The video gaming industry grew massively in recent years. It shows no signs of stopping either, which is due to a combination of reasons. At the forefront is the affordability and availability of powerful gaming PCs, smart devices, laptops, consoles, and TVs. Contributing factors include a wide array of video game distribution platforms, free video game engines such as Unreal Engine, 5, Unity, and CryEngine, and the growing presence of video games in social, educational, and professional settings. But because each coin has two sides, we decided to analyze both the advantages and disadvantages of video games. Let’s start.
Advantages of video games
We prefer to look on the positive side, so here are several pros of video games:
1. They provide entertainment
Entertainment and more importantly, engagement, are two merits of video games that lure people in. Unlike movies or TV shows, game titles aren’t a pre-recorded set of rapidly moving digital pictures, and even linear ones have a high degree of freedom nowadays. Modern games provide the liberty to decide what, how, when something happens. Therefore, players can carve their path, and enjoy the gameplay in ways others don’t necessarily find fun. Moreover, games are no longer shoehorned into boxes. One game can permit multiple ways of playing – solo, split-screen, LAN, or online multiplayer. And, with the rise of the Games as a Service (GaaS) revenue model, the game at launch may barely resemble the one a year later.
2. Video games aid education
Games belong to modern technology that helps education as a technology toolset that benefits teachers and students alike. We’re referring to 3D simulations, displayed via projection or screens of computers, smart devices, and Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality headsets. Besides captivating visuals, the information is neatly presented, usually interactive, and familiar to Gen Z members.
3. They aid everyday skills
Besides mental, visual, and educational benefits, video games train us for daily activities and obligations. Some positive effects of video games are improved hand-eye coordination, dexterity, persistence, patience, attention span, and prioritization – remember main and side quests? They also spark curiosity and promote working solo and in teams. Additionally, The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) argued that people who play games are more competitive, and fare better in the job market.
4. Possible eyesight improvements
Daphne Bavelier, University of Rochester‘s professor of brain and cognitive sciences did a valuable study in 2009. The study noticed that the group who played action games (Unreal Tournament 2004, Call of Duty 2) saw a 58% improvement in discerning the differences in contrast (“visual contrast sensitivity”) compared to those who played The Sims 2. Furthermore, the first group demonstrated an increase of 43% in the ability to distinguish close shades of gray, while the second had no improvement.
5. Games help brain functionality
The study above concluded that playing fast-paced games trains the human brain to perceive and process visual information with better efficiency. Even better, after it adapts and grows through frequent stimuli, the brain can retain the beneficial effects for up to 2 years. This leads us to conclude the in-game practice carries over real-life actions such as multitasking, auditory perception, and quick and efficient problem-solving. Games may also decrease the abnormally high anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG) activity, responsible for cognitive inflexibility. Therefore, they train mental flexibility i.e., allow you to focus on something, stop, and shift focus to something else entirely.
6. Anxiety and depression relief
An overwhelming amount of subjective experiences online suggest that gaming helps relieve anxiety, depression, stress, and low mood. Others, especially those with social anxiety or disorders such as autism or Asperger’s, claim video games helped develop their social and communicational skills. Moreover, this mega-study, which encompassed 13 other studies, found that casual video games can be a form of treatment for mental health symptoms. Scientific Journal’s 2012 study found that playing Tetris may reduce the symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and serious psychiatric disorders.
Disadvantages of video games
Now’s the time to look at the other side of the coin. Let’s examine some cons of video games:
1. Violence (Debated)
This is a point of contention for decades. The study findings from the 1990s and 2000s are still spouted as facts, despite there being no hard evidence. A reanalysis in the Society Open Science journal from late July 2020, which involved 28 separate studies and a total of 21,000 young participants, found no conclusive link between playing video games and real-life violence. They did notice “emotion-induced blindness”, which was also analyzed in this South Wales research from 2018. To clarify, they conclude that those who played violent video games weren’t as disturbed by violent images in different contexts compared to those that don’t.
World Health Organization has the term “gaming disorder” on its “International Classification of Disease” list. So, the problem is real and significant. Case in point, some countries have clinics and safe houses dedicated to treating people with video game addiction. This isn’t surprising, though. Game designers and developers, using behavioral and brain science data, do their best to make their products addictive and appealing. After all, their livelihood depends on it.
3. Lack of true social interaction
One of the crucial drawbacks of video games is that they don’t facilitate genuine, in-person social activity. Online games allow gamers to stay at home, yet spend time together virtually. Even worse, when they are face to face, gamers might sit in silence, and each using their electronics or watching one another play. We aren’t saying games are the sole cause but are unquestionably among the key contributors.
4. Disinterest in other activities
Even if you didn’t witness it, you can guess where feelings of elation and excitement and consequent addiction can lead. Gamers can disregard their hobbies, education, employment, quality family time, meeting friends, and entering into relationships. Simply put, they miss or ignore the events and opportunities they would’ve had without video games.
5. Deterioration of physical and mental well-being
These consequences aren’t exclusive to video games. We explained why social media is bad, how technology makes us lazy, and even obese. Additionally, the daily high-stakes virtual environment can lead to anxiety, depression, poor impulse control, a short temper, and even health issues since adrenal glands are working overtime.