Games don’t make kids more violent. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Many politicians, from across the spectrum, like to blame violence on video games. We heard Trump say that it was the main driver of violent crime, and it tends to be a favourite of illiberal, authoritarian politicians. In fact, video games, when used in the right way, can make people less violent.
Firstly, let me clarify what the ‘right way’ to use games is. This means that parents should limit, not too restrictively, their children’s time on games, and not simply give them everything they want. That will make dysfunctional members of society, not good people. However, as with most things, games are good in moderation.
One of the main reasons for this is that games of any kind provide a good platform for an emotional, cathartic release. Whether it is the type of game where violent language is commonplace or not, this release is present for every sort of game. Therefore, all games guarantee some level of benefit to their players.
The enjoyment from games is of immense value to work-life balance as well, and can help to establish and reinforce this concept for younger gamers. This enjoyment can also be of immense benefit to the mental state of those who play games, helping to encourage positive mental health in the short-term at least.
However, where the best can come from games is from those with the most violent, abusive culture, such as CS:GO or Grand Theft Auto. Especially in games where there are whole-lobby chats, games can allow any anger or frustration to come out online rather than in real life. Of course, there is some careful management required here to ensure that the online norm doesn’t become the real norm.
Further to this point, a strong sense of divide between the virtual and real world can be constructed, helping to reduce an individual’s temper and violence. We do, though, have to be incredibly careful to keep that word — constructed — in mind. It is of the utmost importance that children are guided in the right way, else violent video games will indeed equate to violent people.
It is this, then, that makes anger towards gaming and the culture around it not just wrong and misguided, but genuinely unhelpful. If, as a parent, you choose to believe the Donald Trumps of the world, then you won’t be helping at all. If you, conversely, embrace games and police your children’s use somewhat, then you can help to ensure that games are beneficial to your child.
In addition, many psychologists and studies have concluded that one cannot easily be trained to commit an extreme act such as killing by a virtual simulation, or a video for that matter. That’s not to say it’s impossible; rather that a game developer would have to have that intention to make it a reality.
There are countless benefits to gamers outside of psychological advantages: for example, most games have been found to boost cognitive ability and intelligence. One key benefit is that games can boost people’s sensitivity to information, making them more likely to be quick-thinking and able to spot patterns and trends.
Another benefit is that games, especially those that draw on tactical skills (most games) can improve strategic thinking and planning ability. Games such as FIFA, COD, and Forza all require this tactical mindset in order to succeed, and can, in turn, improve this ability.
I know first-hand how crucial games can be in one’s development. Whenever I feel stressed, my default is either to play games or write — usually the former! For me, it is a perfect way to release anxiety and fear, and have good fun while I’m at it. It may be that, in the future, video games are prescribed to people with mental health issues due to their immense benefits.
Before that point, they will need much refining to remove some of the more negative features. Addiction is one of the major problems, although any reasonable person can avoid this by limiting use for children and then using general willpower to limit themselves. However, it would be much better if developers could look for solutions, so that games are more risk-free.
It will help to boost their industry and current defence too: the current First Amendment protection of video games is feeble at best. It would become even worse if the First Amendment were ever to be repealed, which is looking increasingly likely. Therefore, removing this disadvantage of games may lose some revenue short-term, but will ensure the stability of the market for the foreseeable future.
I’m left wondering how, if games can be so beneficial for intelligence, why the President of the United States can’t see their value — oh…