By Randall McGee
Since the rise of video games, their effect on mental, physical, and social health has been in question. Organizations have been created against it and concerned parents have come forward bringing many arguments to contest it. The question of its effect on health is a very complicated one to answer.
The conflict goes both ways, with people saying that it has health benefits, and people saying it poses a danger to society. Arguments for video games often encompass things such as brain exercise, challenges within the game training your brain for a plethora of situations and problems in the real world. These arguments have research behind them, but most ideas have some sort of research behind them that has vague proof of an idea, so the presence of research into it is a lot less convincing than it could otherwise be.
The act of gaming was researched to train organizational skills, thinking skills, and fine motor skills in people who played them frequently. While one single study into this may not be plausible, there were multiple done, and all pointed to the idea that video games improved parts of the brain.
One of the studies done had one group playing a video game for two months, while the another group did not play video games for the same amount of time. They measured the brain volume of both groups before and after the experiment, and the group that played video games was at a greater grey matter volume by the end.
There are further studies into video games increasing reaction time, and improving specific parts of the brain. The fast paced action in games simulates real life situations that require sharp reflexes, causing the brain to adapt and react faster as a result.
These benefits extend even further with the creation of virtual reality games or even games that let you physically control things in the game with hand or body motions. These games not only sharpen your mind in the same way that regular video games do, but they actually give the gamer an exercise. This solves one of the biggest complaints of gaming, which is the physical inactivity of the gamer and descent into obesity. Virtual reality games are becoming increasingly popular and have multiple platforms with dozens of games. While the computer requirements are a bit beyond average affordable computers, in the near future virtual reality video games could be massively popular.
WIth all of the benefits of video games, one could wonder why anyone would have a problem with this new age of fun as well as mental and possibly physical benefit. One should keep in mind that while video games have become a massively popular pastime, they are a relatively new phenomenon. 20 or 30 years ago, video games were few, far between, and not too pretty to look at. Primitive game systems, pixelated characters, and violent story lines drove many older people to believe that these new games were dangerous or foolish. This belief continued as video games got more popular and captured the attention of teens and young adults everywhere. This was seen as a distraction from the real world, a distraction that caused grades to slip and jobs to be neglected.
In a way, these fears had substance. Humans have always had a way of attaching themselves to an interesting activity and becoming obsessed with it, causing a dangerous addiction. This has been seen with many things: drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, and many other things that can be fun or healthy in moderation. However, when something like this is overused, a problem can arise that takes over one’s life.
The World Health Organization, or WHO, recently came up with a name for one such addiction called ‘gaming disorder.’ This disorder occurs when a gamer starts to enjoy gaming more than all other activities and allows it to take precedence over everything else. The individual may sacrifice personal relationships, school, work, and other things to create more time for their gaming obsession. This leads to an extremely unhealthy lifestyle, ruining the life of the affected individual.
This disorder was the evidence that many people against gaming thought that they needed to argue against video games. If gaming could take over and ruin someone’s life, video games are a dangerous thing right? This, however, is not true. The WHO said itself in its report that it is a very rare disease, affecting only a very small portion of the gaming population. This means few people ever develop this disease in the first place, presumably only those susceptible to addiction in the first place.