Answering my main inquiry question took several weeks of research, a site visit, and two interviews (one with a neuroscientist in training, and the other with the Director of Research at Common Sense Media). I answered my question in a form of an essay. I used all my research to write my basic essay, and after that, I revised, refined, and edited, and then repeated the process until my essay was the best possible. It was a lot of hard work, but in the end, I think it turned out great, and I’m kind of proud of my essay. Well, I’m running out of things to say, so let’s jump right in!
Video Games and Your Brain
A world without video games? I can’t imagine it. There are so many great pros for video games. They can help you learn, they help transfer knowledge or skills to the real world, and they help maintain your health. Who would want to say goodbye to video games forever? Well, video games can have negative consequences with as many cons as pros, if not more. They can cause addiction, isolation, psychological stress, and violence, and they can interfere with the decision making process. So, how can people minimize the negative effects from video games? First, you should limit the time spent on video games, second, you should make sure the game you play is appropriate for your age, and lastly, you could just pick an educational video game rather than a violent one. So really, how does playing video games affect the brain, and how can you minimize the negative effects?
Video games can have many positive effects on people. Well-designed video games are like natural teachers. They provide immediate feedback during game play, which reinforces positive skills and allows timely adjustment. Video games make you repeat actions, which can help strengthen brain cell connections. They also help you learn at different rates. Video games can train you in a way that helps you transfer knowledge or skills to the real world. For example, computer simulations are widely used in fields such as aviation. Candidate pilots practice flying airplanes for many hours in simulated cockpits before they are allowed to fly real airplanes. Video games give you limited time to complete an array of tasks, requiring you to make quick decisions under stress. This requires high level of concentration and determination which are useful skills in the real world. Video games make you see small details, sharpening your visual ability. Moreover, video games can enhance our brain flexibility. Plus, according to Marc Palaus, a neuroscientist in training based in Spain, video games can help your brain recover from strokes and slow the degenerative process in Alzheimer’s disease.
However, video games can have many negative effects. You can easily get addicted to video games (about 8.5% of youth from the ages of 8 to 18 get addicted to video games according to Douglas Gentile, a research psychologist from Iowa State University). If you do get addicted, you might always sit at one place staring at a screen. This won’t allow you maintain your other daily activities such as studying, physical exercise, time with family and friends, and this impacts in your daily tasks. Kimberly Young, PsyD, clinical director of the Center for On-Line Addiction and author of Caught in the Net: How to Recognize the Signs of Internet Addiction — and a Winning Strategy for Recovery, says she has seen severe withdrawal symptoms in game addicts. “They become angry, violent, or depressed. If [parents] take away the computer, their child sits in the corner and cries, refuses to eat, sleep, or do anything.” After staring at a screen for a long period of time, video games can also cause blurred vision, headaches, and if frequent breaks aren’t taken to relax your eyes, it can even cause nearsightedness. Moreover, video games also isolates people from their family and friends. For example, parents playing hours upon hours will find themselves losing touch with their children, and children playing for long periods of time will find themselves at odds with their parents. Video games can also cause psychological stress. For example, you may suffer from low self-esteem, have social anxieties, or even suffer from depression. Excessive gaming can cause feelings of guilt and shame, and uncontrolled gaming can enhance the signs and symptoms of other mental disorders that may be pre-existing. Violent video games are especially damaging for children and young adults. For example, according to a CNN report, an 18 years old gunman killed nine people in Germany and he was a fan of first-person shooter video game. Violent video games also played a factor in many of the recent high school shootings. Playing such type of video games may distort youth’s minds towards violence. And even though video games can improve the decision-making process, they can also deteriorate them. For example, kids and college students who spend too much time playing video games struggle to keep their grades up, since they may procrastinate on their studying, rush through their homework, or simply ignore a deadline in favor of playing their favorite game.
Well, is there any way to minimize the negative effects from video games? Research has shown that there are some ways to minimize the negative effects. The main way is to control your time spent on video games, if you aren’t fully addicted. Limit the time to about a maximum of an hour per day, which will allow you to do other activities, especially physical activities. However, if your addiction is a serious problem, and you stop maintaining your daily tasks, isolate your friends and family, and you play video games for the majority of your day, then therapy would be a better option, and there are places that specialize in video game addiction. Also, you should always make sure the game you’re is playing is harmless. For example, you can check the ESRB rating to better understand what type of content a video game has. If you’re a parent, you can also play video games with your children to better understand the content, and how children react. And finally, what I think is the most obvious way to minimize the negative effects, you should just choose an educational video game that will help you learn, rather than a violent video game (but don’t forget that you should limit the time spent on video games).
The pros and cons of video games showed me that there can be great benefits and devastating consequences, but you can minimize the negative effects. If you would only learn one thing from this essay, I hope you will learn that as with everything we do, moderation is key. Video games are designed to be fun, but they are also designed to be addicting, so spend your free time wisely, and don’t let video games control you.