The industry of video games has grown exponentially over the past twenty to thirty years, and the amount of games available to the public has skyrocketed (Green 2). The first video games were being made only 50 years ago. Access was not widely available, and content was limited to very simple games such as Pong, which in itself became popular. However, in a world where computers are becoming ever more essential to everyday life, the video game industry can only climb higher in public popularity. With that popularity, questions come to light; such as if videogames adversely affect health, or if they can be used as a tool to teach the next generation. Video games are now an integral part of today’s society, and can have many positive and negative effects on people.
The video game market is one of the fastest growing areas of entertainment within the last two decades (Gunter 124), and has especially taken root in many western countries (Gunter 15). Roughly sixty percent of all Americans–145 million people–play video games, the average age being 24 (Green 2). Unlike the physically passive activity of watching television, video games are interactive and must be played (Gunter 12), which undoubtedly has its physical effects. The fear that people will become so caught up in video games that they neglect any physical exercise is common, as is the fear that younger children in their developmental stage will suffer adverse mental effects. A majority of research and attention has been focused on the negative effects of videogames (Green 2), especially by the media, however in recent years there has been a significant increase in the amount of more positive-minded attention. Even so, video games continue to remain a subject for debate among many (Green 15).
One of the immediate physical effects of playing video games is the ‘Adrenaline rush’ one gets when experiencing something exciting, intense, or nerve-racking. The flight-or-fight response initiated when one is startled, scared, or excited by something can be triggered by playing video games. Extremely competitive multiplayer settings, especially if violent, realistic, and immersive (Decety 1006), will be the most common occurence of this, as it most realistically creates a situation of uncertainty and thrill that would be present in real-life. Secretion of adrenaline as a stress response causes a significant increase in heart-rate and blood-pressure (Jagadheeswari #). This adrenaline response is slightly more common in males than in females, and is enhanced in cases where the game is rated Mature as opposed to Everyone (Jagadheeswari #).
A more long term physical effect of video games could be deteriorating eyesight, however not all people are subject to this. Some people have the ability to continuously play a video game for hours on end, and never develop problems related to their eyes. Others, however, are not so lucky; their eyes can become strained due to the constant distance from the screen, and they can become short-sighted. Most people require breaks after long periods of time working on a computer because the exposure causes headaches.
One of the most prominent concerns people have with video games is the way it may take up all of your attention and time, causing you to become out of shape, and perhaps even gain weight. In today’s world, 60% of Americans are obese according to the CDC; are video games to blame? While it is true that videogames can take up time and funnel your focus, leading you to neglect exercise, poor eating habits are a more likely offender of this statistic. People who play video games on average may be less fit than those who are more active, however it is rather a lack of exercise and healthy habits, and not video games themselves, which cause this.
The potential for video games in educational settings has been investigated in more recent years. With the rapid advance of technology in our age, one might wonder if video games will play a part in the development of future education. In a controlled setting, video games could be utilized greatly (Decety 1007), perhaps with even more opportunity and capability than is available today. An experiment was conducted, after which it was concluded that visual attention is far more efficiently divided by those who regularly play video games, than by those who did not (Green 12). Gamers also “far out performed” (Green 7) non-gamers in hand-eye coordination tests, and exhibited better reaction time overall (Green 7). The experiment also concluded that “videogame play enhances the overall capacity of the attention system,” (Green 13). These results show gamers with an increase in skills that could be extremely useful in doctors and surgeons (Green 23). In another experiment, it was shown that videogames significantly increase one’s spatial, 3D, and sensory motor skills, as they are a premium in video games (Green 5). “Playing video games affect wide ranges of vision, cognition, peripheral location, and attention capacity” (Green 6). In fact, the game “Space Fortress” was so successful in training their pilots that they permanently incorporated it into their regular training program (Green 23).
One more serious concern with video games is it’s seemingly addictive nature. While some studies consider video game addiction to not be a real problem, some disagree. Addiction to a video game, or even just excessive amounts of time played, can have serious consequences, such as reduced academic success (Gunter 107), any number of physical conditions related to inactivity, or increased aggression (Gunter 27). During an experiment, it was observed that there was a massive increase in dopamine released by the brain during exhilarating engagements (Green 16).
While it is virtually impossible to predict the future of video games, one can be sure that there will be both positive and negative effects. As time goes on more studies will be conducted, more research and data will be gathered, and perhaps a point will be reached where the future of such an intrinsic part of society will be better understood.