Psychology and video games: background
Video games have been notoriously popular for what seems like forever. But why? What is it about video games that makes them so compelling? The United States has the largest video game presence in the entire world, and in 2017, the video game industry earned an astounding $108.9 billion (Strickland 2017). So, just exactly what is it about video games that have allowed the industry to entirely blow up?
There are various theories about this, but the most credible and sensible theory can be attributed to scientist Nick Yee. He proposes the three motivation components: achievement, social and immersion (Yee 2016). The achievement component reflects the gamer’s desire to advance to higher and higher levels within the game as well as presents a desire to win the game. Also, this component includes an interest in the rules and with others who are also playing the game. The social component speaks for itself. It highlights the desire of gamers to communicate with one another and to form connections. The immersion component reveals the desire of the gamer to create a unique character which allows him or her to briefly escape from reality. Thus, according to the motivation components, it is the desire to achieve, socialize and immerse that makes video games so intensely intriguing to all the gamers across the world. Yet, what may be even more interesting is the ongoing debate between the positive and negative aspects of video games and while one—the positives or negatives—overrules the other.
The not so good
For as long as you and I can probably remember, video games have had a negative stigma placed upon them as being a detrimental factor in the development on both the mental processes and the physical body of the gamer. Many argue against the violence found in video games, and suggest that this virtual violence directly correlates with aggression found in the real lives of these gamers. Further, addiction is highly argued as a major issue that arises when one begins to play video games. Such an addiction may lead to isolation and anti-social habits as well as present the gamer with too much time trapped in a virtual world and away from the real world. Lastly, long-term concentration has been said to take a hit when it comes to excessively playing video games because of a diminishment in the ability to concentrate for a long duration of time (Steinberg 2012). Yet, despite these issues, when one begins to identify the positive aspects of video games, it quickly becomes obvious that these aspects can provide gamers with an extensive amount of psychological advantages.
— Entertainment Software Association (@theESA) July 3, 2018
While the negative aspects of video games are most popularly highlighted, and while it is not as well advertised as are the negatives, there are an extensive amount of positive benefits of video games that many people fail to acknowledge.
For instance, video games are highly stimulating. This stimulation reaches nearly all parts of the human brain and leads to high level thinking as well as the development of fine motor skills. With the intensity and complexity of each game comes quick analysis, thinking, strategizing, learning to deal with stress and inductive reasoning followed by hypothesis testing (Tumbokon, 2018). In other words, playing video games forces the gamer to deeply stimulate multiple different areas of his or her brain which leads to the development of a large handful of various beneficial tasks and dimensions of thinking. Further, it has been discovered that video games can help those who suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, antisocial personality disorder (APD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease.
It was found that video games can be very therapeutically useful in such instances due to the fact that playing video games can develop positive structural brain changes. This is due to the fact that mental disorders arise when brain regions experience a decrease in size. When someone suffering from such a deficit immerses themselves in a video game, they experience a volumetric brain increase thus suppressing the patient’s disorder (Brooks 2013).
Nous étions présents au congrès de l'@apfhandicap la semaine dernière à la Sud de France Aréna de Montpellier. MediMoov a encore fait des heureux, ce sont plus de 90 personnes qui ont pu jouer et bouger pour rester en bonne santé. pic.twitter.com/9lesQFVcHT
— Naturalpad (@Naturalpad) June 26, 2018
French company Naturalpad develops serious games to help people with their rehabilitation and keep them fit.
So what does this mean?
When looking closely at the pros and cons of video games, it becomes much easier to side with the benefits of playing video games. Realistically, there are multiple things in life that one could attribute the same negative qualities to that were discussed of video games earlier. However, when it comes to finding other activities in life that provide the same positive and unique benefits that video games have been found to produce, it is not as easy. No wonder the world of video games is such a successful and intriguing industry.
Brooks, M. (2013, November 3). Video games a viable treatment for mental illness? Retrieved from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/81405
Steinberg, S. (2012, September 22). Kids and video games: health and safety issues. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-steinberg/video-games_b_1695116.html
Strickland, D. (2017, May 11). Games industry to earn $108.9 billion in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.tweaktown.com/news/57455/games-industry-earn-108-9-billion-2017/index.html
Tumbokon, R. (2018, June 18). 25 Positive and negative effects of video games. Retrieved from https://www.raisesmartkid.com/3-to-6-years-old/4-articles/34-the-good-and-bad-effects-of-video-games
Yee, N. (2007). Motivations of play in online games. Journal of CyberPsychology and Behavior, 9, 772-775.