Each year, many young people’s Christmas lists are packed with violent video games that commandeer minds and eyeballs for hours on end. Although it’s easy to skip those items and opt for presents that seem more productive — they’ll just love Jenga and Scrabble — the do-gooder approach to gift-giving might warrant a rethink.
According to research cited by Vice, not only do violent games help users skirt violent behavior, but the games can actually have beneficial effects. A study conducted in 2014, at Stetson University in Florida, shows that the playing of death-bloated video-games actually caused real-life violence to decrease. Vice speculates that the pixelated mayhem gives “gamers an outlet for their aggression, or [keeps] potentially violent people safely at home.”
Games loaded with action-oriented sequences can even enhance motor skills. Steady playing of “Unreal Tournament,” a first-person shooter game, has, according to researchers at New York University in Shanghai, led to speedier reactions during road tests on driving simulation software.
And, if you fear that buying games for your juvenile relative will turn him into a solitary delinquent, John Velez, a researcher at Texas Tech University, allays those worries. In 2015, according to Vice, he found that war games enhance social skills. Velez has concluded that team-play games of this ilk — such as Halo and TimeSplitters — led participants to treat each other, whether teammates or opponents, with surprisingly high degrees of decency.
While plenty of people in the worlds of psychiatry and psychology have targeted computer games as a cause of societal ills, there are at least 230 academics in the field who disagree. Three years ago, in 2013, they put forth a letter opposing commonly held beliefs among members of American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Violent Media. They asked for reconsideration of the view that games cause violence. In fact, according to a study recently published in the International Journal of Communication, teenage gamers excel at math while those who are into social media show below average scores.
But before forsaking traditionally good influences for the lure of joysticks, high-resolution monitors and a crate of Visine, consider the common-sense advice proffered by psychosocial researcher Andrew K. Przybylski, Ph.D.: “The small positive effects observed for low levels of regular electronic play do not support the position that games provide a universal solution to the challenges of development and modern life.”
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