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Video Game Controversy - The Good and the BadBY: J van Hemert | Category: Entertainment | Post Date: 2010-02-08
Since the 1980s, people have been busying themselves with studying the effects of video games on human psychology. Some have claimed that video games is a cause of aggressive behaviour, including murder and robbery. Others point out the lack of exercise gamers are getting, substituting physical activities for sitting down while playing. Many others are worried about the addiction that can arise - gamers playing for long hours on end. Lastly, there are some concerns with the anti-social behaviour of gamers. On the other hand, many people are saying that games can have a positive effect on people, including increased reaction time and better coping skills. Some even say that people who speak out against video games are simply choosing a scapegoat for the problems we face in modern times.
Violence in games inspiring real life crimes is one of the leading arguments against gaming. Here are examples of events in the news that was allegedly caused - directly or indirectly - by video games.
On April the 20th, 1999, two boys shot and killed twelve fellow students and one teacher as well as injuring twenty one others. Eric Harris (18) and Dylan Klebold (17) were apparently fans of the games Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Jerald Block, a psychiatrist, stated that the two were immersed in the games and they were replaying it in real life.
Another incident happened on 7 June, 2003. Devin Moore (18) was arrested for the possession of a stolen vehicle and shortly after the arrest was made, he grabbed one of the police officers' guns and killed the policeman and his partner, as well as a dispatcher. When he was on trial, Moore's attorney claimed that he was inspired by Grand Theft Auto.
However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics recorded that violent crimes have decreased in the United States since the early 1990s. Since then, video games have become more violent and graphic. Do video games truly make a difference in the amount of violent crimes? Surgeon General David Satcher was quoted saying, "We clearly associate media violence to aggressive behaviour. But the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that's where the science is."
Dr Keith, a columnist for The Sun, stated that, -The only bits of anatomy many young men exercise are their fingers and wrists.- He went further to say that the time people usually spent on -climbing trees or kicking balls- were now spent playing games, staring at the screen. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), obesity in boys between the ages of 12 and 17 have increased from an estimated 5% to 13% while girls of the same age increased from 5% to 9% between 1966-1970 and 1988-1991. There is no doubt that the playing of video games has an effect on the obesity problem, but it is not the only contributor. WHO states that obesity is increasing because of -large shifts towards less physically demanding work-. Also, the changing of populations to become more urban has caused the food intake of most people from -diets high in complex arbohydrates- to food with a -higher proportion of fats, saturated fats and sugars-, according to WHO. Thus, video gaming has a small effect on the global scale, and obesity is only minimally affected by it.
Lee Seung Seop started playing Starcraft on 3 August 2005. The 28 year old South Korean man collapsed after playing for 50 hours with only small breaks, such as going to the bathroom and small amounts of sleep. The police officials told the public that Lee had been fired from his job because he had missed work to play video games. Clearly, this man was addicted to video games. Events such as these cause people to worry. However, a minuscule amount of gamers play excessively enough to seriously cause damage to themselves or their life. A Professor Griffith did a study, concluding that out of 540 candidates, only four were excessively playing games - over 80 hours a week.
Another commonly used argument is the anti-social nature of the average gamer. In a study done by Laura Walker and undergraduate Alex Jensen, results showed that the quality of relationships decreased where participants played more video games. Walker was quoted saying, "It may be that young adults remove themselves from important social settings to play video games, or that people who already struggle with relationships are trying to find other ways to spend their time". However, looking closer, some video games enhances social behaviour, but in another way. Online games are played by millions of people over the world where they constantly interact with one another, active sub script ions being over 16 million in 2008, according to mmogchart.com. In addition, another popular method is through usage of a LAN, a small network. With LAN games, people bring their computers together and play a game, often having to work together to accomplish a goal in the game. Thus, social behaviour can often be stimulated by multiplayer games, just not in a way the general public wants.
David Sheff, a journalist and author, says, -by playing video games children gain problem solving abilities, perseverance, pattern recognition, hypothesis testing, estimating skills, inductive skills, resources management, logistics mapping, memory, quick thinking and reasonal judgements-. Even the army have agreed on this, since they use the game, Virtual Battlespace 2, to improve the skills of their soldiers. According to a study made by the University of Rochester in New York, playing action games can also increase a person's awareness of his surroundings, for example, picking out a child running over the street when driving. On the May 29 issue of Nature, a report of this study mentioned that gamers process visual information much faster and are able to track more objects than non-gamers.
In conclusion, video games are not the evil pieces of software that they are made out to be. Most of the negative effects they may have are minimal or non-existent and their positive effects are important in the age where people have become more and more inattentive.
World Health Organisation
Bureau of Justice Statistics
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