Video Games

6/6/19

Video Games are the worst thing in the entire world. That is if the constant warnings from the media or politicians are anything to go by. Various claims are made about them, such as the idea that they make people more aggressive, more willing to commit violence, and other psychological effects such as addiction. Recently the World Health Organisation recently added "gaming disorder" as a specific addiction condition to its diagnostic handbook. But many experts in related fields argue that this is premature and not founded on solid science. The diagnosis seems to hang on the amount of gaming, whether it's interrupting someone's life or relationships, etc. These experts argue that this is no different to other compulsions or addictions, and that video games shouldn't be classified on their own as they don't appear to be more addictive overall than other activities - but it appears that it needs to be in separately for insurance purposes.

While addiction is indeed a worry for people's lives, the aggression angle seems to be the issue that sticks in the public's mind. Screeching articles and impassioned statements from (probably) well-meaning politicians have fuelled the worry in parents and governments. Is there anything to these claims? Study after study has shown that there isn't a link between video games and aggression, and that aggressive acts carried out by heavy gamers are a result of their personality or psychology separate from the gaming. These studies don't make much of a media impact, and it's not hard to imagine why. Other studies have investigated whether video games can be theraputic for certain psychological conditions. Specially-designed games can help participants on an emotional level and that this may be helpful for certain types of psychotherapy.

We always see the same people making claims that don't add up to scrutiny. UK readers will probably know of Labour's Keith Vaz being perhaps the most vocal of video game critics. Why they keep doing it is left as an exercise to the reader. Clearly it is worth researching the effect of an industry so large and so influential on our lives, but until the research in these areas actually shows some solid results it would be wise to be skeptical. Certainly if you feel you are playing too many video games, or feel that it is having an effect on you that you don't like, you should absolutely give it a rest and go for a walk.

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