Video games have been a growing phenomenon since the mid-1980s. With the vast improvements in technology, the video gaming industry had evolved from simple two-dimensional games to realistic, fast-paced, life-like experiences. Along with its growth, there has been an ongoing discussion of whether video games are beneficial or hazardous to children and adolescents. Some are of the view that video games are indeed hazardous because they are meaningless times wasters that encourage anti-social behaviour, have a negative impact on the health of children, and because are filled with violent content. However, I do not share these views. In my opinion video games is a wonderful pastime that has the potential to be very beneficial on many levels.
Many believe that video games are a useless form of entertainment that is in no way beneficial, therefore it is considered a waste of time. However, video games are a real brain workout that invokes abstract and high-level thinking. These skills are usually not taught in school, but they are prevalent in most video games. Some of these mental skills include problem-solving and logic, hand-eye coordination, quick thinking, making fast analysis and decisions, strategy and anticipation, perseverance and inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, Led by Daphne Baveler, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games are a good training tool for real-world situations.
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Also to successfully complete a game, players must deal with immediate problems while keeping their long-term goal in sight. This term is called “telescoping.” (Steven Johnson). James Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says: Playing a video game is similar to working through a science problem. Like students in a laboratory, gamers must come up with a hypothesis. For example, players in some games constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy. If one does not work, they change the hypothesis and try the next one. Video games are goal-driven experiences, which are fundamental to learning. (106) Some people feel that children spend too much time playing games and as a result they become socially isolated, which affects the time spent doing homework, other physical activities and interacting with family and friends.
While playing video games can be time-consuming, it does in fact promote social activity and teamwork. Video games allow parents and their kids to play together and can be used as a bonding activity. Many games appeal to both kids and adults and could be something they both share in common. Children also build friendships through playing games that both they and their friends enjoy. Also, games that involve multiple players encourage children to work cooperatively to achieve a common goal. They learn to listen to the ideas of others, formulate plans and distribute various tasks based on the skills of each other. Online games are played internationally, which can introduce kids to players of different nationalities, and exposed them to many cultures and fosters friendships.
Many people think that video games negatively impact the health of children because they can encourage laziness, obesity and postural disorders. Despite the fact that video games can contribute to health issues, there are many video games that counteract these types of behaviours. Many games require their players to be very active. Games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Boxing actually give their players a good workout. Playing these games for a duration of ten or more minutes causes children and those playing to exert large amounts of energy equal to or perhaps exceeding a regular ten-minute workout routine. Also, games such as Wii Fitness actually exercise routines in fun interactive form.
The final and perhaps biggest issue with video games for most people is the violent content which many games are known for. Many are of the view that such exposure would result in increased aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Although it may be true that most video games contain violent content, in my opinion, these games serve as a positive avenue to express aggression and frustration. Violent games act as a positive way for children to vent their frustration and anger in the games with computerized characters, which often relieves stress. Video games provide a positive aggression outlet with the same way playing football, hockey or any other contact sport would.
It should be evident that the views held degrading the use of video games hold little if any merit. The argument that video games consume too much time and are violent hold little weight, because parents can impose a time limit of how long games can be played, and in the same manner parents choose which television shows are suitable, they can choose which video games are appropriate for their children to play. Furthermore, the violence depicted in video games is computer generated characters, whereas the violence in television shows are real-life people. Contrary to these arguments, video games are indeed beneficial because they develop the minds of children in ways school does not, it can expose them to cultures around the world and it equips them mentally to deal with real-life situations.
- Daphne Baveler, “Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills” by Michelle Trudeau December 20, 2010.
- Steven Johnson, “Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Pop Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, May 2005.
- James Paul Bee, “What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” May 16, 2003