Video Games: A Source of Benefits or Addiction?

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Video Games: A Source of Benefits or Addiction?

Super Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Street Fighter are familiar names to nearly all of us. They are all best selling games of major video game consoles. Over 9.8 billion dollars were spent on video games in the United States during 2001 alone, and video game consoles are present in 36 million homes in the United States (1). With the increasing amount of time that people are spending on video games, one is left to wonder what effects video games have on the people who play them.

Video games, especially those that contain violence, are becoming increasingly popular with children of young ages. Playing violent games may be associated with a tendency to behave more aggressively, although the data are inconclusive about the cause and effect nature of this relationship (2). In a study by Irwin and Gross, children who played a violent video game displayed a higher level of aggression than children who played a nonviolent game (2). Similarly, another group of researchers found that college students who played a violent video game reported more aggressive thoughts after playing the game than students who observed the game (2). However, it should be noted that simply because these students reported more aggressive thoughts does not indicate that they were more likely to behave in a violent manner. Furthermore, it is likely that participants would have been focused on a particular behavior, regardless of the type of behavior, after they had previously spent a significant amount of time engaged in that activity; therefore, there do not appear to be firm conclusions that can be drawn from this study. Future studies could more effectively investigate this topic by exposing participants to different types of video games and then observing the types of behaviors in which the participants engage after playing the games. A study of this nature would allow a causal conclusion to be drawn about the relationship between video games and behavior since the actual behavior, rather than the thoughts, of the participants would be directly recorded. Although several researchers advocate the position that video games cause violent behavior in children and adults, there are also many researchers who support the opposite belief, which is that video games purge one's desire to act violently and thus reduce the amount of violence in which a person will engage (3). Other negative effects of video games may include taking time away from a child's studies or homework and decreased social skills (3) . Despite these possible detrimental effects of excessive video game playing, there are educational benefits to playing video games in moderation.

Video games can be utilized to benefit players in several ways, such as through education about important topics. A recent study conducted on the benefits of video games found games can provide a context in which participants can discuss scenarios and outcomes in order to facilitate their understanding of important concepts (4). Other researchers have found that children's reading and spelling abilities significantly improved with exposure to educational video games (5). Video games may also improve spatial abilities, the ability to create and apply multiple strategies, and may help develop critical analyzing techniques (6). They provide immediate feedback, so students can explore and learn how to alter their gaming techniques in order to be successful in a particular game. Teachers have also reported that video games led to collaboration among students (4). Many games require that participants work together in order to succeed in the game, which may improve players' social skills. Moreover, Fein, Campbell, and Schwartz found that in classrooms that contained a computer, children were more likely to engage in parallel play and peer interaction (5). Finally, many popular games teach children the value of economics through acquiring money and then...
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