February 7, 2013
Gaming: A Search for Good Amongst the Bad When the tragic event at Sandy Hook Elementary recently occurred, the blame was strongly placed on the mental state of the shooter. That he must of have been influenced by playing evil and violent video games as a reason for his disturbing actions. It is unfortunate that violent media, especially video games, is to blame for societal ills. The hysteria built up around this form of entertainment is nonsensical when the benefits of video gaming have been greatly overlooked. If we look at video gaming in a broader aspect in relation to its effects, good and bad, the definition of video games may not get such a bad rap.
Literally, a video game is defined as a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a television screen or display. But one of the more common stereotypical definition people often hear about video games is that they are a mindless form of entertainment and waste of time, much like watching television. Then there is the common claim that video games are a catalyst for aggressive behavior and desensitize emotions towards inflicting pain. Although there may be some credibility to these claims, these stereotypical definitions are often used as a scapegoat by the media. I have been a video gamer for about sixteen of my twenty-two years of life and I have not blatantly disrespected, beaten, abused or killed anyone. Video games are commonly argued to be responsible for the rise in social violence and have harmful effects on children’s behavior, but little attention is focused on video games as a powerful tool to help children and adults develop lifetime skills.
Some of today’s most popular video games like Call of Duty and Halo are quite violent and sometimes vulgar. According to researchers at Indiana University, brain scans show that “violent videogames can alter brain function in healthy young men after just a week of play, depressing activity among brain regions associated with emotional control.” This news can be somewhat unsettling but the influence violent video games have on emotional control is not the only brain-altering effect. In fact, it is shown that these violent video games have the most positive impact on the brain. According to researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Minnesota, violent video games allow players to make decisions up to 25% faster than others without sacrificing accuracy (Hotz). What’s more is that these violent video games were proven to reduce gender difference in spatial cognition, according to scientists at the University of Toronto. "These are not the games you would think are mind-enhancing," said cognitive neuroscientist, Daphne Bavelier, who studies the effect of action games at Switzerland's University of Geneva and the University of Rochester in New York. According to psychologist, C. Shawn Green of University of Wisconsin, “Video games change your brain.” They affect physical structures in the brain in the same manner as learning to read, playing an instrument or navigating a map. Just like exercise builds muscle, the combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters like dopamine strengthen neural circuits that can help build the brain (Hotz).
So while it’s easy to look at these violent video games and say it is mindless killing, more and more researchers are finding out that the positive effects of video games are outweighing the negatives. In fact, researchers are continuing to investigate whether repeated exposure to violent games over time really can desensitize and harbor aggressive thoughts and feelings. While there are studies that show this to be true, the research has been found to be quite inconsistent and hard to replicate. It’s time to open our minds and expand our definition of video games. "There has been a lot of attention wasted in figuring out