The Kaiser Foundation in its recent study has found out that 97% of American children aged between 8 and 18 years spend a considerable amount of time, an average of 8 hours per week, playing video games (Ahuja, 2013). Studies show that the most popular games, played by children and young adults in USA, are all violent in content. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a first person shooter video game that collected a whopping $550 million within the first few days of its release in 2009 (Rozi and Muhyiddin, 2013).
The 10 most popular video games, among children and young adults, including Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Assassin Creed III, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Borderlands 2 and Halo 4 are all violent in content, with the characters in the games committing violent atrocities, hurling abusive and obscene languages, making out with sluts, unleashing violence towards women, abusing drugs, chopping off people and animals and committing every other imaginable and non-imaginable demonic activity. In the event of such prevalence of video games in the lives of American kids, there are numerous studies conducted by different researchers with the intention to find out the impact of video games on the overall society. There is a huge dichotomy of opinions among researchers as regards the impact of videos games on the society. Though most of the recent studies indicate the negative impact of video games on young minds, there are some people who believe that playing video games has some positive impacts as well. In the context of the effects of video games on the society, most of the researchers believe that playing video games impacts the society negatively by contributing to an increase in aggression, addiction and depression and attention deficit and poor academic performance in those playing the games regularly. However, another set of researchers completely refute the negative effects, emphasizing upon the positive effects of playing video games.
Increase in Aggression
The most talked-about effect of video games is the development of aggression in children and young adults playing violent video games regularly. Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology in Ohio, is of the opinion that playing violent video games increases the risk of developing aggression in children and young adults (Rozi and Muhyiddin, 2013). The findings of both experimental and non-experimental studies, conducted on men and women, have corroborated this fact only. A well-known psychologist, Craig A. Anderson (2007), in his meta-analysis has revealed how video games leave more damaging impact on children than that of TV programs by keeping the players actively involved in the process of controlling the actions of the violent character, who unleashes untold violence in the video games. In fact, researchers believe that this active participation in violent video games develops and enhances the aggressive streaks in children and young adults, which culminate in incidents like school shooting massacres and homicides. For example, Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, who wreaked havoc at the Northern Illinois University by shooting five people dead and injuring several others in 2008, was an ardent player of video games (Ferguson, 2008). James Eagan Holmes, the suspect behind the shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the culprits who shot 12 students and one teacher to death in Columbine High School massacre, were all fond of playing video games (Carey, 2013). Iowa State researchers conducted a study on 227 juvenile offenders, and came up with the result that the frequency of playing video games has a direct correlation with violence and aggressive behavioral streaks (Iowa State University, 2013).
However, some researchers believe that the violent content in video games increases aggression in children only if a pre-existing propensity towards violence is present in the player. They hold the opinion that a few school shooting incidents, committed by a handful of video game addicts, do not prove that all the youngsters playing video games will end up on killing spree. Rather, these researchers share the opinion that certain violent video games, involving a target shooting with characters running and aiming shots at the same time, increase the hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills (RSK, 2013).
The process of aiming a shot at an enemy and successfully hitting him involves a perfect hand-eye coordination and visual-spatial ability that can be achieved only with experience. Furthermore, some experts believe that the reason for fighter pilots of today's generation being more skillful is their being trained on video games.
Addiction and Depression
Addiction is another detrimental effect of video games. Experts believe that videos games do the same damage to the society as drugs. Just as drugs give pleasure by stimulating different pleasure sensors of the brain, similar way video games also create a pleasing sensation in the players making them become addicted. This addiction to video games makes the players reclusive and socially isolated, and they develop other psychological problems like anxiety, depression and difficulty in making friends. An American poet, Ryan Van Cleave, in his biography 'Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction' has described how his addiction to ‘World of Warcraft’, a popular video game, had led him to depression (Anderson and Warburton).
However, there are some researchers who believe that playing video games does not lead to depression and despair as popularly believed. Rather, video games elevate the mood of the players and reduce their stress by developing a feeling of autonomy and competence (Johnson, 2013). Especially, old people are found to have reported high level of well-being due to playing video games. A research study conducted by North Carolina State University has come up with the finding that people aged 63 and above, who played video games at least occasionally, showed higher level of well-being compared to those, who didn't play video games at all (Business Standard, 2013). Rather those, who didn't play video games, showed a tendency towards depression.
Attention Deficit and Poor Academic Performance
Research shows that children addicted to playing violent video games are more likely to develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Iowa State University conducted a research study on 1,323 children for 13 months and came up with the finding that children, who played a considerable amount of time playing video games, showed an increased level of attention deficit (Reader's Digest). Due to the reduced attention, students underperform and suffer from poor grades. Several studies have shown that children playing video games for two or more hours every day suffer from problems related to reading and grasping math skills.
However, another group of researchers believe that playing video games regularly boosts the intelligence level of the players and thus, helps in studies. According to the researchers from Queen Mary University of London, certain types of games like StarCraft are helpful in improving the cognitive ability of the players. In their study on 72 students, the group playing the fast-paced game like StarCraft, in which the players needed to form and organize soldiers to fight an enemy, showed better cognitive flexibility than the group that played the Sims, which does not involve any special tactic or memory (Queen Mary, 2013).
In conclusion, video games have become a dominating aspect of the society with 97% of American kids spending a considerable amount of time playing video games every day. There has been a lot of debates over the effects of video games on the overall society with one group of researchers stressing that video games lead to an increase in aggression culminating in shooting massacres, while the other group of researchers believing that video games are helpful in improving the hand-eye coordination and spatial ability in people.
Some researchers also believe that video games lead to depression and addiction and make the avid players suffer from attention deficit whereas according to many scientists, video games makes people happy and help students perform well in studies by increasing their cognitive flexibility. Despite the positive effects of video games, there is no doubt that playing video games, especially, the violent ones on a regular basis, can take a toll on the young minds engendering an array of problems for the society. Therefore, people playing video games should be more careful about their selection of video games and should try their hands on some real games like soccer and baseball, instead of spending all the time on playing the virtual games.
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Anderson, C. A. and Warburton, W. A. The impact of violent video games: An overview, Retrieved on 3rd April 2014 from <http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2010-2014/12AW.pdf>
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Iowa State University (2013). Violent video games are a risk factor for criminal behavior and aggression, new evidence shows. Science Daily. Retrieved on 3rd April 2014 from <http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2013/03/130326121605.htm>
Johnson, D. (2013).The brain gain: why video games can make people happy. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved on 3rd April 2014 from <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/the-brain-gain-why-video-games-can-make-people-happy-20131008-2v63o.html>
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