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The Bright Side of Playing Video Games

Internationally students all over the world often enjoy playing video games both at home, online, and with their friends, and as parents, we are often concerned about their influence on our children. But are they harmful, a distraction, or something else entirely? 

In 2014, 97% of youths played video games for at least an hour a day in the United States (Granic et al., 2013). Video games have different genres, ranging from multiplayer and party games (e.g., Mario Party) to more complex, solo-player shooter games (e.g., Halo 4). As violent video games began emerging around the mid-1970s, adults became quite concerned with how they might influence adolescents’ emotional and psychological development. 

So as parents, what research has been conducted, and what can we learn from it? To begin with, a well-known social-cognitive experiment by Albert Bandura, known as the “Bobo Doll Experiment,” was conducted in the 1960s and was shown that children are able to mimic aggressive behavior to an inflatable doll through observation and learning (McLeod, 2014).

Several studies have also been conducted, with similar results. According to the social psychologist Berkowitz, as mentioned in Kirsh (2003), childrens’, adolescents,’ and young adults’ violent beliefs, thoughts, and feelings were triggered when they played video games.

However, contrary to the above research, newer examination (Granic et al., 2013) has found that the positive outcomes of playing video games can outweigh the negative regardless of the genre. In particular, it was proven that there were noticeable improvements in a gamers’ skills, such as those listed below.

Cognitive Benefits

Granic et al., (2013) found that gamers who enjoyed playing shooter video games were found to have enhanced spatial skills. Spatial skills are the skills we use when visualizing images and three-dimensional shapes. For example, a surgeon can navigate through the human body, and architects are able to mentally visualize figures and design them (Dewar, 2021). What’s interesting is that their skills were enhanced from video games just as much as those who attend high school and college courses that aim to improve spatial skills (Granic et al., 2013). Another gain in cognitive skills includes problem-solving skills. Video game developers limit the number of instructions and only provide storylines to the players. From that point onwards, players can go through multiple trial-and-error rounds until they are able to pass levels (Granic et al., 2013)

Motivational Benefits

Rewards are given to the player after achieving goals, and this motivates them to continue playing. Moreover, the rewards become greater than previous levels as the game becomes more challenging. Even if they fail several times, gamers are still motivated to complete the challenge. When taken into consideration, motivation can manifest itself in gamers in certain contexts, and they can become more motivated in school (Granic et al., 2013).

Emotional Benefits

Gamers also genuinely enjoy playing games for long periods because it is a way to relax and elevate their mood. According to Granic et al., (2013), having an elevated mood every day has shown that over time, the individual can perceive problems and day-to-day events as solvable and possible, respectively. Additionally, in relation to their problem-solving skills and motivation, they become motivated to overcome problems as a result of their positive mood. 

Social Benefits

Contrary to popular belief, gamers who spend hours in isolation to play video games are far from isolated. There is an abundance of games requiring local or online players to work together to achieve levels or compete against each other. As a result, they can gain social skills due to the competitive or collaborative nature of the game. When applied in real-life situations, such as working on a school project, they are able to work more efficiently with the necessary skills gained from playing video games (Granic et al., 2013).

Video Games in Developing Special Need Children 

Griffiths (2002) reported on several case studies that traced the development of emotional, social, and language skills in autistic children and other handicaps. One case study was about a 7-year-old boy who has autism. His mother expressed that he had extreme difficulty in comprehending language, as well as poor social skills. However, his skills in playing video games were his forte. It was claimed that it rewarded his self-esteem and calmed him down. Furthermore, the same case study (Demarest. K. (2000), as mentioned in (Griffiths 2002) ) concluded that language, reading, basic math, and social skills improved. Language skills include these related to speaking and listening. Reading skills include reading simple directions given in the game, such as “play, quit, etc.”. Basic math skills include these relating to computing the score based on the game’s scoring system. Lastly, social skills improve because there can be other children who enjoy similar games. So sharing that common ground can make communication easier. 

Video games are often portrayed in the media as entertainment that isolates users, wastes their time, and serves no benefits. Older research seemed to encourage this mindset by associating video games as a contributing factor to violent behavior. However, what we know now is that there are greater and more complicated contributing factors to violent behaviors than simple video games. In reality, video games in all genres can serve great personal gains to the gamer. Thus, we shouldn’t feel the need to ban video games completely and rather allow for some leniency, but it also doesn’t mean video games should be played for unlimited time. This can be done as a family, deciding on an acceptable amount of time for gameplay in a way that works for your child and household. After all, more recent research shows support for playing video games, and some would even indicate their educational benefits, such as (Griffiths, 2002). 

Besides playing video games, encourage children to do other activities during their free time to relax their body and mind. These can include taking some time to meditate, exercise and playing sports outside the house, and reading as well. It is key to balance between recreational activities and work to have a healthier and livelier lifestyle that could also benefit each other. For an informative article on the benefits of Yoga, visit our article here. 

Written by: Jumana Raggam

References 

Dewar, G. (2021, May 19). Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it? PARENTING SCIENCE. https://parentingscience.com/spatial-intelligence/ 

Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2013). The Benefits of Playing Video Games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66–78. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0034857 

Kirsh, S. J. (2003). The effects of violent video games on adolescents: The overlooked influence of development. Aggression and violent behavior, 8(4), 377-389. 

McLeod, S. (2014). Bobo Doll Experiment | Simply Psychology. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/bobo-doll.html 

Griffiths, M. D. (2002). The educational benefits of video games. Education and health, 20(3), 47-51. 

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