The 21st century has been characterized by many inventions and novel technological breakthroughs. The entertainment industry has been one of the sectors which have been positively impacted by these technological advances with video games, in particular, exhibiting exponential growth in the past few decades. These games have in a few decades advanced from their humble origins in the computer lab to a contemporary status as one of the leaders in the multibillion-dollar global entertainment industry. Most of the popular video games have multiplayer modes and can therefore be played online. The games also enable the players to role-play various scenarios in the gaming environment. While video games act as ideal pass-time activities for youths in the developed world and generate a lot of revenue for both the government and the entertainment industry players, they have been blamed for creating problems ranging from encouraging violence in youths to causing obesity. This paper shall argue that developments in the gaming industry have created more problems than solutions. To reinforce this assertion, this paper shall discuss the various problems that are attributed to video games.
Negative Effects of Video Games
Advances in computing technology and the internet have resulted in the feasibility of multiplayer online games. These games are now highly popular leisure activities with a portion of the gamers preferring to socialize online as opposed to maintaining real-life relationships. Research conducted by Hussain and Griffiths (2009, p.752) revealed that some online gamers experienced detachment and/or time loss as a result of their online gaming activities. As such, video games and in particular online gaming were seen to be responsible for time-wasting since these games consume a lot of time and also affect the breakdown of friendships and relationships. The breakdown in relationships and friendships is a result of the online relationships that the gamers form in the gaming world in some instances substituting this for real-world relationships.
Video games result in addictions which can be detrimental to the functioning of an individual. Bach and Jordan (2006, p.1) document that while most people think that video game addiction is a joke, research indicates that there are pathological players who exhibit addictive behaviors similar to those of gambling addicts. The addictive ability of video games is blamed on the brain’s reward system which produces dopamine-induced euphoria. This gaming addiction may have a negative impact on the life of the gamer as well as the people around him. In a survey of a small community that had arcade machines, it was seen that the teenagers who were addicted to gaming opted to miss meals so that they could engage in gaming as well as engaging in antisocial activities such as stealing so as to finance their game addictions. These habits hurt their relationships with other people in society.
Owing to the market appeal of violence, most video games are laced with incidents of violence and destruction which are performed by the player on screen. Technological advances have enabled game creators to come up with violent scenes which are more vivid and surreal than ever before. Considering the fact that video games are played by a large number of children, the correlation between video-game violence and increased aggression amongst children and the youths is unnerving. Anderson and Bushman (2001) hypothesize that it is not coincidental that cases of high school and campus violence are in most cases perpetrated by individuals who confess to habitually being engaged in the playing of violent video games. Studies conducted by Anderson & Dil (2000, p.353) indicated that the reason for the increased aggression that was experienced with increased exposure to violent scenes was because “aggression is largely based on the learning function of the brain and as such, each violent episode is, in essence, one more learning trial”. As such, an individual becomes more prone to engaging in violent behavior with each exposure to violent video games. This reinforcement of violent behavior is without a doubt unfavorable to both the individual and society at large.
More youths are engaging in video and computer games at the expense of other activities such as sports and for this reason, video games have been blamed for the rise in obesity among the youths. This is cause for alarm considering the fact that childhood obesity has been on a steady increase in the developed nations resulting in a decline in child health since children who are obese are at increased risk of physical as well as psychosocial health consequences. While childhood obesity is caused by a number of factors, the condition is mostly limited to people who overindulge in unhealthy eating habits as well as limited physical activity. Playing video games is a sedentary activity that requires little physical exertion and hence the linkage between it and obesity. Wack and Tantleff-Dunn (2009, p.243) reveal that this negative consequence associated with gaming is as a result of the “interference of electronic gameplay with other age-appropriate play and activities”.
Another negative consequence of exposure to video games is the desensitization of the player. Schulzke (2010, p.132) states that exposure to violent video games may result in the erosion of a player’s capacity to feel empathy. An interesting fact with regard to desensitization to violence is that it occurs in subtle and minute quantities and one is seldom aware of its occurrence. In other words, engaging in violent video games may result in an increase in tolerance for violent behavior and make people less attuned to the suffering of others. This notion is supported by research by Anderson and Bushman (2001) which indicates that the high interaction levels of video games lead to blunted empathic responding and higher emotional desensitization than by any other media due to the active involvement of a person as they play.
A case for Video Games
For all their negative attributes, video games have a number of positive attributes that they offer to the player. Research by Hussain and Griffiths (2009, p.752) indicated that online games were used by the players to alleviate negative feelings. These players used the online games to relieve themselves of loneliness and boredom as well as to reduce stress levels as well as annoyances and frustration that they experienced in real life. Video games, therefore, enable one to diffuse tensions and anger in the online environment where no real damage can be done to other people. While this proposition might be true, it can be argued that video games result in escapism and therefore do not help one to overcome their frustrations or troubles in the real world.
While it is true that many video games favor violence, there exist video games that advance socially accepted values and serve educational purposes. Hussain and Griffiths (2009, p. 750) reveal that online games teach cooperation and enhance the reading, typing, comprehension, economic and even complex mathematics skills of the player. This clearly demonstrates that video games have very great civil and educational potential and can therefore be used for the betterment of society.
While video games have been blamed as being a major cause of violence among the youth, it should be noted that video games are not the only media that represents violence as being “cool and fashionable”. Traditional media such as mainstream television, movies and also novels also romanticize violence. As such, video games should not be entirely blamed for the popularization of violence since these other mediums also do the same on an even large scale. While this argument holds true, it should be noted that the other kinds of media do not give the same levels of personal interaction that video games give to the user.
This paper set out to argue that the developments in the gaming industry have created more problems than solutions. To this end, this paper has demonstrated the various ills that are a result of online games. The paper has shown how online games result in the detachment, addiction, violent tendencies as well as a blunting of empathy by the player. The paper has also highlighted the various positive attributes that result from indulging in gaming activities. However, the discussions presented herein have shown that the negative aspects of video games far outweigh the positive attributes of the same. It can therefore be authoritatively stated that advancements in video games have created more problems than solutions to society.
Anderson, A C & Bushman, JB 2001, Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive effect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature. Web.
Anderson, CA & Dil, KE 2000, Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and Life. Web.
Bach, P & Jordan, C 2006, At a Crossroads: Video Game Addiction, The ACM Student Magazine.
Hussain, Z & Griffiths, MD 2009, ‘The attitudes, feelings, and experiences of online gamers: a qualitative analysis’, CyberPsychology & Behavior, vol. 12, NO. 6.
Schulzke, M 2010, Defending the morality of violent video games, Springer Science and Business Media.
Wack, E & Tantleff-Dunn, S 2009, ‘Relationships between electronic gameplay, obesity, and psychosocial functioning in young men’, CyberPsychology & Behavior, vol. 12, no. 2.