Elisabeth Siegel and Satori Griffith

Pro: Positive Effect

Everyone knows that video games are extremely popular among teens and young adults. According to the Entertainment Software Organization, more than 150 million Americans play video games. According to a 2018 Pew Research survey, 97 percent of teen boys play video games on some kind of device, compared to 83 percent of girls. Many dismiss these games as poison for the brain and a time suck for couch potatoes, yet the benefits of these simulated worlds are greater than they may think.

The brain is an organ that strives for a challenge. Just like the physical body, it needs to be exercised, and video games can be a the tool that flexes the brain. That is one reason why video gamers make better surgeons and doctors, and many of whom use video games to warm up before operating according to John Velez, Assistant Professor of Communication Science at Indiana University. It allows them to solve problems by considering different solutions and practicing critical thinking skills. According to Velez, players of video games like Rocket League and Fortnite have higher visual acuity, meaning that they can keep track of multiple moving objects at once – or even see things through fog and rain that others cannot.

Additionally, many gamers have made careers out of playing video games. A YouTuber known as Ninja has become a mainstream star among the gaming community for streaming gameplays on Twitch, a live streaming service. According to a x poll of x students, x percent of students use Twitch to watch or play video games.

Contrary to popular belief, most major consoles have the technology to get more physically active. With the future of virtual reality gaming, many will have the opportunity to play on their feet instead of on the couch. Many mobile games, such as Pokémon GO, are programmed across a physical space, requiring players to leave their house in order to advance in the game. Furthermore, games such as Just Dance require players to exercise and sweat while having fun at the same time.

While many argue that violence in video games promotes violence in real life, we lack evidence that the two are correlated. Though many video games are violent, they place violence in a social context, giving players moral dilemmas which they wouldn’t be faced with in real life. In the popular game Grand Theft Auto IV for example, the main character is an immigrant working as a hired gunman who must choose between the death of either his cousin or his romantic interest. Through this character, players are able to directly impact the virtual world around them and feel the consequences of their actions. Moreover, in the game Undertale, players step into the role of a human that fell into a world of monsters and must find their way out. They must choose to respond to the monsters with either fighting or mercy, and the game design encourages players to opt for taking the peaceful route despite provocation. Additionally, they learn how to respond to conflict and the treatment of marginalized communities.

The World Health Organization classifies video gaming disorder as a disease, with a variety of vague symptoms such as impaired control over gaming, increased priority to gaming over other life interests and escalation of gaming despite negative consequences. Why would they target video gaming, where the same symptoms could be applied to online, exercise or cell phone addictions? Many of these symptoms could also be applied to sports culture, so why do we call them fans yet call gamers addicts?

 These symptoms could arise from other mental health disorders the individual is already experiencing, such as anxiety and depression. If we followed these symptoms, 0.3-1.0 percent of the general population might qualify for a diagnosis of internet gaming disorder, according to Newzoo, a games and e-sports analytics research firm. That percentage would apply to the 2 billion people who play games across the world. While it is true that many struggle to limit their interactions with video games, calling it a disorder is too far without the proper amount of research. While there are many studies that correlate negative well-being with increased screen time, those theories don’t take into account that teens could already have poor mental health or that they use electronics to deflect their negative thoughts.

Before dismissing video games as futile and poisonous, consider the benefits of these simulated worlds. No other medium offers players the direct opportunity to wrestle with how we justify violence. They also provide a space for social interaction, skill advancing and possibly career developing.

Con: Negative Effect

Video games open the door of detrimental effects for the people that observe and play them. Harvard Health Blog estimates that 164 million Americans play video games; if you do the math it is half of the population. Statistica.com, a website dedicated to publishing statistics on a variety of subjects, found that 38 percent of people playing video games range from ages 18-38, and surprisingly, only 20 percent are under 18. With so many people partaking in the activity and spending hours behind a screen, one wonders how healthy video gaming is.

People play video games for various reasons whether it’s a stress reliever, distraction or fun competition. However, too much of something can eventually lead to a harmful outcome. It could be assumed that most of the harmful effects that stem from video games are psychological; however, it has been shown by the Harvard Health Blog that that is not the case. Physical symptoms can arise from stress and tension caused while playing. Carpal tunnel syndrome, for instance, is when nerves within the wrist get inflamed, causing numbness and pain, and can occur when the controller is gripped too tightly for a long period of time.

Obesity can also be a serious effect as well and can result in sedentary kids who get addicted to playing. A study done in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April 2011, found that “a single session of video game play in healthy male adolescents is associated with an increased food intake, regardless of appetite sensations.”

Another physical danger is the warning of seizure risk that accompanies most video games, because of the strain on the eyes that the graphics cause.

All of these physical effects of the overuse of video games can prove that they should be closely monitored and should be limited.

While there are many negative physical effects, video games can also create a number of psychological problems. The American Psychological Association found that an “internet gaming disorder,” is defined when a person experiences five of the following effects over a 12 month period: gaming preoccupation, withdrawal, tolerance, loss of interest in other activities, downplaying use, loss of relationship, educational, or career opportunities, gaming to escape or relieve anxiety and guilt or other negative moods. While the disorder is not widely accepted or agreed upon, it brings into question what the overuse of video games really does to someone’s brain.

The American Journal of Psychiatry found that between 0.3 percent and 1 percent of Americans might have an internet gaming disorder. Sometimes this disorder is accompanied by sleep deprivation, insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, depression, aggression and anxiety. Although there needs to be more research done to prove precisely how video games directly influence and cause these reactions, there is definitely a heightened possibility of these side effects.  I am aware that video games are here to stay, but the best solution to avoiding these negative effects from occurring is to limit the time spent on gaming.

There are other ways to prevent injuries and the negative psychological effects that may arise. Warnings on the cover of games, modifications to ease the addictive nature of it and more education on how to protect oneself from physical injuries might be a good start. Doing these will protect people, limit exposure and decrease the amount of addiction that is already on the rise.

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