Are video games making us stupider? A lot of people would definitely like us to believe it. But we’re seeing more and more studies appear that seem to suggest the opposite.
We’ve heard many of the arguments against television. Sure, you’ve got good documentary shows out there that are highly educational. And it can keep you up to date with world events that it could otherwise be difficult to keep up with. But there is still a widespread idea that television is a highly passive that basically rots the brain of its audience over time. And with television being overloaded with awful sitcoms, reality shows, and endless commercials? You can kind of see where they’re coming from.
But is the same true for video games? For many, there isn’t really much difference. They boil it down to being as simple as “you play it through your television, so it’s basically the same as television”. (And yes, you should ignore that fact that you may be playing it through your PC monitor, not your television. You know what I mean!)
Unfortunately, we don’t really have as much research available to us as we should do. Video games have been around for decades, but it’s only in the last few years that people have taken them seriously in the psychological field. Of course, there were plenty of studies going on in the nineties and the 2000s. But these were all studies aimed to show or disprove the negative effects of violent video games on young minds.
But video games have many features that help with our attention span, our concentration, and our ability to read, among other things. Video games are becoming more text- and puzzle-heavy, which is a positive thing for the brain. Thankfully, some of the best online games have these features.
Here is where we enter an interesting sort of paradox. A lot of the studies in this area performed on violent video games tend to focus on potentially negative effects. And even when those studies show no connection between video gaming and violence in real life? Many adults will still not allow their children near violent video games purely because, well, they’re violent. They’re aimed at adults, not children. It’s the same with violent, R-rated movies in that way.
But these violent games are the ones that tend to focus more heavily on quick reaction times. They’re the ones that tend to immerse people more, as they’re more visceral. In short, the violent video games tend to be the ones that clearly show the positive effects of video games on someone’s brain.
So games do have positive effects on our brains. Studies have shown that they can help us sharpen our reasoning, decision-making talents, and our focus. The question for game makers, I suppose, is this. Can we find ways to harness all of these positive effects without all the bloodshed?
The answer lies in the effects that video games in general have on your brain. And there are plenty of positive effects that the sheer act of playing a video game can have for you. Of course, it depends on how often you play them. If you’re doing nothing but playing video games, without taking time to go outside or read a book? Then you’re wasting the positive potential.