There is widespread concern over the amount of time kids (and adults!) spend playing video games. Understandably so. Anything in excess can be negative, especially sedentary activities. People are also often wary of the graphically violent nature of some games. And while these are valid worries, that doesn’t mean all games are harmful.
As research suggests time spent playing certain types of games can be incredibly beneficial- from both a cognitive and social standpoint. And we’re not just referring to the explicitly educational ones. Multiple studies now even cite the public and mental health benefits observed from the strategic use of virtual reality gaming.
It does appear to be true that violent gaming can lead to increased aggression in some people. However, researchers also put forth a host of additional socio-cultural factors that contribute to and predict this tendency.
As is the case with most media, a closer look at the content and the player is required before passing judgement on gaming. There is a vast range to consider, from the mindless ad-driven variety on our phones to the highly collaborative world-building platforms online. Every genre and every game impacts our wellbeing differently.
This batch of research reiterates the need to avoid blanket statements or concerns around different media, especially gaming. There are so many variables to consider when assessing their level of benefit or risk. It’s hard to really do so without playing yourself!
Play a beneficial game. It could be something like Wordle on your phone, Roblox on your computer, or Limbo on your console. There is a world of positive gaming out there designed to stretch your problem-solving skills and provide much needed mental exercise.
READ FULL STUDY : Association of Video Gaming With Cognitive Performance Among Children
Key Quotes: “ These findings suggest that video gaming may be associated with improved cognitive abilities involving response inhibition and working memory and with alterations in underlying cortical pathways.”
Publication: JAMA Pediatrics (Journal of American Medical Association)
- Bader Chaarani, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont
- Joseph Ortigara, MS, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont
- DeKang Yuan, MS, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont
- Hannah Loso, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont
- Alexandra Potter, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont
- Hugh P. Garavan, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Vermont
Competing Interests : Dr Potter reported receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health during the conduct of the study. No other disclosures were reported.
Key Quotes: “On the basis of this meta-analysis, we conclude that playing violent video games is associated with greater levels of overt physical aggression over time, after accounting for prior aggression. These findings support the general claim that violent video game play is associated with increases in physical aggression over time.”
“Results further suggest the VGV effect on aggression may be moderated by sample ethnicity such that it is most strongly observed among White participants, less strongly but reliably observed among Asian participants, and unreliably among Hispanic participants.”
“From this perspective, cultures that promote social responsibility and empathy toward victims of violence may decrease the effects of violent game play by leading individuals to psychologically distance themselves from their virtual aggression and from its implications for their personal values and real-world behavior. Conversely, cultures that promote rugged individualism and a warrior-like mentality may lead individuals to identify with the role of aggressor and dampen sympathy toward their virtual victims, with consequences for their values and behavior outside the game.”
Publication: PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America)
- Anna T. Prescott, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College
- James D. Sargent, Department of Pediatrics, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College
- Jay G. Hull, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College
Competing Interests : The authors declare no conflict of interest.
READ SUMMARY OR PURCHASE FULL STUDY : Video games as virtual teachers: Prosocial video game use by children and adolescents from different socioeconomic groups is associated with increased empathy and prosocial behaviour
Key Quotes: “Prosocial video game use was positively associated with the tendency to maintain positive affective relationships, cooperation and sharing as well as empathy. This association remained significant after controlling for gender, age, school type (disadvantaged/non-disadvantaged), socioeconomic status, weekly game play and violent video game use.”
Publication: Computers in Human Behavior
- Brian Harrington, School of Psychology, University College Dublin,
- Michael O’Connell, School of Psychology, University College Dublin
Competing Interests : Not stated or referenced.
Key Quotes: “Virtual environments that promote positive stimuli combined with health knowledge could prove to be a valuable tool for public health and mental health.”
Publication: JMIR Serious Games (Journal of Medical Internet Research)
- Shaun W Jerdan, PhD, University of the Highlands and Islands
- Mark Grindle,PhD, University of the Highlands and Islands
- Hugo C van Woerden, PhD, University of the Highlands and Islands
- Maged N. Kamel Boulos, PhD, University of the Highlands and Islands
Competing Interests : None declared.