Do Violent Video Games Cause Behavior Problems in Kids and Teens?

Video games have often been described as a double-edged sword. Past studies have indicated how a seemingly innocuous form of entertainment can lead to such violence and aggression among people. Meanwhile, other studies have revealed that video games can have numerous advantageous impacts. These conflicting studies over the effects of video games have led to a controversy.

In the controversy, the side claiming that video games are detrimental has dominated and influenced the majority of the people’s thinking. However, this is an antiquated misconception that is instilled in many people despite the countless benefits to mental health video games have to offer in the modern era. Yet, what aspect of video games in contemporary society makes this possible? From analyzing several scripts, it is evident that the implementation of self-expressive activities in video games can help improve mental health by enhancing cognitive processes and increasing emotional intelligence. In this violent video games essay, we are going to ultimately show that such videogames are not responsible for violence in kids and teens.

Video Games and Mental Health

To truly acknowledge that video games can be beneficial to mental health, it is necessary to analyze and understand the misconceptions surrounding the effects of video games. Several negative common impacts people associate with video games include increased aggression, emotional callousness, and addiction. Chronic exposure to violence can lead to an increase in aggressive thoughts and feelings, therefore increasing aggressive behavior. Excessive time playing video games can desensitize players and cause a lack of empathy. Constant in-game rewards or currency used to captivate attention and motivate players can also lead to an addiction as it causes players to crave for a sense of accomplishment. Some of the concerns such as video games leading to aggression have already been discredited. Researchers at the University of New York have indicated that despite studies claiming video games correlate with increased aggression, there is a lack of sufficient evidence to prove linkage. Ultimately, this shows that correlation does not imply causation. Meanwhile, the other negative impacts of video games are valid yet exaggerated. Nonetheless, these are still reasonable concerns that should be noted to understand the pervasive mentality many have today regarding the impact of video games.

Video games have shown to aid in mental capability by allowing players to think extraordinarily. In a randomized trial done by Matthew Barr, several players were selected to play games such as Borderlands 2 and Minecraft where they could freely maneuver and interact with each other. Their performance was measured based on how well they performed together in team-based activities. The results displayed that by playing games such as those that allowed for the expression of their own creativity, players were able to improve their “communication skill(s), resourcefulness, and adaptability.” By being allowed to act freely in the game, players developed their own sense of skills which helped them perform outstandingly in the game. This shows that by enabling players to express their own identity in video games, players can improve their cognitive thinking as they are able to clearly communicate with each other and adapt to adverse situations. These benefits acquired from video games can also be applied to day to day activities when interacting with others.

The Unforeseen Benefits of Violent Video Games

The benefits of self-expression in video games aren’t only limited to non-violent games. A review of research from the American Psychological Association also supports the idea that video games can boost cognitive thinking. In the 2013 study, players were selected to play violent video games, and their thinking was analyzed after that. The research concluded that even violent video games can improve “a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses designed to enhance these same skills…” as well as aid in the development of problem-solving skills. By being able to think broadly and develop problem-solving skills, players had boosted their cognitive processes.

Furthermore, the article states that “this enhanced thinking was not found when playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games,” implying that the ability to express oneself in these types of video games has allowed for such benefits. Through this, it is evident that individualism in even violent games can lead to enhanced mental thinking. It ultimately supports the idea that violent video games do not lead to violence in kids and teens. Instead, it provides countless benefits.

Not every video game offers the same mental benefits. This leads to wondering why is it that these benefits are only in certain types of games? A research report titled “Cognitive Enhancement in Video Game Players: The Role of Video Game Genre” analyzes what certain types of genres allow for such benefits. The data concludes that first-person shooter and creative games improve players “visual attention, cognitive control, visual short-term memory, and general processing speed” as a similar genre of games trigger cognition and allow for players to develop at their own pace. Using this knowledge, players can personalize the types of games they play to maximize the benefits they gain through video games. By integrating the ability in video games where players can be free to do whatever they want, players can go at their own pace and improve their cognitive thinking through engaging in their own in-game activities. Even violent games with these aspects can lead to positive development in kids and teens.

The advantages of self-expression in video games transcend beyond only improved cognitive processes. By allowing players to express themselves through video games, players can also strengthen their ability to manage their emotions. For example, the publication “Games Do You Good” by Bavelier and Davidson describes how the game Re-Mission, a third-person shooter, was designed to strengthen the emotions of patients to fight against cancer and to endure side effects of treatment. By implementing the ability to fight and attack cancer cells, players were able to relieve their frustration and anger in virtual reality without having any in-life consequences, ultimately encouraging them to continue their treatment (Bavelier and Davidson). Essentially, this helps patients improve their mental health by becoming emotionally stronger to withstand harsh adversities such as even cancer. By using this design, neuroscientists are working to develop video games to allow other patients these same benefits. Altogether, this truly indicates that the ability to be expressive by allowing your emotions out in video games can strengthen players emotionally in real life. Regardless of the violent aspects in these games, it is evident that kids and teens still reap positive benefits.

Another way violent video games can increase emotional intelligence is by allowing players to relieve stress. The article “How Video Games Can Be Used for Stress Relief” by Elizabeth Scott discusses how video games can relieve stress. In the article, it is stated that video games allow players to do in a game what they cannot do in real life or what possibility isn’t in the norm (Scott). Through these self-expressive activities in video games, players also learn interoceptive awareness where they are able to distinguish their internal feelings from their environment, thus having better control over their emotions. This assists in problem-solving and aids in reducing stress in dire situations. Overall, this shows how through self-expression in video games, players are able to have stronger control over their emotions and make effective decisions wisely. Kids and teens can learn this at a young age and ultimately use it to manage emotions rather than being violent due to videogames.

There are also numerous testimonies from people that have claimed that assertiveness in video games have also provided them emotional strength. Take Matt Sloan for example, an author who recently wrote about which video games to play while feeling depressed. He describes how playing video games has allowed him to combat his depression. Sloan states that “as a lifelong gamer and a person with depression… [he can] personally attest to how vital they have been in coping with mental illness.” His first-hand experience by playing video games such as Minecraft, Stardew Valley, and Pokémon, where creativity is endless, has helped him fight depression. It is evident through this that by allowing space for creativity and self-development in video games, players can become strong enough to face emotional challenges and mental illnesses as Sloan. Similarly, regardless of the genre, kids and teens can benefit significantly from any type of video games.

So, Should Violent Video Games Be Banned? No!

At last, this brings to question whether the benefits outweigh the negative or the harmful effects of video games? Although the mental benefits of video games do come at the cost of possible addiction or desensitization due to repetitive in-game events, the advantages do exceed the disadvantages. Through freedom of expression in video games, mental processes and skills are developed which are difficult to learn in real life. Furthermore, these benefits are acquired without real-life consequences. Using self-expression in video games can provide unparalleled entertainment and mental benefits simultaneously. Therefore, regardless of the genre, kids and teens do not become violent because of the video games they play.

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