Uninformed Opinion – How Playing Video Games Is Killing You

Do video games kill? Video games have grown in popularity since the conception of Pong in 1958 and have since been the subject of scrutiny of both the intellectual as well as the uninformed. In this article, we respond to some of the claims made against the video game industry by providing counter arguments and sourcing some facts of our own.

Uninformed Opinion - How Playing Video Games Is Killing You

Settle down, don’t head to the comments section to execute me just yet. We at KeenGamer are not of the opinion that video games kill. Instead, we came across an article where this sentiment was expressed and this is my response to that, clearly uninformed, questionable, piece of literature.

When I initially started this piece, I added a link to the original article so I couldn’t be accused of twisting the author’s words or taking things out of context. However, it seems that hackernoon.com, where the article was posted, also disagreed with the author as they seem to have taken it down. Perhaps they’re just experiencing some technical difficulties, in which case you can find the link to the original article here. And the archived version using web.archive.org.

Regardless, I’ll proceed to address this spread of misinformation. Are you ready to go down this rabbit hole with me? Let’s go!

VIDEO GAMES KILL

The author opens the article explaining that she used to play quite a lot of games. In fact, when Skyrim was launched, she clocked an incredible 160 hours of play within the first month. She goes on to say that she was unfit, didn’t have any friends, and couldn’t concentrate on schoolwork because all she could think about was getting back to her game. “Of course, I had no idea video games were to blame”, she states in conclusion.

My counter-argument is simply this: video games are not to blame, an utter lack of self-discipline is. If you are spending an average of 6-8 hours on games every day and you can’t focus on anything else, you have a problem. You need to acknowledge that you have a problem and make an effort to overcome it. It’s very much like an obese person blaming McDonald’s when that person eats nothing but Big Macs on a daily basis. At what point does the responsibility fall on you to not overindulge?

Live, Game, Repeat. The keyword here is LIVE

Live, Game, Repeat. The keyword here is LIVE

HEALTH IMPLICATIONS

The author continues to list the negative effects that games can have along with the relevant links to where the information can be found. It clearly shows how the author takes just the bits that support her argument while negligently ignoring everything else.

  1. According to the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, “every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.” 

The link provided here doesn’t work but I found a similar statement here. However, the article explicitly states that the numbers shown are estimates and even states “This study is limited by the low precision with which the relationship between TV viewing time and mortality is currently known.” Obviously, these little tidbits are not mentioned.

2.”Screen time is strongly linked to poor sleep, no matter what kind of screen you’re looking at, and poor sleep is linked to a wide variety of things you don’t want, like reduced functional IQ, heart disease, weight gain, and depression.”

A lack of sleep is no joke, I can attest to this first hand but in my case, it was due to overindulgence in caffeine. Notice how I mention overindulgence. It wasn’t coffee keeping me awake at night, it was TOO MUCH coffee. I, being a responsible adult, was able to admit my problem and cut down on the bean juice. Low and behold a couple of days later, I slept like the dead.

According to the studies, the reason screen time disrupts our sleep patterns is because “blue light from digital devices suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, keeping us from having restful sleep“. Nowadays, you can easily purchase spectacles that reduce blue light, I’m currently wearing just such a pair. If you’re not fond of eyewear, there are even screen filters that do the same thing. An even simpler solution is to simply not have any screen time for the last hour before going to bed. With such simple solutions, this is hardly an epidemic.

3. “Screen time is also associated with vision problems…”

I wear prescription glasses due to excessive computer use caused by working in the IT industry for the last 15 years, so this is a valid point. However, there are numerous preventative measures that can be taken to combat the negative effect screens have on your eyes. I found a rather helpful page that highlights numerous measures, most of which are simple habits that won’t cost you a thing.

Say it with me, Gaming is not the same as Gambling

Say it with me, Gaming is not the same as Gambling

4. Playing video games turns on similar brain regions as those linked to cravings for drugs and gambling.

Playing video games releases a hormone called dopamine, also known as the “happy hormone” as it is responsible for our experiencing happiness. Dopamine is also released when you gamble or do drugs, and is highly addictive. What the author neglects to mention is that dopamine is released when you do anything that makes you happy. In this regard, comparing video games to the slots at your local casino is just like comparing falling in love with smoking crack.

5. “Games with HUDs and navigational systems increase the amount of gray matter in the brain, which is linked to neurological problems like Alzheimers and mental illnesses like depression.”

The link provided here includes a list of pros and cons to gaming, however, the author chooses to only highlight a single sentence. The article actually lists 55 possible benefits from playing video games and only 18 possible drawbacks. The majority of the drawbacks listed here address the content of games, rather than games themselves and this is a point I completely agree with, which is why you don’t let your 6-year-old play GTA or Diablo

But to get back to the point above. This refers to using tools like GPS for navigation instead of active learning. While this may be a valid point, the same can be said for using a day planner to help you remember an appointment, or an actual GPS to find your way around town. This might be a legitimate problem, but it’s definitely not specific to video games. 

Ronnie Coleman, seen by many as the greatest bodybuilder of all time, now can't walk without crutches because he didn't know when to stop. Exercise did this, not gaming.

Ronnie Coleman, seen by many as the greatest bodybuilder of all time, now can’t walk without crutches because he didn’t know when to stop. Exercise did this, not gaming.

6. Excessive gaming causes Rickets, a condition caused by lack of vitamin D, which we get from sunlight.”

Excessive gaming doesn’t cause Rickets, staying indoors and not getting enough sunlight does. Just like point 5 above, solely blaming video games for this is laughable since there is an endless number of activities that require you to be indoors and could cause the same problem. Rickets can also be caused by a lack of calcium or phosphate, neither of which is caused by gaming, but that’s not important as it doesn’t emphasize the author’s point.

VIDEO GAMES CAUSE VIOLENCE

The author uses 16-year-old Daniel Petric as an example. Daniel shot and killed both his parents after they confiscated his copy of Halo 3 which he played for stretches of up to 18 hours a day. The author then counters this argument with a few points but let’s ignore that for now.

Violence in video games is definitely present. Don't let your kids play games like this.

Violence in video games is definitely present. Don’t let your kids play games like this.

Violence in video games has been an issue of concern since the early ’90s when Mortal Kombat made its way to arcade machines. Since then, there have been countless studies conducted to test the link between video games and violence, but despite all this research, no definitive link has been drawn. However, we once again come to the issue of content, and it is a parent’s responsibility to censor the content their children are being exposed to. 

In the case of Daniel Petric, I personally don’t think 16 is too young for a game like Halo but if a child/teenager is playing a game for 18 hours a day and gets violent when they’re forced to stop, they clearly have an addiction and it should be treated as such. Some people are more susceptible to certain influences than others and once again the person should take some responsibility. Some people are able to go out, have a single alcoholic beverage and call it a night. Others never stop at a single drink and usually end up in fights or wake up in strange places, with nothing but a badass headache to remind them of the night before. For people like these it might be better to avoid alcohol altogether. However, that doesn’t mean we should ban alcohol because one person doesn’t know when to say enough. 

GAMING = BAD MORAL VALUES

“Whether you should be a gamer depends on your values. Are you comfortable with the idea that you’re spending most of your life on an activity that has no economic value, adds little to the world, reduces the quality of your relationships, and erodes your body and mind in the process?”

This paragraph really got me riled up. Not only does the author make a conclusion based on assumptions of the most extreme cases and calls that the norm but she goes as far as telling the world that if we choose to play games we have bad moral values. I don’t just disagree with the above statements, the last one I even find offensive. 

But let’s break it all down, shall we? In recent years video games have become a multi-billion dollar industry so stating that gaming has no economic value and adds little to the world is completely false. Just ask the people who are able to support their families from the salaries they get from the gaming industry.

eSports has become big business and may people rely on this to make a living

eSports has become big business and may people rely on this to make a living

Can gaming affect your relationships? Absolutely, if you spent every waking moment playing by yourself, just like any other activity that excludes company. However, I’ve built many good relationships through a love of gaming and one of my co-workers at KeenGamer is about to celebrate her 3 year anniversary with someone she met through Overwatch. I wouldn’t say playing video games is the ideal method of meeting new people but you simply can’t blame it for eroding your relationships when you don’t make an effort to keep those relationships alive.

How about eroding your body and mind? Let’s say I take up jogging, which according to the author should be good because it involves physical exercise and gets me outside so I can absorb that much-needed vitamin D. Jogging doesn’t have any economic value, it doesn’t add anything to the world, I won’t build relationships while jogging, and if I do it long enough my knees, ankles, and hips will start eroding. So is jogging placed in the same category as playing video games? And does liking to jog, game, play tennis, collect stamps, *insert any other hobby* make you a person with bad values? 

CONCLUSION

The author blames video games for many of the problems she had as a teenager, and because she had no sense of self-discipline, gaming is now a destructive habit for everyone in every situation. That’s like saying I shouldn’t enjoy a beer after a long day at work because some random person in Argentina is an alcoholic. She advocates exercise as a good alternative but I’d like to point out that exercise can be addictive as well. Have you seen what too much exercise can do to athletes who don’t know when to take a break? For Pete’s sake, even eating can be addictive, that doesn’t mean you should stop doing that.

I am a gamer. I’m also a professional software developer, husband, and father. I’m healthy and strong, I have good relationships with my family and friends, and I’m successful in my career. Gaming has not changed that because I know when enough is enough. 

Do video games kill? No. A lack of self-control does.

The answer is MODERATION and ACCOUNTABILITY. Anything you do for 40 hours a week has a chance to ruin other aspects of your life, including your relationships and health. You need to balance all aspects of your life that you deem important, not assume that one person’s overindulgence will be the downfall of all humanity. So take some responsibility and stop blaming McDonald’s for your weight issues.

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