The Negative Effects of Video Games

by Jennifer Quirk, SUNY Cortland, June 26, 2007

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Throughout this course our class has focused on advancing technologies and the resulting impact on society. In the book, Play Money, written by Julian Dibbell, it reveals the positive impacts on video games. What this book does not portray are the negative effects of video games. There are numerous reasons that “gamers” choose to spend their spare time playing video games. There are also many negative impacts that go along with the hours spent playing these games.

Many people play video games to get away from their everyday lives. It gives them a break in their daily routine. This does not go to say that playing video games does not become part of “gamers’” everyday routines because most of the time it does. For other people, video games might be a once in a while thing that does not become an everyday activity. Another reason that people may play video games is to relieve stress. For some people, when they’re angry or upset the easy way to take their mind of things is to work out, do yoga, eat, or any other stress relieving methods. For others playing video games serves the same purpose: it takes their minds off the problems at hand and allows them to take a break or cool off. A lot of video games include violence, guns or some other type of fighting, which could help people take out their anger through the game rather than in real life. Another reason some people play video games is because they’re fun.
Everyone has their choice of pastimes, some like sports some like shopping and others like video games. To some, videogames is simply an interesting and fun way to past time. Regardless of the reasons that people choose to play video games, there are still negative effects that result in this pastime or activity.

One of the most common negative aspects of video games is the fear that children or even adults are not getting the necessary physical activity. The more time a person spends sitting on the computer or sitting on the couch and playing video games, the less time they are spending outside playing with friends or outside doing yard work. Basically the more time spent playing video games the less possible time to take part in healthy, physical activities. With the increasing amounts of obesity found among Americans today, the fear about the lack of physical activity is reasonable.
Along with the fear of the increase of obesity, there is also a fear of lacking social skills. Some parents worry that if their children spend a lot of time playing video games they’re missing out on the time that could be spent playing with peers. Some argue that people interact with others while playing video games. For example, in the popular video game Call of Duty there is a lot of interaction with others through the game itself. This creates a debate on whether or not the interaction served through the video games allows for the same interaction one gets from a face-to-face encounter. Regardless of this, there is still the existing fear that when a person spends their free time playing video games they will not receive the necessary interactions and therefore might lack social skills.

Another negative impact from video games is the addiction issue. It is two completely different scenarios when a person plays video games once in a while to relieve stress or catch a break during the day, but there is also the possibility that a person may become so involved with the game that they lose perspective of their real life responsibilities. I have personally witnessed people who become so infatuated with a video game that they lose their perspective on what is really important. I know some people who will miss work because they would rather sit home and play video games, and I know some people who lose others that are close to them because of their video game addictions.

As our class has witnessed after reading Play Money, there are people who make a living by staying home and playing video games and therefore we know that there are situations where people are put in a position to weigh out their virtual lives and their real lives. Should they go play with their child or should they try and beat the last level? If a person is able to play video games while still fulfilling their responsibilities than there is no need to worry about this negative aspect, but there are in fact a lot of people who face this issue and still need to learn to balance their time appropriately.

Many parents are concerned with the violence their child is subjected to through video games. A lot of the top-selling video games consist of fighting and killing. This violence has, in some cases, proven to result in an increase in aggressive behavior. When children are at a young age they are very impressionable. They see the violence that exists in their favorite video game, and therefore thinks it is the correct or “cool” behavior. Another cause for this increase in aggressive behavior is the fact that in these violent video games the players are rewarded for their violent behaviors. In most games you advance to the next level after killing a certain amount of people or fighting and winning against your component. Often times when children are rewarded for doing something, the chances of that child repeating the act they were rewarded for increases.

The violence that exists in video games may also alter a child’s perception on the acceptable way to solve problems. Children who participate in violent games may have a tough time deciphering what’s real and what’s not real. They may see the violent behaviors as acceptable ways to act, and therefore their aggressive behaviors increase.
Another cause of violent behaviors among children is the repeating violent behavior. In these video games the players are often times expected to keep killing and to keep fighting their opponents if they want to advance throughout the game, it is usually not the case that the “gamer” is only expected to kill or fight once. A very popular teaching method for children throughout schools is to repeat information. Therefore children learn better when information or actions are repeated more than once. With the repeated violent actions that children usually partake in through video games, a concern about resulting aggressive behavior is again reasonable.
Although there are many existing negative impacts of video games, there are always ways to handle it. For parents that are scared about their children becoming obese they could set time limits on how long their child is aloud to play and the rest of their free time they should be engaged in some physical activity. They could also take the computer or the game console from the child’s room and place it in a room that they child is not in as often, in hopes that the child will not play as much if it is less convenient than before. For parents that have concerns on their children’s social skills, they can once again monitor the allowed playing time, and they can even insist that the child invite friends over to play the game also. This will allow for the child to interact with the friend if they are working together or if they are sharing it will allow the child to build on the necessary skill of sharing. For the parents that have an issue with the violence in video games they can insist that the child not play any shooting or fighting games but allow for sports games. This will decrease the violence but it will be a compromise between no violence at all and the fighting games. The parents should monitor the ratings of the games and only allow for the appropriate rated game to be bought and played. There are all different ratings: early childhood to adults only. This was created for the purpose of allowing the appropriate age group to play the appropriate games, and therefore parents should take advantage of this. These suggestions could also work for adults that are having problems with balancing responsibilities and video games. Adults could set a limit on the hours that they can play, they can assign appropriate hours that they can play when they have no prior engagements, or they could even move the source to a less convenient place in hopes of playing less often. There are always ways to eliminate or decrease the negative aspects of problems that arise, and these are some useful ways to do so with the negative effects of video games.

With the advancing technologies that are arising people are often times prone to see the positive effects of things but lack the sense of the negative effects, unless they personally experience it. Parents of children who often play video games and people who play video games themselves are well aware of the negative impacts of video games but sometimes people that do not fall into the above categories fail to do so. There are of course some positive impacts of video games and there are also many ways to deal with the negative effects, but just like with everything else one must weigh out the good and the bad. Are the positive effects more important than the negative effects? If so than that person should continue to play or monitor their playing. If not than maybe playing video games is something that needs to be looked into further.

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