Video games harmful or helpful? The jury is still out on this one

Written by: 
Hailey Gardiner ~ Multimedia Journalist

Video games are men’s guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure, and women’s worst nightmare.
David Richardson, a senior majoring in psychology from Arizona, said, “I used to play video games. Then I got married.”

Female students agreed that video games have a social and behavioral impact on their loved ones and friends. Taylor Moyes, a senior majoring in English from Arizona, said, “We never had video games in my house growing up. My parents wanted my brothers and I to be outside playing sports and doing other activities.”

It wasn’t until Moyes’ brother won an Xbox at a carnival that the gaming system was introduced to her home. “I can see how video games affected our interactions with each other and others,” she said.

BYU-Hawaii psychology Professor Ronald Miller said he believes that no accurate studies show a correlation between increased aggressiveness and video game playing; it’s simply too long of a process to gather that kind of data.

“The studies that seem to show a relationship between video game playing and violence aren’t explicit about their variables and are misinterpreted,” Miller said.

Miller explained that society’s interpretation of aggression and violence has not been found to increase in the behavior of those who play video games.

“We think of beatings, rapes, assaults, etc., but when you see a headline that says ‘video games lead to aggression,’ that’s what you think they actually studied,” he said. “Essentially what video games do is serve as an irritant. So when someone annoys you, you may respond with a little more intensity. That’s not the same as assault.”

Andy Chalk, in his article entitled “Research Finds Negative Effects in Violent Videogames,” says the importance of raising awareness of how prolonged exposure to violence can lead to aggressive behavior.

Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State University led research on this claim, discovering through his study those who played violent video games held the expectation that others would behave aggressively. In essence, playing video games frequently has only been proven to cause people to behave a little more rudely than they normally would.

“This expectation may make them more defensive and more likely to respond with aggression themselves, as we saw in this study and in other studies we have conducted,” he said.

Bushman explained his belief that the long-term effects of violent video games could potentially be reflected in aggressive behavior. “A single cigarette won’t cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk,” he said. “In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression.”
A study conducted by Italian researchers highlighted in the New York Times article “Video Games May Aid Children with Dyslexia,” discussed the potential benefits of video gaming. Two groups of 10 dyslexic children were tested to see if the implementation of video games in their day would help in their reading comprehension and ability to pay attention.

“One group played action video games for nine sessions of 80 minutes each, while the other followed the same routine with non-action games,” wrote Nicholas Bakalar. Researchers measured the reading skills and attention span of the children both before and after the video game sessions.

The study revealed, “those trained on the action games scored significantly higher than those who played the non-action games by various measures,” said Bakalar. The children who played action games also scored higher on the tests measuring their attention as distractions were inserted while they tried to carry out their assigned tasks.

Simone Gori, the co-first author of this study, said, “The correlation between attention improvement and reading improvement was very high. The change in attention abilities translates into better reading ability.”

Male students agreed that video games are a way for them to unwind when overwhelmed with their studies, giving them a way to re-focus afterwards.

Soungyoung Son, a junior studying business from Honolulu, said he has been passionate about video games from a young age. “It’s a good outlet,” said Son. “When I study and need to relieve some stress, I play some games for an hour or so and then go back to studying. I do that every day because it really helps.”