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Computer games that are common include stand-alone computer games, arcade games, console-based video games and on-line games. They have endured a remarkable growth in the recent decades and have thus been transformed from being just entertainment tools to become educational vehicles. Moreover, they have been used in therapy and exercise purposes. Computer games have entered education field in double-parallel effect since they are both entertainment and learning tools. Games meant for learning are used to increase learning effects of games. Educational effects from such games are both overt and direct and an explicit learning outcome. For entertainment focused games, they are primarily meant for fun though they are considered to have educational purposes. In such types of games, educational effects on learners are covert through “stealth learning” process. Vibrant telecommunications and computer technologies development have seen more innovations to create varieties of games. Some of these include Achieve Now, Jump*Start and Thinking games which help children to learn in courses. Others include Strategy Co-Pilot, Search for Justice and Learning Solitaire for special adult education. However, video games have come with two features that have generated interest in public policy makers, researchers and the general public. Video-games require an active role play and thus have appeared to be a double-edged sword. Despite being motivational in the learning process, violent educational video games are also hazardous compared to cinema and TVs. Recent video games have rewarded players after killing police, innocent bystanders, and prostitutes through the use of frame throwers, feet, hands, swords, cars, knives, baseball bats and guns. The negative effects though seem more pronounced than the positive ones (Anderson, 2003).
Main body (discussion)
For a period spanning not less than 30 years today, video games have created a major impact on how people spend their leisure time. In fact, the first generation of video games introduced into our society was nothing that was more than a geometrical shape and some of them could easily be controlled by the player. Each new generation of video games comes with a new technology and this has resulted in impressive 4ealism and graphics. This is an industry that has grown tremendously since its inception in the 1970s. The designers of these games continue to invent new ones without bearing in mind that they have been affecting a good number of children and adults especially in America. It is postulated that despite their negative effects, Nintendo which is one of the giants in this industry sold three games in average for every second between 1983 and 1995. This sum up to over one billon games and a game for every teenager in the globe. The content of games released has been a major concern to many. Aggression of developing adolescents and children has been affected by violent video games in the industry. Reactive aggression has been on the rise. Reactive aggression is an angry reaction or a defensive response to a frustration or threat. A good example is where one seeks revenge on another who has wronged him. What is most common among these game players is proactive aggression (Anderson 1). Proactive aggression is where there is a deliberate behavior that is controlled by an external reinforcement. It is commonly a means towards reaching a desired or predetermined goal.
Some of the conducted studies show that there is a positive correlation of aggression in school boys who were regular video game players. According to Kooijman (1), the General Aggression Model (GAM) can be used to explain the effect violent video games have on players. This is a model that tries to explain development of aggression and individual differences in susceptibility to influence coming from playing violent video games. This model explains that internal state of a human being contains affects (feelings), thoughts (cognitions) and arousals (physical). All the three influence each other and every one of them has an effect on how a given individual interprets an aggressive act. GAM states that violent video games create both long term and short term effects. For short term, violent video games are a situational variable and thus develop an increment in arousals, affects and cognitions. But for the long term, this research has found that there is no longitudinal study that has provided available data on the same. Generally, video games influence behavior of the player through promotion of aggressive attitudes and beliefs. This in the long run develops an aggressive schema, aggressive expectations and aggressive scripts in behavior.
Video games desensitize game players to aggression. GAM posits that players who are already high in some factors especially hostility are at a higher risk of being more aggressive if they have an influence from violent video games. Those who are rated low in terms of hostility have been found to have no effect on aggression levels even if influenced by violent video games. Results from GAM application are affected by physical and biological changes that take place especially at puberty. Exposing an individual to violent games usually affects processes within GAM operation. In adolescence, there is an increment in aggression and if this is combined with regular exposure to violent video games, there is a reinforcement and increase in aggressive affects, cognitions and arousal. In the end, there is a negative effect on a player’s individual interstate. There is thus an increased aggression. Effects of such exposure on players are more pronounced in early adolescence stages compared to late and middle stages.
Even if today there is no categorization for video games addiction in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders, addicts of video games are characterized by clinicians as displaying symptoms of other characteristic disorders. Some of the manifested behaviors include telling of lies to their loved ones, they fail to stop game playing, difficulties schools and work, sleep cycle disturbances, and they decrease their attention to friends and family and failure to pay attention to hygiene. There are also withdrawal signs that include severe behaviors like shaking. Amy addiction can have a negative effect to the addict and even to his peers or all others who are around him. This research shows that video games addictions are detrimental to the lives of children. Since the current generations of video games are very popular among the young ages, there is a possibility that they will develop addiction to them. In different studies like the one performed by Gross and Irwin, children who play violent video games are more likely to display high levels of aggressiveness. In another study by Tan and Calvert, college students exposed to violent games had more aggressive thoughts than those playing a nonviolent video game (Schlimme 1). A child addicted to video games has a lot of time dedicated to games at the expense of doing his studies. This has the risk of decreasing a child’s social skills since most of the games are played alone.
Psychological cycle of addiction to different substances and other maladaptive behaviors are also in application in video games addiction. A child playing video games experiences an emotional high also referred to as ‘adrenaline rush’ which comes due to tactics in games. When he experiences an adrenaline rush, he is forced to play even more games to push his psychological and physical limits so that the emotional high can be reached. Such a person will reach a level that stimulates adrenaline production. This is a cycle that may continue to an unhealthy level in interaction with games. This is what professionals label as addiction to video games. Famous psychological effects like sunk cost fallacy influence this cycle. This is a fallacy that regularly occurs when a person feels that he is compelled to perform a certain behavior continuously as previously, he spent a lot of time in that behavior and thus by not doing it again and aging, he will that he has wasted his time investment. Schlimme (1) explains that a clinical psychologist, Dr. Timothy Miller once stated that many players feel they have wasted their efforts the moment they fail to reach their predetermined goal in the upcoming game. This may lead to more time being spent in playing video games instead of using this time to perform some other constructive work.
Other clinicians have suggested that there is a big problem for kids who become video game addicts since they usually encounter difficulties in finding a place in the society. There are some who thus think that for them to become part of the society they can only keep playing games. These are players who are compelled to reach the next higher level in game playing so that they can flaunt their abilities to the peers. This research shows that video game playing does not only cause social and behavior changes in players but there are also neurological changes. There is a recent study that used positron emission tomography. Its main aim was to indicate that while video game playing a player has increased levels of neurotransmitter dopamine. Several behaviors are mediated by dopamine. A good example is pleasure experience. In emaciated rats, levels of dopamine increase whenever they are presented with food and this is also seen in rats tat are deprived of water. Even if dopamine is associated with positive effects, high levels of neurotransmitter are associated with addictions to substances and drugs. There is thus a possibility that excessive video game playing has a fundamental effect to dopamine system.
It is very important for a child to develop imaginative thinking when he is young. Video game playing doesn’t exercise a kid’s imaginative thinking. Thus in his life, such a child fails to develop his own creativity since this is developed through imaginative thinking. There are always tendencies for most video games to teach children wrong societal values. When participating in video games, vengeance, violent behavior and aggression are rewarded. There are no options of nonviolent solutions and use of negotiations. To add, raisesmartkid.com (1) indicates that in most video games, women are commonly portrayed to be weaker characters that are both sexually provocative and helpless. It’s due to the dependence on video games that fantasy and reality has been confused in the minds of most kids and adults. The manner in which some behave and reason in given situations is not real. They do this because they have internalized some concepts from video games that interfere with their normal thinking and perceptions. Apart from the aforementioned poor performance in school for kids, video games have other health problems including video-induced seizures and obesity. Other disorders include skeletal and muscle disorders, postural, carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve impression and tendonitis. Raisesmartkid.com (1) also states that where a child is playing a video game online, he may pick a vulgar language or behavior from others. Thus, such games make a child vulnerable to numerous online dangers.
According to mediafamily.org (1), many video games have environments based entirely on plots of gender bias, aggression and violence. Moreover, most of these games have an arena of kicking, shooting, killings, stabbing and weapons. It is difficult for this market to produce a video game that fosters a kid’s individual thinking or independent thoughts so that they can grow as creative members of the society.
According to Bryant and Vorderer (328), negative effects associated with violent games have been the main focus in empirical studies on video games just like how research on violence in television has been for a period of five decades. In this book, Bryant and Vorderer have used three theoretical perspectives. These are excitation theory, social cognitive theory and priming effects. These theoretical perspectives are mainly used to explain the negative effects that violent games have on players. When using social cognitive theory, symbolic violence is justified explicitly when playing the game. This is internalized by the player which may later be transferred into his real world. The reason why this happens is because players identify themselves with characters in the game. When using excitation transfer model, it is explained that residual excitement from past games intensify later states of emotions in a game player. This model thus tells us how the intensity of emotional state in a game player is affected but does not indicate valence of emotional state. On the other hand, the cognitive priming theory explains that violent games increase a player’s accessibility to cognitions related to aggression and violence. These cognitions can later be transferred into the real world.
Different empirical studies however have mixed results after trying to study negative effects associated with violent games especially on thoughts, psychological variables, social variables, physiological arousal, behaviors and aggressive affects. The psychological and social variables include prosocial behaviors, school performance and empathy. A violent video game like Mortal Kombat has intense feeling of aggression compared to Corner Pocket, a billiard game that is nonviolent (Preiss 252). Those who are exposed to violent games have high levels of anxiety even though some studies indicate that this is mostly temporary (Bryant and Vorderer 329).
Despite all the aforementioned negative effects of games on players, there are still so many positive effects that can be derived from computer games. Potential of computer games can be traced back to the 1980s. It is easy for children exposed to computer games to have general strategies to apply in “learning to learn” especially in novel environments. When a child plays computer games, he/she grows up in the digital age and they learn rules of multimedia information processing. Children learn to learn in a nonlinear way (Bryant and Vorderer 329). This is where they use abundant visual and hypertextual cues. The skills learned in playing games are applicable in settings of instructions. These also help in development of other vital skills like problem solving in trial and error and inductive discovery. This research also shows that playing video games help in spatial visualization and coordination of eye and hand (Castronova 64). Computer games have been used by the military in simulative flight training, training in other cognitive skills like being able to think about several things in a given time and rapid processing of information. One of the theoretical perspectives used in explaining the positive effects of video game playing include immersion (presence) theory. Learning process resulting from video game playing is because of immersion effect. An immersion effect creates an environment where players submerge themselves and then their concentration and attention is increased towards the goal. This is a theory that explains a positive effect of games on children’s memory retention.
Computer games are more interactive in nature. Thus, they create a more intense on presence of feeling. According to Lee et al (4), since games have been used more in educational settings than before, it is stated that they have provided supplementary and principal educational effects like motivation. Whether it is a regular setting or in a special school, educational games have facilitated interaction between teachers and students or even between the player the game software. This increases the sense of social presence. Children learn how to manage limited resources and make decisions on how to use them just like in real life. It is possible to develop estimation skills and to persevere. Perseverance comes where the game reaches higher levels and the moment the player fails, he keeps trying until the goal is achieved.
There may be so many negative effects associated with computer games. But still, there are positive effects that can be obtained from playing these games. It’s true that most parents look down upon computer and video games just like other popular addicting and entertaining activities. Many parents see them as time wasters and to make matter worse, they think that they rot their children’s brains. It is true that some teenagers and adults copy the behavior of characters in the games and transfer these to their real life situations. Due to their addiction to playing games, they spend a lot of time playing instead of doing other constructive tasks like doing their homework. This has made them to perform poorly in school. Others have developed aggressive behaviors against their peers and teachers. Apart from such negative effects, there are positive effects like development of resources management skills and how to use limited resources. Interactive nature of computer games helps to create a feeling of presence. Moreover, special education skills have benefited from educational games such that instructional techniques have become more engaging as more skills are developed. Thus, it shows that video and computer games have both positive and negative effects. They are like a double edged sword that cuts on both sides.
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Bryant, Jennings and Vorderer, Peter. Playing video games: motives, responses, and consequences. London: Routledge, 2006.
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Preiss, Raymond. Mass media effects research: advances through meta-analysis, London: Routledge, 2007.
Raisesmartkid.com. The Good and Bad Effects of Video Games, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.raisesmartkid.com/raise-smart-preschool-kid-articles/the-good-and-bad-effects-of-video.html
Schlimme, Mary. Video Game Addiction: Do we need a Video Gamers Anonymous? 2008. Retrieved from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1719