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Pros and Cons of Video Games

Pros and Cons of Video games and a Comparison of Past and Current Releases

The popularity of video games nowadays is attracting several researchers, psychologists and other experts to the study of its effects on social and psychological behaviors of gamers. The growing incidents of juvenile gun shooters caused immediate responses from people pointing their fingers at video games as the culprit to such extreme aggressive behavior. Some psychologists worried parents that violence in video games affects the actions of children and should therefore discourage them from participating in such media. Nevertheless, the abundance of video games and the challenging lifestyles of modern families make it impossible for most parents to monitor their children’s exposure to video games. On the other hand, some experts claim that video games have become the easy scapegoats for the growing number of disturbing social issues such as indiscriminate shootings. The following paragraphs will present a detailed definition of video games, their advantages and disadvantages as well as the differences of the past and present video games.

According to the Free Dictionary online, a video game is “any of various games that can be played by using an electronic control to move points of light or graphical symbols on the screen of a visual display unit” (farflex). Such visual display unit could be a personal computer or television screen. The same online dictionary further explains that a video game is “an electronic game played by manipulating moving figures on a display screen, often designed for play on a special gaming console rather than a personal computer”. Such gaming consoles could be a wii, play station or Nintendo, gadgets that allow players to move the figures to execute the moves desired by the player. Video games are usually more a mental game than a physical exercise. Although players need to move their hands in order to manipulate their game characters, they do not need to exert so much effort as they would in physical games such as basketball or football. In video games, the characters in the virtual world are the ones who need to do the “physical exercise” as the player manipulates then through the console. Therefore, the role of the gamer is to analyze and dictate the necessary moves of his character as displayed on the screen.

Pros and Cons of Video Games

The “safety” that video games provide for players is making them more popular among parents and children. Parents often feel confident about their children’s safety when they know they are inside the house. This makes the availability of video games advantageous for working parents who are not able to watch over their children every day. Keeping kids busy with video games helps parents able to work and attend to other necessary matters without worrying about their children. On the other hand, children are not exposed to physical pains such as scratches, sprains and bruises when playing video games contrary to when they indulge in physically aggressive games such as football. This circumstance also allows them to be left unsupervised without endangering them to accidents that might physically hurt them, giving parents the chance to do other tasks.

However, with the growing popularity of video games, many researchers are trying to prove the negative effects of video games on human behaviors. The demand for more engaging and violent video games is alarming psychologists, sociologists and parents alike for obvious reasons. They have related the violence in video games as the cause of violent behaviors especially those which involve gun shooting, fighting and other aggressive behaviors. Researchers such as Anderson and Bushman show that there is a direct connection between violent video games and violent behaviors (Ferguson & Rueda) but other studies also prove otherwise. Ward, Cunningham and Engelstatter “examined weekly sales of violent video games across a wide variety of communities” (Carey) and rises in crime rates through different seasons, suggesting that the drop in crime rates during the increase in weekly sales might have prevented gamers from engaging in video games from committing criminal acts inside their homes.

Another disconcerting effect of video games is addiction that is similar to alcohol addiction or other obsessions, according to Dr. Michael Fraser and Dr. Kimberly Young, both psychologists (Miller). This is very disturbing because it does not only affect adults but children as well especially that modern children engage in video games more and more each day. Video games has long been a trend among young people and the only path that it is taking is greater popularity and patronage. Therefore, video game addiction should become a real concern of parents and other authorities who are able to at least control such bad influence. There is no upside to this matter because addiction is never considered healthy. Indeed, in a similar manner, video game addiction may give parents the time and space they need to do other tasks without worrying about their children’s safety from outside dangers but video game addiction is equally or even more dangerous.

In relation to aggressive behavior, video game addiction is observed to have an effect on children’s behavior. For instance, when parents try to control the children’s gaming time, they tend to be angry at them and will not simply talk back to them but will physically assault them as well (Miller). The same is true with other addiction wherein, when a person takes away a person’s “drug”, that individual will do things in order to take it back or to manipulate others to provide the person his addiction.

Furthermore, video game addiction can affect school performances. Like any addictions, video games addicts tend to lose interest in other activities such as school assignments and projects. Consequently, school performance would be affected negatively. Even if an addict perhaps would still be forced to do homework and assignments, s/he would not have the same amount of time necessary to complete the tasks. As a result, the work would not be satisfactory. Moreover, the addiction will require a lot of time until the obsession is sated therefore, a person’s time for sleep and other productive activities will suffer. Moreover, a video game addict will not only neglect his/her responsibilities at home and in school but will also tend to neglect the people around him/her.

In terms of social responsibilities though, it seems that it is not the video game addict alone who suffers in such aspect. Even players who occasionally engage in video games and enjoy them tend to lose tract of time. Consequently, important tasks are forgotten and the people around them are not even noticed. When the social media first gained popularity, its effect on communication among family and friends became an issue. Families eating together do not converse anymore instead, they are observed to be engrossed in their online activities. Similarly, video games brought family communication to a more distant and impersonal activity. Engagement with video games has taken the attention of parents toward their children’s social needs and children in turn follow the examples of their elders. Sadly, this is observed in many homes, which brings us back to what was mentioned earlier; that video games became the scapegoats for the growing number of social issues when in fact there are more influential factors that need to be given more attention. Nonetheless, these causes will not be addressed here, but we will find out more about the benefits of video games.

Contrary to the negative claims of some researchers that video games affect aggressive behaviors, some also claim that they in fact act as “outlets” for negative behaviors among gamers. Ferguson and Rueda suggest that “violent video games in particular may offer an avenue for exploring feelings of disappointment, loss of power and control and helplessness, by offering circumstances over which the individual can virtually assert control and power and accomplish tangible and immediate goals in the game world” (100). Studies may have shown that participants exhibited aggression when playing violent video games but this does not mean that they will exhibit such aggression in the real world. As Ferguson and Rueda suggested, the video game may provide an avenue for players to express their aggression which ultimately will not need to be expressed outside the play station. The aggression during the game dissipates aggressive behaviors of gamers when dealing with other people, enabling them to act accordingly.

In fact, there are also studies involving children suffering from depression or diseases that cause depression. Research shows that cancer patients feel a lot better after playing video games (Ferguson & Rueda). The enjoyment experienced in video games somehow takes the patient’s mind away from the physical pain and the depressing effects of medications. Some psychologists even recommend playing video games as a way of improving the health of patients. The engaging quality of video games indeed can take a patient’s attention from boredom which can add to the depression one feels. It gives the patient something to do, distracting him/her from thinking negative thoughts which might affect his/her psychological health and consequently, his/her overall well-being.

Another positive effect of video games that psychologists claim is that they help improve self-esteem and psychological well-being. Jerabeck and Ferguson claim that males who were involved in studies were able to express their emotions more openly while playing video games. They say that “because it is just a game, adolescent males are free to feel, without discrimination, providing them with valuable outlet for stable identity development” (Jerabeck & Ferguson). Since males are generally perceived not to show emotions openly, their pent-up feelings are often expressed in fits of anger and aggression. Therefore, playing video games could be helpful for them to bring out their emotions without the fear of being stigmatized as a sissy or weak. As a result, this will help them feel better about themselves and will preserve their self-respect while expressing their emotions.

Studies may show a sensible explanation to the psychological and social influences of violent video games among players but other arguments also present logical proofs that there might be good effects of video games in the decrease of crime rates. Whichever is true, such findings call for a more intensive and extensive study on the relationship of video games toward human behaviors especially that video games are becoming more and more engaging, therefore more addictive (Miller). Video games in the past like Pac Man, force players to start over again when they lose their lives. This characteristic of the game can easily bore players so that they would opt to do other things. The frustration on starting over the same process with similar results somehow makes players want to have a break so that the video games before are not very addictive. However, video games nowadays allow players to save their place at the certain stage they stopped and pick back up again when they resume their game (Miller), giving them different challenges that make the game more exciting.

Video games in the past are repetitive and predictive, making players easily bored with the games unlike current video games which present different appealing images and scenes that renew the fascination of players, making them lose track of their time. Modern video games also try to engage the players in the making of the characters to which they can connect with. For instance, some video games allow players to choose their ammunitions, gears and even the color of their hair and skin.  Such feature somehow creates a sense of relationship toward the video game character which may heighten a player’s connection with the character and the need to play more, endangering a player to addiction.

Another characteristic of modern video games that make them more exciting is the improved quality of the sounds and music. Background music is designed to stir the emotions of players, giving them a sense of reality that makes them feel they are a part of the scene. In addition, the sounds are made realistic and are synchronized with the actions in the virtual world to make the experience seem authentic. Such improvements upgrade the quality of video games that are designed to engage players even more. As a business strategy, video games are made not only to give consumers something to do to avoid boredom. Instead, they are fashioned to captivate players so that they will demand more exciting and engaging releases. Moreover, the images and colors are also greatly enhanced.

In the past, there were only a few choices of video games. Now, there are hundreds of choices that suit the personality and needs of customers. There are video games that are designed for aggressive players, making them express their emotions as they virtually engage in fights, battles or wars. There are also those which were designed to improve social skills such as video games that require multiple players. Others are educational and analytical in nature, helping players improve their skills unlike video games in the past which seem to have been designed simply for entertainment.

In conclusion, video games or electronic games have bad and good effects that need to be balanced. Although studies show that video games may influence aggressive behavior, the appeal of video games may also keep players in their house, letting them avoid doing criminal acts. However, video games can be addictive and there is no upside to this matter. Consequently, video game addiction can result to poor school performance as well as social relations. On the other hand, studies also show that video games can help to improve depression among patients. In addition, video games can also help improve self-esteem and psychological well-being. Nevertheless, the pros and cons should be weighed without bias because the appeal of video games nowadays is stronger than ever. Unlike past video games, current electronic games are more exciting and engaging because of the quality of sound and pictures. Moreover, the different scenes presented create renewed excitement to the player in every game. With the many aspects of the study still unclear, it is best for parents to be involved with their children’s video game experiences. It would also be wise for adult players to be self-restrained in order to avoid addiction.

References
  • Carey, Benedict. “Shooting in the Dark”. New York Times. February 11, 2013. Web. April 19, 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/science/studying-the-effects-of-playing-violent-video-games.html?_r=0>.
  • Miller, Tracy. “Video Game Addiction and Other Internet Compulsive Disorders Mask Depression, Anxiety, Learning Disabilities”. New York Daily News. March 25, 2013.   Web. April 19, 2015. <http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/kids-addicted-video-games-violent-experts-article-1.1298338>.
  • Farflex. “Video Game”. The Free Dictionary. 2015. Web. April 19, 2015. <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/video+game>.
  • Ferguson, Christopher and Stephanie Rueda. “The Hitman Study: Violent Video Game Exposure Effects on Aggressive Behavior, Hostile Feelings, and Depression”. 2010. Web. April 18, 2015. < www.christopherjferguson.com/hitman.pdf>.
  • Jerabeck, Jessica and Christopher Ferguson. “The Influence of Solitary and Cooperative Violent  Video Game Play on Aggressive and Prosocial Behavior”. 2013. Web. April 18, 2015. <www.christopherjferguson.com/Jessica Paper.pdf>.

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