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FOUR DAMAGING MYTHS ABOUT
VIDEO GAMES

One of the most misunderstood types of entertainment is video games. It’s not hard to understand the reason why. If you don’t have much interaction with your gaming friends, it can be quite annoying to watch them play. Gamers often appear to be glued to their screens just as if they were eating junk food. It seems pointless at best, but it can be dangerous and socially harmful at worst. However, we can find out the truth about video games if we take the time to look at them.

1.   Gaming can lead to isolation

Stereotypically, a gamer is a young white boy playing alone in his bedroom and, understandably, this picture may seem unnatural or unhealthy. This is often due to a misunderstanding of video games which have been created as social experiences since the beginning. In the first 30 years of their existence, multiplayer games could only be played in person, but online gaming has made it possible for people to interact with one another more frequently. Online gaming it’s not just about isolation, on the contrary it can bring us together in new ways and help to create close-knit communities based on common interests.

2.   It’s a waste of time

As a games researcher, I am often subjected to this comment. Couldn’t I do better with my

time? This notion is a bit dissonant in that we can simultaneously worry about games being the root cause for many of society’s problems and consider them pointless or vain. You could spend your time outside or engage in other forms of art that are more culturally enriching. Why play

them? This is due to a misinterpretation of the creativity games. You can experience the world and other unique places through games so that no other media can.

Naomi Alderman, a novelist and games designer, stated in a 2013 radio essay that “While all art forms can elicit powerful emotion, only games can make their audience feel agency.” While a novel may make you sad, a game will make you feel guilty about your actions.

You are the protagonist of the video game. You can explore and test the emotional effects of your actions in a safe environment. Games are not a waste of time. They allow us to examine

the meaning of human beings, explore concepts of love and loss, and make it possible to travel to unique places and become extraordinary people, all from the comfort of our homes.

3.   It’s entertainment only

Scientific development is the source of video games. This relationship is becoming more symbiotic. Due to their ability to attract us, video games are used in scientific research. They provide fertile ground for scientific data collection and an enjoyable gaming experience.

This is evident in the recent mobile game Sea Hero Quest developed in 2016. It is a living and

breathing virtual laboratory that acts as an experiment. The game calls for players to memorize a map and to navigate a cartoonish fishing boat through a series of waterways.

Scientists at University College London and the University of East Anglia are using this data to study how spatial navigation abilities differ across the globe and over the life span.

This knowledge is essential in understanding how these abilities decline in neurodegenerative

diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Sea Hero Quest has been downloaded more than 4 million times in six months and all this data’s game could be used in future treatments and diagnosis of

dementia.

4.   Video games can be addictive

The World Health Organization officially included for the first time the “gaming disorder” as a

diagnosis in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases. This decision sparked a furious debate within the academic community. One group of academics argued that such a label would provide more access to financial assistance and treatment for people experiencing

actual harm from playing video games. Others, myself included, support that this decision is premature because scientific evidence about gaming addiction wasn’t strong enough.

Checklists are used to determine if a disorder exists as part of the problem. The criteria for

gaming addiction initially derived from other types of addiction. Although this might seem like a good place to start, it may not be enough to show us all the unique aspects of gaming addiction. For example, when people become obsessed with gaming or play them exclusively over other hobbies. These criteria aren’t beneficial as a guideline for what you might consider “harmful”

engagement. Games, unlike abused drugs, aren’t inherently damaging.

This criterion can also increase the likelihood of addictive behaviour. Of course, there will always be gamers who find gaming addictive, but this is unlikely to be a large group.

Research also suggests that gaming addiction can be short-lived. For example, data examining players has shown that none of those who had initially met the criteria linked to dependency, would later meet the threshold within six months.

However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to worry about regarding games. In-app purchases and loot boxes are becoming more popular as income sources. Some research has

shown a correlation between loot box purchases and problematic gambling scores. Although this research is preliminary, and we don’t know the cause of the relationship, it indicates that we should be aware of certain aspects of game marketing.

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