Challenging the Stigma on Video Games


How gambling-like qualities are more beneficial than you think

I am an avid supporter of video games, partially due to my love for playing them, but also because of the impact that I know they can have on people. Some studies suggest that video games, action style games in particular, have a positive effect on one’s cognitive abilities and development. Other studies have made correlations of the treasures and loot gaining to gambling addictions. Video games often have similar traits to those of gambling machines, with bright colours, positive noises, and different rewards; the difference to bear in mind is that players must often complete missions, explore or attain resources in order to gain those rewards. There are gambling simulations in many games as well, but that is the equivalent of say there’s a deck of cards in the house. The correlation may be present, but it is not fair to say that a video game causes someone to go looking for ways to gamble.

Whether it is board games or video games, the act of play is what brings my friends and I together most. Humans are inherently social creatures and yet we are constantly exposed to the promotion of individualism, and it can be detrimental to our health. A healthy social life is often missing from our lives and it is something that we take for granted. You do not need to go out and spend $20-$50 on a night out just to see the people you care about. Seeing friends can be as simple as meeting at someone’s house for a glass of water, but it’s a lot more fun with gaming. If the Sims have taught me anything, its that relationships take work, and they need to be maintained even on a low level to provide personal satisfaction.

To this effect, this is where gaming can become that much more inclusive in a social dynamic. With the introduction and explosion of online gaming, individuals who are unable to meet in person have the option of working with their friends online as well as the strangers they can choose to connect with online. This creates a community of people that often expands beyond random encounters as many friendships are born, even if it’s just as avatars through a game. Jane McGonigal gives an enthralling TedTalk that explains how gaming applies to people’s greatest regrets on their deathbeds and a lot of it has to do with the interaction and social development between friends and family.

In developing cognitive ability, action games often require fast response and an attention to detail. Making people focus more on their surroundings and develop quicker reflexes. The results shown from studies typically find that the improvement of these skills is often minimal, but that does not eliminate the value that they offer. These games often carry objectives that carry consequences if not completed to success, which can also help with processing loss and develops motivation for success.

My favourite types of games are adventure games, I love exploring new realms and cities. I love following the passion and plights of the characters, my favourite being Final Fantasy X; however, the Sims has always been a game that has had my attention. The Sims, for those who may not be gamers, is a simulation game where you design a character, or a family, and their home and control their lives. Some of the game is realistic, while other aspects are purely for enjoyment. You can have a relationship with death, be abducted by aliens, or experience house fires and divorce. This game is unique because it allows a person to explore identity and what it means to them in a life-like platform, different than the avatars for role playing games (RPGs).

Video games have a stigma, because kids are often inside staring at a screen, but that stigma does not hold validity in my opinion. Gaming companies have been keen to observe the stigma against the classic form of gaming and have made efforts to create ingenious ways to have people still immerse themselves in their favourite games, but in a physical way that incorporates movement. Many games include subtitles to promote reading and, depending on game, can teach different valuable skills. For those who complain about letting their child stare at a screen, many of them are often happy to let them watch movies or cartoons, but it’s the lack of patience for watching their child get upset or excited over the game that discourages them from approving. The notion of bad eyesight, well, unfortunately even in schools there is a big move to technology and screen time is becoming increasingly inevitable even outside of the home.

The idea that a game promotes violence is hard to believe as well, though again there are signs of correlation, but I must confess I grew up playing Grand Theft Auto and can’t say I’ve ever had any desire to shoot anyone or hurt anyone physically. My point is that games are fun, and the public is discouraging something that could be incredibly beneficial if given the opportunity. If you’re worried about dangerous games, go for puzzle games or alternatives like Harvest Moon. There is no reason to put a limit on fun because of the what ifs if there is an alternative that creates the desired environment.