OPINION: Despite popular belief, video games are not bad

From Issue 7

Totally not a drawing of News Editor Joseph Watts playing video games. Illustration by Kalyn Giesecke

Video games often get a bad rap. Every kid growing up has rolled their eyes when they heard “turn off the screen and play outside” or that video games will “turn your brain to mush.” Research has actually shown that video games do quite the opposite.

According to an article published in PLOS One, an online journal for publishing scientific research, platformer video games, such as Super Mario Bros. series and Sonic the Hedgehog series, increase the grey matter located within the hippocampus. This grey matter is important because it is responsible for muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, decision making, and self control. Broadly speaking, it has to do with intelligence and cognitive ability. This is useful in  helping declining memory and mental health. 

This result is not unique. Games like the Super Smash Bros. series and first person shooters, like Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CSGO), Overwatch, and Call of Duty, all require players to have quick reactions and a focused attention. In first person shooters, these skills are important for reacting to a situation and quickly dealing with it before you lose. Similarly, in Super Smash Bros. players need to follow the chaos on screen to take down their opponents. This means that the slightest distraction, such as a phone going off, can cause the player to lose their focus and, subsequently, the game. 

Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, commonly referred to as MOBAs, such as League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2), are very complex strategy games that correlate strongly with being smart. These games demand that players analyze the situation before them and choose a strategic path to victory. This correlation is similar to traditional strategy games like chess, the only difference being that one is a board game and the others are not. This strategic type of thinking has led researchers to believe that these MOBAs could be considered IQ tests, as those who are in the top ranks tend to have an IQ higher than 85% of the global population. Similarly, players seem to be in their peak on these games at the same time as the average IQ peak age, that being in the mid-twenties.

Apart from video games improving the before mentioned skills, they also can improve the resourcefulness abilities of the player. Simulation games, like The Sims series and Farming Simulator series, place the player into a virtual world, similar to the real world, where they must use close to real life experiences to climb through their virtual life. Role-playing games, such as the Elder Scrolls series and the Pokemon series, transport the player into a world not unlike the real world with some fantasy aspects. This experience can mature players and make them more prepared for real life situations. Although very different, open world games, like Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and the Fallout series, require players to be resourceful and think outside of the box. Furthermore, puzzle games, like Human Fall Flat, Tetris, and Portal series, require players to seriously test their thinking skills and imagination to figure out how to solve the puzzles. 

Outside of the benefits for a casual video game player, there are also opportunities for players to take it to the next level and get paid for being good at video games. One of the fastest growing sports right now is “eSports”. Players from across the world can join a team in a particular game and compete for glory and cash prizes. Esports are just like any other sporting events, with their own players, commentators, set crew, and fans. If players do not want to be competitive, they can become streamers, people who play video games for an online audience on websites such as Twitch, YouTube, or Mixer. This is no joke of a job, with the top streamer, Ninja, making more than $10 million in 2019 alone. Furthermore, video games require people to develop them, opening even more job opportunities for those good with a computer. 

The only real negatives to video games seem to be that prolonged staring at screen can hurt the player’s eyes, and video games can be a bad influence, such as featuring violence or crude language. These cons are massively outweighed by the pros because there are solutions to these problems. “Computer glasses” can be worn to reduce eye strain from staring at a computer screen. Violence or crude language in video games is no different than what people can see or hear at school or on the television everyday.

It seems that video games are a net positive and are not the worst thing ever, like they are portrayed by the media or parental myths. Although video games are not for everyone, anyone who enjoys sitting down for a couple of hours and playing games can rejoice in knowing that video games are beneficial.