Video Games: A Dig into the Evolution of Interactive Digital Revolution

Third Industrial Revolution, more commonly known as The Digital revolution refers to the advancement in technology from analog electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technology available today. With the advancement in technology, the digital revolution marked the beginning of a new information era. The concept of media and information consumption had an all-new meaning. From print media to audio and audio-visual based information consumption, the methods started getting more interactive. Although officially, the digital revolution is known to have started in the year 1980, video games were already in existence from the early ’70s when Ralph Baer, who’s sometimes referred to as Father of Video Games released his video game commercially, the “Brown Box,” in 1972.

The so-called Video Game revolution was then flourished by Atari and Arcade gaming with brands like Sega and Taito to pique the public’s interest in arcade gaming when they released the electro-mechanical games Periscope and Crown Special Soccer.

Video Games: Disputed Child of Digitization

Video games have been struggling their way through the disputes involving the effects of them on the mind of people, especially children. Often, video games consist graphic imageries and violence that aren’t particularly suitable for people till they get a certain age but the ease to get your hand on any game of your choice in video game market kind of contradicts the age restriction on those games, making them a thing of discussion.

While there is no scientific evidence suggesting that video games are bad for children, but psychologically, it’s true that they are capable of altering things like decision-making capabilities. Video games or any games insert players at their achievable challenge level and reward player effort and practice with acknowledgment of incremental goal progress, not just final product. Which feeds your body with a hormone called Dopamine, known as a pleasure hormone. Hence, it is common to observe addictive behavior in video game players.

This addictive behavior in children and not just children but even in adults is something that video games have been taking a resentment about. Just like anything and everything, even excess of gaming is also bad. Not just mentally but also physically, impacting your eyes and hours of sitting impacting your body structure badly.

How Video Games Affect the Brain

The top three best-selling video games of 2016 were Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, and Grand Theft Auto V. These games fall into the first-person shooter or action-adventure genres – the top two genres, accounting for 27.5 percent and 22.5 percent of sales, respectively. First-person shooter and action genres often stand accused of stirring aggression and causing violence and addiction.

Decades of research examining video gaming and violence have failed to reach consensus among scientists. Scientists have been unable to find a causal link between playing video games and acts of violence in the real world.

According to an article by Medical News Today, video games are indeed capable of affecting the brain and can even cause changes in many regions of the brain. Researchers have also discovered that video gaming can be addictive – a phenomenon known as “Internet gaming disorder.” In gaming addicts, there are functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system – a group of structures associated with feeling pleasure, learning, and motivation. Exposing video game addicts to game-related cues that cause cravings, and monitoring their brain responses, highlighted these changes – changes that are also seen in other addictive disorders.

Video games likely have both positive (on attention, visual and motor skills) and negative aspects (risk of addiction), and we must embrace this complexity.

Let us now try and summarize some positive and negative effects of video games,

The Benefits

When a child plays video games, it gives his brain a real workout.  In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high-level thinking.  These skills are not even taught at school.

The main benefits of playing video games involve enhancing mental skills that include:

  • Problem-solving and logic– When a child plays a game such as The Incredible Machine, Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, he trains his brain to come up with creative ways to solve puzzles and other problems in short bursts
  • Hand-eye coordination, fine motor, and spatial skills. In shooting games, the character may be running and shooting at the same time. This requires the real-world player to keep track of the position of the character, where he/she is heading, his speed, where the gun is aiming if the gunfire is hitting the enemy, and so on. All these factors need to be taken into account, and then the player must then coordinate the brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in his hands and fingertips. This process requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and visual-spatial ability to be successful. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games.  There have been even studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Also, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games.
  • Planning, resource management, and logistics.  The player learns to manage limited resources, and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life.  This skill is honed in strategy games such as SimCity, Age of Empires, and Railroad Tycoon. Notably, The American Planning Association, the trade association of urban planners, and Maxis, the game creator, have claimed that SimCity has inspired a lot of its players to take a career in urban planning and architecture.
  • Multitasking, simultaneous tracking of many shifting variables, and managing multiple objectives.  In strategy games, for instance, while developing a city, an unexpected surprise like an enemy might emerge.  This forces the player to be flexible and quickly change tactics.
  • Quick thinking, making fast analysis, and decisions.  Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions. Video games can be used to train soldiers and surgeons, according to the study. Importantly, decisions made by action-packed video game players are no less accurate. According to Bavelier, “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”
  • Accuracy – Action games, according to a study by the University of Rochester, train the player’s brain to make faster decisions without losing accuracy. In today’s world, it is important to move quickly without sacrificing accuracy.
  • Strategy and anticipation – Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Making Us Smarter, calls this “telescoping.” The gamer must deal with immediate problems while keeping his long-term goals on his horizon.
  • Situational awareness– Defence News reported that the Army includes video games to train soldiers to improve their situational awareness in combat. Many strategy games also require the player to become mindful of sudden situational changes in the game and adapt accordingly.
  • Developing reading and math skills – The young gamer reads to get instructions, follow storylines of games, and get information from the game texts.  Also, using math skills is important to win in many games that involve quantitative analysis like managing resources.
  • Perseverance – In higher levels of a game, the player usually fails the first time around, but he keeps on trying until he succeeds and moves on to the next level.
  • Pattern recognition – Games have internal logic in them, and the player figures it out by recognizing patterns.
  • Inductive reasoning and hypothesis testing – James Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that playing a video game is similar to working through a science problem. Like a student in a laboratory, the gamer must come up with a hypothesis. For example, the gamer must constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy.  If one does not work, he changes the hypothesis and tries the next one.  Video games are goal-driven experiences, says Gee, which is fundamental to learning.
  • Mapping – The gamer uses in-game maps or build maps on his head to navigate around virtual worlds.
  • Memory – Playing first-person shooter games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield series enables the player to effectively judge what information should be stored in his working memory and what can be discarded considering the task at hand, according to a study published in the Psychological Research.
  •  Concentration – A study conducted by the Appalachia Educational Laboratory reveals that children with attention-deficit disorder who played Dance Dance Revolution improve their reading scores by helping them concentrate.
  • Improved ability to rapidly and accurately recognize visual information – A study from Beth Israel Medical Centre NY, found a direct link between skill at video gaming and skill at the keyhole, or laparoscopic, surgery. Doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 % fewer mistakes in surgery and performed the task 27% faster than non-gaming surgeons. Another study found that people who play video games regularly are better at registering visual data and are therefore quicker visual learners. They are also more resistant to perceptual interference and are therefore able to learn for a longer period in distracting environments.
  • Taking risks – Winning in any game involves a player’s courage to take risks. Most games do not reward players who play safely.
  • Teamwork and cooperation when played with others – Many multiplayer games such as Team Fortress 2 involve cooperation with other online players to win. These games encourage players to make the most of their skills to contribute to the team. According to a survey by Joan Ganz Cooney Centre, teachers report that their students become better collaborators after using digital games in the classroom.
  • Management – Management simulation games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and Zoo tycoon teach the player to make management decisions and manage the effective use of finite resources. Other games such as Age of Empires and Civilization even simulate managing the course of a civilization.
  • Simulation, real-world skills: The most well-known simulations are flight simulators, which attempt to mimic the reality of flying a plane. All of the controls, including airspeed, wing angles, altimeter, and so on, are displayed for the player, as well as a visual representation of the world, and are updated in real-time.

The Negative

Most of the bad effects of video games are blamed on the violence they contain.  Children who play more violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping, according to a scientific study (Anderson & Bushman, 2001). This, however, is still hotly debated because there is also evidence that shows that excessive use of video games does not lead to long-term desensitization and lack of empathy.

Although politicians oftentimes declare video games as a cause of gun violence, there is currently little scientific evidence that links playing video games, even the “gruesome and grisly” ones, to violence.

On the other hand, The American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that there is a “consistent correlation” between violent game use and aggression, but finds insufficient evidence to link violent video play to criminal violence.

In 2018, an analysis of 24 studies involving 17000 youngsters from countries including the U.S., Canada, Germany, and Japan and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found those who played violent games such as “Grand Theft Auto,” “Call of Duty” and “Manhunt” were more likely to exhibit behavior such as being sent to the principal’s office for fighting or hitting a non-family member. According to Jay Hull, the study’s lead author “If your kids are playing these games, either these games are having a warping effect on right and wrong or they have a warped sense of right or wrong and that’s why they are attracted to these games. Either way, you should be concerned about it.” Hull’s previous research suggests players may also practice riskier behaviors such as reckless driving, binge drinking, smoking, and unsafe sex.

Kids can be addicted to video gaming. The World Health Organization in June 2018 declared gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. A study by the Minneapolis-based National Institute for Media and the Family suggests that video games can be addictive for kids and that the kids’ addiction to video games increases their depression and anxiety levels. Addicted kids also exhibit social phobias. Not surprisingly, kids addicted to video games see their school performance suffer.

Too much video game playing makes a kid socially isolated. Also, he may spend less time in other activities such as doing homework, reading, sports and interacting with the family and friends. Some video games teach kids the wrong values. Violent behavior, vengeance, and aggression are rewarded. Negotiating and other nonviolent solutions are often not options. Women are often portrayed as weaker characters that are helpless or sexually provocative.

The Take

Video games are highly interactive and adaptive and often induce a sense of psychological “flow” in players — that sense of effortless concentration that makes time fly. The pros and cons of video games are too widespread to put on a sheet of paper but the discussion about this topic is something that all parents have on their lists marked as a priority. And the fact is that Video games aren’t advisable for young kids as the light from screens can adversely affect their eyes. Such games also expose tender minds to inappropriate values and morals, which is why parents should try some other activities to keep their child happily engaged for long. But that doesn’t mean putting a restriction on this form of gaming altogether. A balance between real-life and virtual life is the right way to go.

And finally, a poem to illustrate how a gamer may feel while playing a Video Game

As I indulge in a battle of choice

My teammates are there by my side

We have half completed the game so far

A little more concentration will get us a star

A victory served as price, satisfaction as side

 

I must stick to my controller

Can’t afford to lose now

Have put in all my time and effort

I feel happy in this virtual world

As I indulge in this battle on a fake earth

 

Just one more hour

And I’ll leave the game, will get far

I’ll eat once I’m done

Don’t ask me to leave playing in return

 

As I indulge in a battle of choice

My teammates are there by my side

We have half completed the game so far

A little more concentration will get us a star

A victory served as price, satisfaction as side

Arpit Garg

Arpit is just some another human, trying to write something good to take out all his emotions. He close his eyes and automatically know, what to write. Not good in grammar, not good in literature but still good in expressing what needs to be heard. Just a regenerated human in this degenerated world.

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