|The Neurology of Gaming|
What happens when I spend time gaming? For one, to be successful I have to learn how to be strategic, think things through, and collaborate with others. Aren’t those important life skills? When playing World of Warcraft if you don’t develop a quick reaction, you will fail. You know going in you are going to fail but you still try again. That teaches perseverance, which is a valuable tool to have in the world.
PopCap is a Seattle-based gaming company. They have spent thousands of dollars testing players. They think their games actually make players happy and calm. The researchers believe “there is a cascade of beneficial biochemical and hormonal effects in people when they are engaged in an activity they perceive of as fun” (Schiesel). A more violent game might have a different result. Or would it if the person playing thought it was fun?
Minecraft is one of the most popular games out there. Over 14-million people have bought the game since it appeared in 2009. I have been playing it for about four years. I have built whole worlds with my friends. In survival mode you have to be very strategic and manage your time or you won’t survive. In creative mode, it is open to whatever you can think of. Both are challenging and both are teaching me to make a plan and execute that plan. Kids and parents know that Minecraft is as educational as it is fun. If they didn’t why would parents pay a couple thousand dollars to send their kids to a Minecraft Camp held all over the country, including Harvard?
There are all kinds of articles and reports on the horrors of too much screen time, especially when it comes to violent video games. There are reports of health concerns, of which my favorite is called iPosture. This happens when you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer keyboard or gaming console. Your back gets sore, sometimes your muscles hurt. Isn’t that the same thing that happens when you are hunched over a bunch of books studying?
I agree with a lot of the claims made against playing video games. One claim is gamers have a harder time focusing than non-playing teenagers. This is true for me. But I think it has to do more with just being 15 than it does playing video games. There is peer pressure involved. You get in a good game of Call of Duty, you don’t want to be the first person to have to quit because your mom told you to go to bed.
Violent games make you less emotional. This is one of the most studied areas in video games. One report claims if the emotional part of the brain turns off if the aggressive center activates. I play Grand Theft Auto, which is considered the most violent video game. I don’t feel it makes me any more or less emotional than the average 15 year old boy. When it comes to the negatives about gaming, I don’t agree that it is one size fits all. Every kid has his own reaction to gaming. How you react to has more to do with how you are raised and how much the rest of your life is balanced.
If it wasn’t gaming, it would be something else. There is only one teenager living in my house, me. I have an iPhone, iPod, gaming computer and access to an iPad. Every teenager has access to a computer and 97% of all teens have at least one electronic device. It’s our world.
Conclusion, Updated March 6, 2014
In reviewing my blog post and the comments I have received, I stand by what I have presented. One of the comments asked about if there wasn’t gaming, would teens use the time to play sports or exercise? Teens are going to find something to be lazy about. Right now, for many of us, it is gaming. That doesn’t mean sports have to take a back seat. I believe sports and being active are important and people who game still participate. This is an excellent question to highlight the important point that like most things in life, it is a balance.
If I had to write on this topic again, I think I would include a poll of my peers and see how they feel about the time spent, the dangers, and the benefits of gaming, if any. A personal perspective from students in my school might be interesting. To take it a step further, I might do a poll of students in a public high school and one with students in a different country. It would be interesting to see if there is much difference between the three. I suspect with students at Charles Wright Academy there is much less time available to actually spend gaming because of the homework load.
The interesting thing about my topic is the research is so new and ongoing. It would be difficult to keep this post up to date with all the current, ongoing, and future research. Writing on this topic a year, 5 years or 10 years from now would likely result in a different perspective and possibly change my opinion on the subject.