The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Video Games: Not So Bad After All?

For years, we’ve heard that video games are guilty of creating a generation of inattentive and violent youth wasting away their time on mindless entertainment. Yet a wave of new studies has thrown cold water on that theory and drawn some conclusions about the benefits of gaming. While the findings of the studies are mixed, it appears that playing video games regularly can lead to improvements in creativity, decision-making, perception, hand-eye coordination and even enhanced night vision.

As always with new scientific research, we should be hesitant to draw conclusions too quickly. One of the studies found a link between compulsive gaming and obesity and depression, while another found that playing violent video games can affect brain function after just one week, “depressing activity among regions associated with emotional control.” Scientists seem to have no idea whether games are ultimately good for you or not.

Regular readers of Via Meadia will not be surprised by this ambiguity. Even the sturdiest scientific theories can be upended by new research. No science is ever fully settled. This is no exception.

Published on March 8, 2012 9:30 am
  • Steve Massey

    I don’t see why the have to be all good or all bad. Just as with booze, it’s a question of how you use it. As long as there’s social sanction on those who game to the exclusion of all other activity, I don’t think there’s a problem here

  • ms

    I long ago realized that video games are a nice social glue for non-athletic boys. We might wish all boys loved sports and were out playing ball in their spare time, but for some boys, sports are a humiliation. Girls interact socially much more naturally than boys and don’t seem to need something to bring them together, but for boys who aren’t into sports, video games give them a social connection. I’m glad to hear there might be other benefits too.

  • Jeff77450

    I’m 53 and based on my experience with video/computer games, as well as observing my sons, I can well believe that there is a certain amount of educational value to such games. But again, based on my experience, I suspect that beyond five or six hours a week you quickly get in to diminishing returns.

  • http://theamericanculture.com Mike D’Virgilio

    “Even the sturdiest scientific theories can be upended by new research. No science is ever fully settled.”

    Gee, I thought once you have a scientific “consensus” then that theory was beyond debate. I wish someone had told me this before.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Gaming skills are already translating into National Power. The remote controlled weapons becoming common place in military usage, are being controlled by standard hand controlls developed for gamers, and are completely familiar to today’s generation of soldiers. Military leaders were shocked at the speed and accuracy of the soldiers use of these remote weapons, and have kicked themselves for not implementing them sooner. “Drones is Better” Iron Man 2, the remote control of weapons, and machines of every type will only become more common as time passes, and we have already trained a generation of Master Operators with thousands of hours of intense competition driven experience.

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com ptet

    “Even the sturdiest scientific theories can be upended by new research. No science is ever fully settled.”

    Indeed… The problem is, however, that people think this means they can write baloney like this (Mike D’Virgilio @ 4):

    “Gee, I thought once you have a scientific “consensus” then that theory was beyond debate. I wish someone had told me this before.

    No science is ever fully settled… But if you want to “debate” you have to actually deal with the science that does exist.

    “Creationism” and “climate change denial” are science, for example, because they do not deal with the science that does exist – they want to wish it away.

    I’d have been happier if our glorious host had said “Nothing is ever fully settled.”.

    That attitude would do religious people – as well as scientists – a great service.

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com ptet

    Blinking fast typing.

    “Creationism” and “climate change denial” are *NOT* science, for example…”

  • sgdurango

    So playing video games renders one creative, good at decision-making, highly perceptive, adept at hand-eye coordination, with enhanced night vision, fat, depressed and with poor emotional control. Sounds about right.

  • http://ptet.blogspot.com ptet

    I’m reminded of this classic joke (claimed by Marcus Brigstocke):

    “If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.”