Written by Ryan Johnson Tuesday, 18 January 2011 08:00
A recent study is putting yet another kink in the armor of video games. The article states that 1 in 10 of the test subjects in their study were officially "addicted" to video games, and that those that are addicted suffered from depression, anxiety, and social phobias; when they stopped playing video games, the problem got better.
The article quoted goes on to discuss the pros and cons of the study, and for the most part, puts it down. I agree with this article. However, I have further concerns: the impact a study such as this puts on the community at large, primarily through the media's interpretation of the subject matter.
How many times through my life has the media changed its opinion, on say, eggs? "They're good for you!" "They're terrible! Don't eat them!" "They have hidden nutrients, eat them daily!!!" I don't even know what's recommended for them anymore. What I do know, is I like them, and eating a variety of foods that tend to be healthy is good for you. Mass society listens to the "idiot box" and what is said behind a news desk is often taken as gold. Look back at the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, that put people into sheer panic just because the classic book was read on the radio. News loves to do this with games, most notably since individuals went on killing sprees and labeled certain video games as their inspirations.
When the "Hot Coffee" incident hit recently that allowed individuals to engage in fully clothed sexual situations in Grand Theft Auto, it was definitely by and large a foolish decision on the part of the developers to leave the material on the disc. The media, however, managed to explode it, and therefore allow more people to become aware of it. One could argue that more people actually went out and found the glitch/code than would have if it were silently removed from the shelves and replaced, with a calm and collected recall. Instead, I still remember to this day watching the news with the headline "SE"X-Box???" Another chance to attack the "evil" of gaming.
This recent study saying games create mental health problems was created by a specific team of people. They did their tests, and got their results. Meanwhile, THIS recent article touts a study showing the benefits of video gaming! Hmm....probably being studied at the EXACT SAME TIME, with the same general technology available in gaming to study. There is no "objectivity" in studies. Scientists like to state that every study done is done with minimal interaction and opinion placed in, but the mere existence of a person studying something can change the outcome. Also, if someone is opinionated for video games, they're going to tout the greatness more than point out the flaws. If results are vague, such as in studies on human behaviors, one's opinions will be visible in the results.
A disposition within an individual, a household, and a family must be present for negative (or positive) results to appear. I used to work in a field where kids who were at risk of being removed from the home received in-home counseling and therapy. I did not just work with a child, though. The parents were often integral to therapy working appropriately. A family must function as a cohesive unit. When I walked into those homes and saw five year olds playing GTA proficiently, it reminds me of my previous article, the Six Stages of Game Content Awareness. Where do their parents fall on the scale? Game content needs to be recognized, with physical age, mental age, attitude, and disposition factored in before a game is purchased. A family must consistently monitor activities and be part of a community. If you don't know what your child is doing, who is to blame when they go do something violent and blame video games?
There's plenty of books that have been banned or censored through the years for their alleged effect on children. Yet by and large, society smiles upon book reading. I love to read as well, and I know for a fact that there are plenty of reading materials that could cause negative behaviors, perhaps even more than there are video games.
Overall, I feel it's not video games that bring up negative behavior. They might influence, but they don't CAUSE it. Like handguns, the existence of them in the wrong hands can cause tragedies, but in the right hands they can be beneficial. Not all games need to be glomped together.
Society, please take mass media with a grain of salt. Everything you see is there for ratings these days. Instead of giving people news, "buzz" is given so more people see the advertisements. Why don't you think we ever see good news? It happens, I promise. It's not just left to the five minutes at the end of a news hour. There'll be more "games are good" and "games are bad" articles, studies, and notes as we go through life. It boils down to this: Look at what you are playing. Look at what your kids are playing. Decide if you want that in your life. Decide if controversial things can be discussed. Take an active part in your family. Be social. Stay connected to society so you care. So your kids care. Determine how long you feel, as a parent or individual, you or the gamer in your life should play. Be a parent. And ultimately, make the decision for yourself.