on this subject click here). As Bavalier has said, when played in moderation, there will be many more positive as opposed to negative effects. The skills gained through playing these games are very useful and important as a part of daily life and so regular doses of video games without ‘bingeing’ can have some very good effects on the brain.