The Truth Behind The Topics And Myths About Video Games

Should we worry about our children spending their free time playing video games?

Video games and the time spent playing them is a major concern for parents of children and adolescents today. 

There is a real increase in video game consumption both in Spain and around the world, which is generating a powerful stressor on parents (and adults in general) due to the stigmatization of society towards this type of leisure offer.

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In addition, with the rise of the video game sector and the great popularity that the branch of electronic sports or “e-Sports” is gaining, criticism towards this sector is becoming harsher and in some cases, more radical. This produces a strong alarm in parents concerned about their children’s hobbies, which will cause them to pay more attention to information that fits well with their  prejudices, the result of fear of possible harm to their offspring.

Videogames and addiction

The main factor of alarm for these parents is possibly the factor of  addiction. Usually, video game fans tend to dedicate a large part of their free time to them, which generates a strong feeling of disapproval on the part of parents, in addition to being accused on many occasions, as addicts to video games.

It is true that video games can be an addiction, but in the same way, the hobby of cultivating the body in the gym can also be, for example. The truth is that human beings have the power to be addicted to many types of hobbies and here, the turning point is set by education, the way in which the desire to play is self-regulating.

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Data and analysis

To shed light on the issue of video games and try to ward off fears, we would like to cite the results of an interesting study carried out by Estalló, Masferrer and Aguirre in 2001 in which they carried out a thorough investigation with 321 subjects with an age between the 13 years and 33. In this study, personality characteristics, behaviors in daily life and some cognitive variables were compared  between two samples, of which one had a continuous, habitual and abundant use of video games, while another sample presented a total absence of video game use.

Despite being widely used arguments to disapprove of the use of video games, the results of this study clearly showed that the continued and regular use of video games does not imply any relevant change with respect to those who do not use them, in aspects such as school adaptation, academic performance, family climate and adaptation, consumption of toxic substances, physical problems such as  obesity or headaches, childhood psychological history or social activities.

Likewise, in variables of a clinical nature such as personality patterns, aggressiveness, assertiveness or clinical symptoms and syndromes, there were no significant differences in relation to the non- gambler group either (Estalló, Masferrer & Aguirre, 2001).

The benefits of playing video game consoles

Video games are not only not the villains that the media sometimes sell us, but they also provide cognitive benefits

As we have seen in one of many examples, empirical evidence shows that the continued and habitual use of video games does not represent a real threat against young people.

In addition to not reaching alarming conclusions, research on health and video games shows that they are a powerful modern tool that can produce benefits in aspects such as cognition,  emotions ,  motivation and social behaviors.

In 2014, Granic, Lobel and Rutger carried out an important review for the APA (American Psychologist Association), on the existing bibliography in reference to studies that demonstrate the benefits of video games in young people, especially in the aforementioned areas. Since carrying out an analysis of each of the areas goes beyond the objectives of this article, we will name only some benefits of each one, leaving these analyzes for later publications.

1. Cognition

In terms of cognition, the benefits are very wide since they promote a wide range of cognitive skills. Shooter- themed video games are of special relevance in this area since they require a high level of attention and  concentration, considerably enhancing spatial resolution in visual processing, rotation of mental abilities and attention (Green & Babelier, 2012).

2. Motivation

In the field of motivation, video games play an important role since a large number of them maintain a very precise setting in terms of “effort-reward”  which allows young people to be able to develop their skills through effort and be rewarded in a fair and palatable way, thus generating behaviors in favor of a malleable and potentiated intelligence and not as a stable and predefined intelligence (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007).

3. Managing emotions

Regarding the emotional benefits, there are studies that suggest that some of the most intensely positive emotional experiences are associated with the context of video games (McGonigal, 2011) and given the great importance of experiencing positive emotions on a daily basis, the benefits generated from this premise are very important.

4. Cooperation

Finally, due to the strong social component of videogames today, which reward cooperative, supportive and helpful behaviors, substantial improvements in the behavior and prosocial skills of the players are evidenced (Ewoldsen et al., 2012).

Video games are not enemies, but allies

The conclusion of all this review on video games dedicated to parents should be their acceptance of video games as a powerful ally in the education and growth of their children, combining them with the discipline and responsibility that We sue them but their promotion depends on us. 

In this way we could see the benefits that video games can generate or, at least, warn that all those theories that accuse them are unfounded and the result of misinformation. Video games are not to blame for the problems associated with youth.

Bibliographic references:

  • Blackwell, LS, Trzesniewski, KH, & Dweck, CS (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78, 246–263.
  • Estalló, J., Masferrer, M., & Aguirre, C. (2001). Long-term effects of video game use. Notes of Psychology. Apuntes de Psicología, 19, 161-174.
  • Ewoldsen, DR, Eno, CA, Okdie, BM, Velez, JA, Guadagno, RE, & DeCoster, J. (2012). Effect of playing violent video games cooper- atively or competitively on subsequent cooperative behavior. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 277–280.
  • Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, RCME (2014). The benefits of playing video games. The American Psychologist, 69 (1), 66–78.
  • Green, CS, & Bavelier, D. (2012). Learning, attentional control, and action video games. Current Biology, 22, 197-206.
  • McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

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