Throughout history, every new medium has been met with some level of resistance from the previous generations. When advances in printing technology made books more accessible to the common people, scholars decried the fact that the young people of the time were walking around with their faces buried in a book. It’s simply human nature for older generations to be wary of anything new. Video games are no exception. While they are more mainstream and common than ever, anyone who has been gaming since childhood has probably heard certain claims from a concerned adult in their life.
While many vague claims have been spouted by parental figures about how video games will affect the development and behaviors of their children, this article will focus on three of the most common claims and examine whether they have any merit:
- “They rot your brain”
- “They waste your time”
- “They make you aggressive and violent”
“Video Games Will Rot Your Brain”
Out of the three claims, this is by far the most ridiculous and offensive to me. Many of the same people who make this assertion will gladly spend an entire evening watching a marathon of sitcom episodes, or blaze through a crime novel for 8 hours straight. Most other forms of entertainment are passive experiences; while you can try to guess where the story will go, nothing you do in a typical movie, TV show, or book will alter the outcome in any way. If you leave them on, the plots of movies and shows will continue to progress even if no one is in the room to observe them.
Video games, on the other hand, require player input to progress. Many of them require gaining skill and knowledge to progress. Some require overcoming significant challenges or solving difficult puzzles. Regardless of the type of game, almost all of them require some amount of mental focus and hand-eye coordination. Now, skills learned in games aren’t necessarily directly transferable to real life applications - you’re probably not an expert power washer just because you put a lot of hours into PowerWash Simulator - but studies indicate that people who game regularly have high neuroplasticity, which can result in improved learning ability, better problem solving skills, and overall better brain health. So, the reality is pretty much the opposite of this claim.
“Video Games are a Waste of Time”
ALL forms of entertainment are in some way a waste of time. By its very nature, entertainment is a form of escapism; it’s a temporary reprieve from reality. That being said, any form of well-crafted art has the potential to spark thought and discussion, impress new ideas, and teach lessons through examples. Video games are no exception. In some ways, the experiences provided by video games can be even more impactful and personal because of the investment and level of immersion they offer. If you enjoyed your time with a game and came away from it with pleasant memories, I don’t know how it could possibly be called a waste of time.
Video game addiction, however, is a real and serious problem. Being so engrossed in a game that it interferes with your responsibilities, relationships, or health is a destructive pattern. As with most things in life, moderation and balance is key.
“Video Games Make People Violent and Aggressive”
This topic is a bit loaded, so I will try to tread carefully. The prevalence of violence in games and its real effect on culture and behavior is too broad for this article. While I personally think the industry’s over-reliance on using violence and physical conflict to drive gameplay is problematic and creatively lazy, there have been numerous studies that have failed to prove that violent video games directly correlate with real-world violence. Regardless of what your thoughts are on violence in games, the reality is that not all games are violent. More than ever, players have a multitude of choices when selecting games. And for all of their faults, ratings organizations like the ESRB strive to make it easy for players and parents of players to see what type of content is in a game at a glance. If a parent or guardian wants to be selective about what their child is exposed to, the onus is on them to do their research, be cognizant about what their kids are playing, and properly instill in them their values and their reasons for having them. But writing off an entire art form that your child is interested in simply because you disapprove of a few specific examples of it is simply unreasonable.
There is a vast selection of high-quality games available that pretty much no one would find objectionable. The internet famously had fun with the idea that a Doom and an Animal Crossing game were both released at the same time. There’s room in the industry for all types of tastes. Again, being balanced and informed is key.