Video games don’t deserve negative stigma, as they can improve mental health

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When many non-gamers such as myself hear the phrase “video game,” our first thought is of a warped and addictive world of mindless mouse-clicking and violent storylines. The media is quick to play into the anti-gaming hype, focusing primarily on the seemingly drastic effect on children’s aggression patterns and dutifully following the chorus of parents who believe that children should be outside experiencing nature instead of indoors glued to a controller. For those individuals who never got into video games or grew up in a time where they were not prevalent, it is quite easy to demonize the activity and see no possible merit in it.

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Playing video games has long been societally dubbed as a hobby which brings no added social, educational or personal benefits to children and young adults. However, new studies from the American Psychological Association show that gaming from a young age has actually proven to advance a child’s critical thinking development as well as their ability to interact with people all over the world for the purpose of almost instantaneous problem solving. This practice also gives young people undoubtable improvement in hand-eye coordination. Our society typically condemns gaming and wrongfully bestows the stereotype of a socially awkward, lazy individuals with no ambition on those who play, but many would be surprised at the life-long assets these games give their loyal participants. Instead of criticizing this virtual “sport” that has enraptured 97 percent of United States adolescents, we should instead try to better understand it. The negative effects of video games on young adults concerning violence has been tested in more than 300 studies, but findings of the positive effects boast a meek 30 studies.

The major opponents to most video games center their arguments around the issue of the violence portrayed within them, and claim that it can not be healthy for any young person to spend so much time watching and participating in virtual fighting and killing. While I don’t personally enjoy watching the slew of grisly murders of pimps and prostitutes that frequent some games, studies show that “shooter” or “action” games such as Halo and Grand Theft Auto actually promote and foster cognitive skills. Data published in the American Psychologist Journal this year found that new gamers that were introduced to shooting games actually showed more accurate attention allocation, higher spatial resolution and enhanced mental rotation abilities than those who played other types of games. The analysis also showed that the fastest way to attain these abilities was through video games.

In addition to the cognitive benefits and processing efficiency, video games are known to increase self-motivation among individuals because rewards for actions are instantaneous and push the player to pursue higher levels. With multiplayer games, individuals also learn how to problem solve with a group of people in the shortest amount of time possible, making it incumbent upon every player to take responsibility for one task and carry it out efficiently. All of these aspects make gamers more adept to problem solve in the real world and be able to work with various personalities.

Lastly, a surprising benefit of video games is an emotional one. There exists a causal relationship between playing video games which the individual in question prefers, and an increase in positive moods or emotion. Gaming gives people of all ages and backgrounds a space in which they are in full control with little to no self-consciousness. These attributes can undoubtedly carry through into someone’s personal and professional life in very positive ways since participating in video games is seen as an outlet to many gamers. The benefits of video games definitely outweigh their negative connotations, and it is not until the media starts to report on these favorable characteristics that our ignorant social stigma can finally be removed.

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