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It has been said in the past that playing video games is bad for you. Children and young adults are often told to spend more time outside, rather than playing games. But can these games offer any benefits, or are they all just negative influences? You may be surprised!

There are many different types of video games. There are simulation games, first person shooters, puzzle games, role playing games, and many others. Some of these are beneficial and some are not, and for different reasons. Let us take a look at some video game genres and their effects on young gamers (and adults!).

First Person Shooters

First person shooters have been criticized in the past because they revolve around violence. This is in their name, after all. While different ones will have emphasis on different types of kills (such as strangling, shooting, stabbing, blowing people up, etc.), and often with different enemy types (animals, children, aliens, military enemies, etc.), they are all really the same in how they work. Some psychologists claim that this in turn makes the players more violent, increasing the chances that they will hurt or kill someone else. I do believe that in some cases this is true, along the lines of “nature vs. nurture.” I do not believe that just playing the games will cause someone to become more violent, nor do I believe that how someone is brought up necessarily makes them more violent. I do, however, believe that a mixture between the two (or a strong enough spark of one) can cause this, but it is important to realize that every person is different. Because of this, what impacts one person in some way may impact another in a completely different one. There are still studies being done to try and find the correlation between these two things, as well as figure out how and why people react the way they do. So for now, let it suffice to say that I am kind of on the fence as to whether or not there are negative impacts as a result of first person shooters.

On to the positive effects of first person shooters, I feel that there are a few different ones. The biggest is that these games help boost your reaction speed. Games that involve a lot of intense combat end up with situations where you have to react very quick in order to overcome your enemy. This is especially true when playing a game that has enemy players, but even in single player games this benefit can be seen. While someone might not be good at these games in the beginning, over time there is a very noticeable difference in effectiveness both defensively and offensively (such as anticipating what others are going to do, aiming better, or picking out better weapons for battles).

Another thing first person shooters do is help work out strategies and plan for enemy attacks. Each situation you face can be different, forcing you to not only think about what may happen, but also to quickly plan and react to what happens. This can be translated in to real life benefits in that you learn how different situations are different and should be responded to differently.

Real Time Strategy

Real time strategy games are a lot like first person shooters in that they require strategy. The difference here is that instead of making decisions on what to do based on your single character or a small team, you are able to see everything that is going on in the battlefield at once, allowing you to respond to a lot of different stimuli at the same time. In a sense, this can be thought of as being like a war game, where a general uses a map to plan strikes on enemy targets, rescue prisoners of war, etc.

The greatest benefit that comes from this is the ability to lead teams. Since your decisions are based not only what you are doing, but also what your team is doing (as well as what is happening as a result of all of these decisions), managing teams (such as being a team leader or a manager) is easier. While you are not necessarily leading other people in the games, you are leading the troops. There is some more stuff to learn before going out and leading more people, as you have to work on people skills as well, Regardless, this is a huge step in the right direction.

Role Playing Games

Role playing games are very different than most other genres of games in that they are based on stories. Reading has been thought of as being a good form of “brain exercise,”and role playing games require a lot of it. It also works as a sort of puzzle, to an extent, in that a lot of times the games will require you to figure out some things on your own in order to overcome an obstacle or continue on your path. Of course, this only really helps if you spend the time reading through all of the dialogue and following the story, rather than just looking at the text that is usually highlighted and going to its location.

Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are my all time favorite because they require you to stress your brain to solve them. Brain teasers are what some of them are considered, although there are also puzzles that include riddles, forcing you to try and relate things together. Games like You Don't Know Jack are excellent sources of these puzzles because there are hints as to what the answers to questions are and it is up to you to put the clues and the answers together. While you may not be able to figure out some (or even most) of them, you learn as you go along and get better. Its benefit is that you start to learn better methods of relating material together, which helps when doing school work and otherwise trying to learn new material. Relationships between what you know enhance both your memory and recognition, which make you a more productive worker in that catching on to new things comes much faster. Of course, to obtain this benefit you have to actually work towards solving the puzzles. If you simply look up the answers it is like getting the answers to a test; you are not going to learn anything and you are only wasting time.

Dumbing Down English

This is an area where I appear to be in the minority at. It is with the concept of dumbing down the English language. It is really attributed just as much to things like texting on cell phones, but I see it as being a big issue. If you are not aware of what this is, it is changing things like “see you later” to “c u l8r” or even “you're” to “ur.” I have no problems at all with people that use acronyms (“lol,” “rofl,” etc.), but rather when they are actually changing the spelling of words. And there is a very good reason for this. Despite what a lot argue about how shortening and misspelling the words does not affect their ability to write properly, it really does. The longer you misspell the words and shorten them, the more of a chance you have of doing it on more professional documents. When we speak to each other in a more casual manner it is not an issue, but it does become one when there are things you need to write that help show you are intelligent (for example, work reports or legal documents). While not spelling some things correctly does not necessarily mean that you are not intelligent, it does show the reader a sign of laziness and rushing to get the job done. This does not translate well in the job world, especially if you want to go through a lot of promotions or if you are dealing with something where the accuracy of the documents can make or break a case (in the case of court). Even if you are not dealing with any of these situations right now, you never know what the future may hold. So it is a very good idea to not fall in to that rut because it can be very difficult to get back out of it. If you need to use shortened text for things like Twitter posts or short notes, just keep in mind what the real spellings are!

Other Views

Probably the worst view of video games is that they cause people to become antisocial. I completely disagree with this, although I do believe that in some cases this is true. In most cases it is not.

The problem with this is that people often attribute not hanging out with people or visiting with others in real life as being antisocial behavior. This simply is not true, though, because you can also be social with people on the Internet, through games or otherwise. I would also argue that it has benefits that can be equal to being with people, in that either way you are conversing with one another. The Internet does have its semi anonymous face, but I think it is the interaction alone that counts. Inactivity (sitting around talking) is something people like to try to attribute to video games, but really that happens just as much in real life (think about things like poker games or LAN parties, or even just small social gatherings). I would also take it a step further and say that most people would be more comfortable confiding in someone they do not know, and that will probably never see them, than someone they deal with on a regular basis. This is partially because local people may end up slipping their secrets (or telling them on purpose), or even using that against them, whereas those online have less of an ability to do so (although some people have been stalked by online stalkers, so this is not always true, but generally speaking it is).

Lack of exercise (and thus being more obese) is a big thing gamers usually face, but really anyone in a similar situation has the same chances. As a direct example of this, think about a president of a company that deals with work at his desk or in meeting (where he is sitting in his nice, comfortable chair) all day. This ends up with a big lack of physical activity as well. Some like to argue that people in these positions (like the company president) are usually members of a gym or even have one in their business, but when it really comes down to it a gamer could as well. These days home gyms are cheap enough that, for the most part, the only thing holding you back is how much space you have to put it in (of which even then, it is usually manageable, even if you can only fit in a few different pieces of exercise equipment).

We can also link in eating habits with the situation of physical exercise (or lack thereof). In the case of food, gamers are somewhat notorious for things like ordering in pizza and drinking a lot of soft drinks (the drinks help stay awake for longer gaming sessions and ordering in pizza allows you to get food on demand without having to go to the store or cook something, which would cause you to have to take a break from the game). I do agree that this is a problem, at least when it comes to the more hardcore gamers. If you can separate yourself from your game to deal with daily needs (eating is a huge one), it should not have a noticeable impact. If you end up finding yourself eating a lot of fast food, though, it is a good idea to try and alter that. And this is coming from a person that LOVES fast food. It is definitely a tough habit to break (especially when we are talking about cutting back on two things you love: in this case fast food and gaming, so you can eat), but working towards it makes you healthier and increases your quality of life. Studies have shown that it also helps you live longer (which means over time you get to play even more games!).

Conclusion

Different types of games have different benefits to us, whether it be in our planning processes or just thought processes in general. It can speed up thinking and reaction times, enhance memory, and allow outlets to speak to people in a somewhat anonymous nature (although you do still have to be careful!).

A big thing is that games are like anything else; you have to practice moderation. Take breaks on a regular basis, even for just a few minutes at a time, to deal with daily needs. Do a little exercise or go cook food. Cut back on fast food and ordering in things like pizza.

This can be a hard thing to change (as it is pretty much, as gamers, our life style), but the difference in how you feel will be easy to see. Just keep at it and realize that with your small, regular breaks, you are cutting back on a lot of the negatives you would otherwise feel if you were to be gaming all day without breaks!

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