The effects of video games: are they good or bad?

By Kamila Mushkina / September 21, 2020
effects of video games

Some people think video games are a waste of time, but others can spend hours in the virtual worlds. Are video games good or bad? There’s no definite answer, but it’s known for sure that video games change the way you think and act. Here are some of the negative and positive effects of video games.

Violent video games and aggression

When it comes to playing video games, the most debated issue has been violence in games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty or Counter-Strike. Do they make us more violent or don’t they? People are especially concerned about the effect of violent video games on children and young adults, who are more susceptible to external factors.

Experts still have different opinions about violent video games. Some studies claim there’s no link between violence in video games and more violent behaviour in the real world; others argue that there is a possibility that video games and aggression are connected.

Although there’s no definite answer to it, what both sides agree on is that parents can protect their children from the potential negative impact and limit the use of video games. Children can learn from simply seeing aggressive behaviour and copying it, so it makes sense to protect children from violence in all kinds of media, not only video games.

Isolation and lack of social skills

Although we all have a certain image of a gamer in our mind – a geek who hasn’t got any friends and solely lives in a virtual world – some studies argue that playing video games actually enhances social skills. Many gamers play with their friends or find new friends online.

However, the problem is that excessive gaming may result in fewer offline interactions. Gamers can be more confident playing World of Warcraft with other people but feel awkward in a real face-to-face conversation. Several studies pointed out that playing video games may lead to lower self-esteem, lack of real-life friends, and loneliness.

Addictivity

Yes, video games can be addictive, just like caffeine, smoking or binge-watching series on Netflix. It’s hard to limit ourselves to just one episode per day, and it’s also hard to give up playing a video game when there is constant plot development.

It’s especially difficult to limit ourselves to just a few hours per week because video games present us with a whole new universe. If you’re tired and unhappy with your everyday life, you might want to escape from your problems into the virtual world. It’s important to remember that the video game world is not a substitute for reality.

Given the addictive nature of video games, it’s fairly easy to lose track of time when playing. However, if you find a way to avoid binge-playing and being too absorbed by the virtual world, there is a chance you won’t experience any negative effects at all. In fact, most of the negative effects of video games are associated with excessive or problematic video game use.

Cognitive skills

Let’s now turn to the positive sides of gaming! Video games do teach us a whole lot of valuable cognitive skills. First of all, there are so many genres of video games, and it’s impossible to ignore the skills we develop while playing.

Shooter games can teach us how to orient ourselves in space, think strategically, and respond to the situation quickly. Strategy games such as SimCity teach us how to plan and manage our resources. Puzzles teach us to use logic, reasoning and problem-solving skills. Some games can also enhance creativity in children, young people and adults.

Playing video games also teaches us how to learn because each game has its own rules, and we first need to understand how it’s played to succeed. That is not that easy; many games require patience and attention to detail if you want to master it, whether it’s a shooter or an RPG (role-playing game).

Stress relief

Yes, shooter or horror games can make us more anxious, but there are other games that can help us to reduce stress and forget about our worries for some time. This sounds like escapism, but will an hour of playing Angry Birds hurt? Your mental well-being is the most important thing, so if you feel it improved after playing a game, why not?

The Nintendo Switch game called Animal Crossing: New Horizons became viral during quarantine when we all needed an escape from harsh Covid-19 reality. Animal Crossing is a cheerful simulator game with cute cartoon characters and no urgent matters to be solved. No wonder it was so calming for many people during the lockdown.

Video games are fun!

It’s hard to deny that video games are fun. Just like books and movies, video games can either be simple and relaxing or deep and thought-provoking. Different video games make you experience different emotions and learn different things. The question is what type of experience you want to have while playing a video game.

Of course, video games can be addictive, but now many things are. I’m not that much of a gamer, but I did like the experience of playing the Witcher III way more than the aftertaste of spending an hour on Instagram. When you’re playing a game, you at least have a stronger sense of going and reaching somewhere, be it the completed mission or the next level.

What I also find curious is how games change with time, given the new technologies and also new topics that emerge in our world. I find it beautiful to observe this development, and this is why I (sometimes) play video games.

There are both negative and positive effects of playing video games, but it’s worth remembering that bad things can only happen if you do not approach it with mindfulness and responsibility. If you resist the urge to spend half of your time on a video game and focus on the benefits it can bring you, you will win.

About the author

Kamila Mushkina

Leave a comment: