In 2007, it was estimated that 81% of American youth played video games at least once every month, with about 8.5% of them video game addicts. With video games now more prominent, it is now estimated that up to 90% of American youth between 12-18 play at least 14 hours of video games every week. With such mind boggling numbers coupled with the many studies suggesting a link between video games and psychological/neurological disorders, the question, “Are video games bad for you?” is very relevant. Nonetheless, one thing to keep in mind is that researchers never seem to agree on whether video games are bad or good for children. With so many studies demonizing video games, we are going to take a look at the pros of video games.
A 2013 study by St Hedwig-Hospital in conjunction with Berlin’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development established a positive correlation between increased performance and video games. Youth playing the Super Mario 64 video game for over half an hour over two months showed significant increases in grey matter in the cerebellum, the right prefrontal cortex, and the right hippocampus. These are areas of the brain are related to better motor performance, working memory, strategic planning and spatial navigation. As such, it may be argued that playing video games enhances the mental capacities of children.
Research has established that children playing games can improve several cognitive functions and have increased social benefits. While it has been argued that video games are bad for not punishing negative behavior, this is not entirely true. When playing video games, a player learns fast that to progress to the next level of the game requires better skill or following directions and restrictions. Players not only are punished for not following rules, but also need to develop and use problem-solving skills to progress. With such restrictions, players need to learn how to read situations, patterns, learn anticipation and strategy, failure to which they face penalties or lose the game.
Video games develop the critical skill of multi-tasking particularly for players that play the more complicated games. Intricate multiplayer and multi-element games require the player to keep track of other players’ activities as well as their environment. According to University of Rochester cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier, persons who play video games tend to have better reaction times without losing accuracy. With games becoming more complex, players have to develop quick thinking, which is good for mental development.
Playing video games tend to enhance spatial reasoning, fine motor skills and hand eye coordination as the player has to employ all these senses at the same time. For instance, in playing street war simulation games, a player has to not only be aware of their position, but also of that of their enemies including their direction, strengths, speed, aim accuracy among others. They will then have to process all the information and coordinate their eyes and hands to execute actions such as run, hide, shoot, ambush among many others actions in the game. These skills may come in handy in real life situations that require delicate hand eye coordination such as surgery.
One of the biggest reasons why the question, “Are video games bad for you?,” is the argument that games make the youth antisocial. However, research has shown that games can be a learning and stimulating experience just like any other social endeavors. Since a significant percentage of players play video games with friends or family, the games present a right mix of entertainment, fun, and bonding that other activities such as watching TV would. Besides, since most multi-player games require comradeship, logistics, and cooperative play, the argument that video games promote anti-social behavior does not hold water.
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