Mar 16, 2009

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Videogames

There certainly has been plenty of controversy over what is and what is not acceptable when it comes to videogames. Most of this controversy, however, is not new. Rather, it is usually a rehashed argument that was used against some other form of media (such as television or movies). So, what exactly are the facts?

We’ve all heard the saying that videogames rot your brain. However, some studies suggest this is not necessarily the case. The complexity of modern videogames calls upon the player to use a variety of higher brain functions, such as pattern recognition, system thinking, flexibility, analytical agility, and surprisingly, even patience. Gamers must integrate several different streams of information at once in order to achieve a stated goal. It should come as no surprise then that game manuals can often be the size of short books.

Another common myth is that videogames will make users more anti-social and introverted. While this may be true in some extreme cases, it is the opposite for others. The hugely popular game World of Warcraft, for example, is an MMORPG. This acronym stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, which is a complex term that basically states that the game takes place in an online virtual world populated by other real people also playing from their computers. The appeal of an MMORPG is to “party up” with other people in order to play as a team. In fact, some of the more challenging areas of the game require the assistance of at least a few other players.

While beneficial in some respects, there are certainly drawbacks. The majority of research on videogames has been on the effects of exposure to violence. The research is clear- experiencing violence in videogames (and indeed, in any form of media) will make the user more apt to accept violent solutions to problems, have aggressive thoughts, and sometimes, conduct direct imitation. However, there is no evidence that these effects are markedly more poignant than exposure to violence in other forms of media.

Videogame addiction is another serious problem facing some players. There has been a bevy of coverage on the topic, and there are even programs available to help addicts break their habit. However, it is important to note that these reports often take the most extreme examples as indications of the state of videogame players as a whole.

Videogames, like any new media, can be both an opportunity and a vice. While holding the potential for new avenues towards learning and entertainment, they can also seriously hurt anyone who does not recognize the overarching negative effects that playing may cause. Videogames should be recognized as tools for enriching experience, and while those experiences vary in usefulness and value, their effectiveness is unparalleled.

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