Love video games? Hate them? Either way, if you want to write an essay about the effects of video games on players and support your ideas with strong evidence, then let’s get started!
In this blog post, I’ll give you a head start on your research by providing links to and descriptions of useful articles on the effects of video games. But before we can dive into these sources, there are some essay-writing strategies we should consider first!
Purpose and Approach
Most essays about the effects of video games are argumentative, so it’s a good idea to brush up on this style before you sit down to hammer out that first rough draft.
You need to think about your approach or stance on the issue. There are various ways to tackle this essay topic. You may want to discuss either the negative or positive effects of video games on players, for example. Or you may want to focus on the effects in a more specific and balanced context.
Below is a short list of possible topics to help you get started if you want to go beyond the more simplistic arguments that claim whether or not video games are either good or bad.
Effects of video games on:
- Child and adolescent cognitive development
- Physiological and psychological well being
- Behavior (aggression, confidence, emotional distress, self-esteem, etc.)
- Disabled individuals and the elderly (therapeutic application)
- Gender identity and attitudes (feminist arguments can especially apply here)
Once you’ve settled on your topic, you’ll want to form a strong thesis that makes a clear claim.
Now, I love video games, so I would probably write about the positive effects (though I’d also be sure to address my audience – those who may be concerned about the negative effects), and this would be my tentative thesis:
While many concerns exist about excessive video game playing’s effects on one’s physiological and psychological health, there is substantial evidence to support that moderate video game use can improve players’ sense of self-worth, social abilities, and can even provide health benefits for those suffering physical or psychological traumas.
Just remember, for whatever approach you take, it’s always best to be specific in your thesis statement!
Time for Research: Finding Your Articles
Whether each of your sources arepopular or scholarly, you’ll want to make sure that they are credible. (For more info on credibility, read How to Apply the CRAAP Test to Your Essay Sources.)
It’s also a good idea to find articles written within the last five years or so because this topic deals with technology, meaning that the scope of its subject matter changes by leaps and bounds every few years).To make sure your sources are relevant, especially because video games are so much more complex now than they were at the turn of the century, try to focus on the most recent sources to best support your argument.
If you have older sources that still apply to the current argument, then that’s fine, too, but it’s best to be 100% sure!
Your articles should effectively support your thesis, so you’ll also want to make sure that they provide strong ethos, logos, and pathos. Good news: I’ve made sure that the articles I found for you meet this requirement!
To make things easy for you, I’ve broken down the following list of articles into three categories: Positive, Neutral (Informative), and Negative.
Positive Effects of Video Games Articles
Positive Effects Article 1: “9 Ways Video Games Can Actually Be Good For You”
This article starts off with a bit of humor with the line, “Your mother was wrong. Video games aren’t bad for you. They’re actually making your life better.” But it still offers valid information as it comes from the Huffington Post, an established news source. There are also great sources in the article about the positive effects of video games that support the argument in the title above, including how they can make you smarter, slow the brain’s aging process, and even improve your vision.
Guarini, Drew. “9 Ways Video Games Can Actually Be Good For You.” Huffingtonpost.com. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. 7 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Positive Effects Article 2: “Game Reward Systems: Gaming Experiences and Social Meanings”
Researchers Hao Wang and Cheun-Tsai Sun use examples of rewards systems from many popular and iconic video games from various genres to support their argument that these systems have positive social effects on players. From more serious real-world applications, to the idea of people needing to “just have fun,” this scholarly conference proceeding covers a lot of ground on video games’ ability to improve people’s moods, self-worth, and social abilities through multiple play-mechanic approaches. The authors provide a solid list of references that reinforces their research, which you could also use.
Wang, Hao, and Cheun-Tsai Sun. “Game Reward Systems: Gaming Experiences and Social Meanings.” Proceedings of 5th International DiGRA Conference: Think Design Play. Sept. 2011, Utrecht School of the Arts – Netherlands. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Positive Effects Article 3: “Are There Benefits in Playing Video Games?”
This article is written by Romeo Vitelli, who holds a PhD in psychology and currently practices in Toronto, Canada. Vitelli focuses on the positive effects of video games and helps to dispel the myths behind “gamer nerd” stereotypes while also criticizing the current research language for being overly-generalized, which could be useful for a pro-gaming approach to your essay. He also draws on examples from well-known video games and provides background information and links to various psychological terms and video game psychology-related studies.
Vitelli, Romeo. “Are There Benefits in Playing Video Games?” PsychologyToday.com. Sussex Publishers, LLC. 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Positive Effects Article 4: “Exploring gaming technology. So amputees can learn to touch again.”
Research associate Ivan Phelan provides insight into a collaborative project between game designers, engineers, and healthcare specialists that helps amputee patients learn to use their prosthetic limbs in controlled virtual environments.
The article introduces the problems amputees experience, and then details the project results and how patients positively responded to the treatment, which uses video game technology. Interesting and helpful YouTube videos accompany the article to provide extra information on the project.
“Exploring gaming technology. So amputees can learn to touch again.” Changing Lives. Sheffield Hallam U, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Positive Effects Article 5: “Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds”
This article comes from gamesandlearning.org, a website dedicated to video games’ educational use and marketability. This source focuses on the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked over 11,000 children’s behavior in relation to media exposure between the years 2000 and 2002.
The study draws on a large and diverse subject pool, which is great for data/logos purposes. The article also links to scholarly work that provides in-depth information about the study, including the effects of both TV and video games on this population.
“Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds.” gamesandlearning.org. Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Neutral (Informative) Effects of Video Games Articles
Neutral Effects Article 1: “Game Theory: How do video games affect the developing brains of children and teens?”
This useful article is written by Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H., who provides information on the positive and negative effects of video games on both the learning and vulnerable brain throughout childhood and adolescent development. You can also find useful anecdotal evidence and information about gaming addiction and parental strategies to combat childhood gaming overindulgence in this article.
Paturel, Amy. “Game Theory: How do video games affect the developing brains of children and teens?” Neurology Now 10.3 (2014): 32-36. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Neutral Effects Article 2: “Effect of Video Games on Children’s Aggressive Behavior and Pro-social Behavior: A Panel Study with Elementary School Students.”
This source is great for logos as it mainly provides facts based on a study conducted among a targeted elementary school student group who played both violent and pro-social video games. Nobuko Ihori and three other authors take a more neutral approach in this scholarly conference proceeding in that they just show you the results of their research.
You could likely use this for either a positive or negative approach because while the study finds that violent video gameplay doesn’t affect aggression, pro-social behavior decreased among subjects who played violent video games.
Ihori, Nobuko, et al. “Effect of Video Games on Children’s Aggressive Behavior and Pro-social Behavior: A Panel Study with Elementary School Students.” Proceedings of DiGRA Conference: Situated Play. Sept. 2007, U of Tokyo – Tokyo, Japan. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Neutral Effects Article 3: “Shooting in the Dark”
Benedict Carey, a New York Times science column writer, keeps his approach neutral by reporting on studies that consider effects of not only violent, but also non-violent video games on player behavior. Carey questions whether or not increased aggression will lead to violent real-life events and provides references to reports that both support and refute the link between violent media exposure and increased aggressive action.
Carey, Benedict. “Shooting in the Dark.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company. 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Neutral Effects Article 4: “Keeping a Balance With Real Life When Gaming Online”
This article is mainly informative as it comes from ikeepsafe.org, a nonprofit organization site that provides help to educational and government agencies. It covers important information about effects of video games without bias, such as gaming popularity, addiction identification, and social and cognitive skills, while providing links to outside sources on the topic.
“Keeping a Balance With Real Life When Gaming Online.” ikeepsafe.org. iKeepSafe, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Neutral Effects Article 5: “Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment”
This is a great scholarly article if you’re looking to take the middle road on the effects of video games because it focuses on both the positive and negative effects, particularly in relation to average play time. Author Andrew K. Przybylski holds a PhD in psychology and uses sound data and strong logic to support his assertions throughout the article. This source will definitely come in handy if you’re studying psychosocial effects of video games, especially that of children and adolescents.
Przybylksi, Andrew K. “Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment.” Pediatrics 154.3 (2014): 1-7. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Negative Effects of Video Games Articles
Negative Effects Article 1: “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review”
This is a scholarly article published by the American Psychological Association and written by Craig Anderson and seven other reputable researchers in the psychology field. It combines various meta-analytic studies into a robust 23-page research study article packed full of useful information that supports the argument that violent video games create risk factors for aggressive behavior and lack of empathy.
Anderson, Craig, et al. “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review” Psychological Bulletin 136.2 (2010): 151-173. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Negative Effects Article 2: “Violent Video Games: More Playing Time Equals More Aggression”
Jeff Grabmeier of Ohio State University discusses and provides links to a study and other useful information in this article that shows new research linking increased play time of violent video games to increased aggressive behavior. This article is useful because it describes the study in detail and highlights the ethical considerations behind players of both violent and non-violent games and their behaviors and expectations.
Grabmeier, Jeff. “Violent Video Games: More Playing Time Equals More Aggression.” ResearchNews.OSU.Edu. The Ohio State University. 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Negative Effects Article 3: “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign”
This news article reports on the threatening male gamer behavior towards feminist video game critic, Anita Sarkeesian. The info here can help you argue about negative video game effects and how gender stereotyping in games has fostered a generation of players who exhibit misogynistic behavior and ideologies.
Because not all of your sources need to be based on statistics alone, this article will help you provide useful pathos by including a true story of a woman’s victimization within the gaming community.
Wingfield, Nick. “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Negative Effects Article 4: “Negative Potential of Video Games”
Russell Subella, who holds a PhD in Counselor Education, mainly focuses on the negative psychological and physiological effects of video game overindulgence. He also cites his sources at the end of the article, which allows you to explore the topic further. This source is useful to you if you’re focusing on the negative effects of video games but want a source that is well supported by logic and approaches the topic fairly.
Subella, Russell A. “Negative Potential of Video Games.” education.com. Education.com, Inc. 29 Apr. 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Negative Effects Article 5: “The Effects of the Sexualization of Female VideoGame Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept”
This scholarly article provides a unique insight into the effects of video games on players’ concepts of gender and race, highlighting that the gaming industry has a long way to go in order to make up for its inequities in both categories. The study remains unbiased and notes what problems exist within the research and where future studies may be able to provide valuable awareness of areas within this topic that are relatively unexplored.
The article and its references will definitely help you argue that video games have negative effects, particularly on race and gender issues.
Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth, and Dana Mastro. “The Effects of the Sexualization of Female VideoGame Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept.” Sex Roles 61 (2009): 808-823. Web 10. Apr. 2015.
Venturing Out On Your Own:
Now, I’ve only given you a small amount of sources to help you start your research process. Whether you’re arguing that the effects of video games are positive or negative, or if you’re refining your argument to a more specific topic, you can find some awesome material out there to support your essay!
A simple Google search can help yield some great results, but if you’re a university student, then you also likely have access to major scholarly databases through your school’s library. Use well-known databases, such as JSTOR and ProjectMuse, or academic search engines such as ProQuest and EBSCOhost to find in-depth scholarly publications that will provide stellar support for your essay!
To make sure that both your sources and argument are effective from the start:
- Create a strong thesis statement that clearly indicates your stance on the effects of video games – typically positive or negative.
- Find popular or scholarly sources that are credible and provide solid ethos, logos, and pathos (note that some sources may lean more towards logos or pathos, and that’s fine, so long as you find a balance in your overall research).
- Make sure your research is up-to-date. Try to mostly find articles written within the last five years, and even then, be sure that the information in these is current.
When you’ve finished writing your essay, be sure to proofread it, and think about having one of the pros at Kibin help edit your work to make sure it’s the best it can be!
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Danielle Dai and Amanda Fry
Little bit o’ history
If you are a parent in this era of information and technology, chances are you have a child who has played, is playing, or will be playing video games. The video game industry is a rapid-growing market that went from having a market volume of $100 million in 1985 to $4 billion in 1990 (Gartner, 2013). How did this industry gain so much ground? Where did it start? Prior to the 1980’s, there were what we may consider rudimentary computer games, commercially sold coin-operated games, and home consoles. Shortly after the North-American Video Game Crash of 1983 –a massive recession that hit the industry– the Nintendo Entertainment System induced a resurgence in popularity that has only continued to grow (Cesarone, 2014). In the years since, the gaming world has expanded and subdivided into numerous categories. There are casual, serious and educational games in mediums ranging from console games to online RPG’s (role playing games) to the most recent and flourishing market of mobile games. In 2013, the worldwide market volume totaled $93 billion (Metrics 2.0, 2007).
So what does this mean for our kids today?
In America, 81% of youths play at least once a month, 8.5% of them are addicted and “the average 8- to 12 year-old now plays 13 hours of video games per week, while the average 13- to 18 year old plays 14 hours of video games per week” (Metrics 2.0, 2007). Because video games are so prominent in children’s lives, it is difficult to prevent them from playing video games entirely– but is that even necessary? With such a variety of game types out there, it is difficult to say if video games in general are good or bad. Luckily, there have been countless studies done on this and information on the pros and cons can be easily found.
Negatives of Video Games
There are various types of video games available in today’s industry. Video games are intended to target different aspects of a child’s life. These video games are comprised of a variety of educational, serious, and casual games, but in reality, what child is going to choose a game about learning versus a game where they can kill zombies or drive cars at unruly amounts of speed? A study from Buchman and Funk found that “violent games became consistently popular across grades for both boys and girls” (Cesarone, 1998). Educational games were more popular for some of the girls being asked, but throughout all the age groups, violent video games never lost their superior power in the gaming industry.
Studies have shown the negative effects violent video games have on the younger generation. Calvert and Tan did a study on young adults, where they compared the differences between playing versus observing violent video games. Studies found that “students who had played a violent virtual reality game had a higher heart rate, reported more dizziness and nausea, and exhibited more aggressive thoughts in a posttest than those who had played a nonviolent game” (Cesarone, 1998). Although these studies do not directly determine if aggression increases in their experimenters, they are able to observe behavioral changes that include more aggressive patterns.
Another negative aspect of video games is the fact that kids are spending too much time playing the games rather than physically playing outside. From the quote above, it is evident that kids involved with video games are spending 13 and 14 hours a week playing them rather than just an hour here and there. By spending so much time on their game console or on the computer, children are missing out on their social life. Children are less likely to go out and compete in extracurricular activities which inhibit them from meeting new people and making friends. Funk and Buchman did another study on the effects video games have on kids, but in this one, they were testing for self-competence. Results found that “for boys, but not for girls, a stronger preference for each of the three types of violent games was associated with lower self-competence scores in one or more developmentally important areas, including academic, interpersonal, and behavioral skills” (Cesarone, 1998). This finding factors into the idea of taking time away from doing other things for these boys because they are suffering in important factors in life that will allow them to succeed.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the obvious reason why video games are not beneficial to a child’s development, obesity. According to the CDC, in 2009-2010, 12.1 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are obese, 18 percent of 6 to 11 year olds are obese, and 18.4 percent of 12 to 19 year olds are obese. Now, this is only the percentages of obesity, and does not account for the amount of children who are overweight as well. What is causing this to occur? I can tell you, the amount of time children are now spending playing video games is a factor in that. By spending much of their free time on the computer or on their game console, kids are not going out and participating in activities that will keep them physically fit in healthy. Kids get the lazy mindset and would rather not go play outside.
Benefits of Playing Video Games
Research has shown that playing video games can be beneficial for a number of cognitive functions and may also contain social benefits. The first and foremost thing one discovers in a game is that following directions is of the utmost importance. In order to progress in games, one must first learn to follow the guidelines, restrictions and components of them. As the player confronts new challenges, he must use problem-solving to find solutions. This is true for educational games, mind games, and RPGs alike. The player cannot get through with what they already have or know and must find new combinations and incorporate old skills with new skills to overcome obstacles such as the level or quest (Gee, 2003). In relation to this, the player can also learn strategy and anticipation, management of resources (simulation games), mapping, pattern recognition, how to judge the situation and practice reading (with directions, dialogue, etc.) and quantitative calculations (through educational games, managing finances, buying and selling for profit, etc. (Tumbokon, 2014).
Gamers also get used to multitasking. As games become more intricate, players must juggle different objectives while keeping track of all the changing elements and connecting ideas. Games also induce quick thinking. According to cognitive scientist Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester, results of a study found that people who play video games become more attuned to their environment and able to keep visual tabs on friends in crowds, able to navigate better and better at everyday things like driving and reading small print. Playing games also “significantly reduced reaction times without sacrificing accuracy” beyond the context of the games ( Bavelier et al., 2009) and into making correct real-world decisions. Because of this effect on perceptual reaction times, even the U.S. military uses warfare simulation games in training and claims its benefits (Vargas, 2006).
Video games also increase hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning (Tumbokon, 2014). For example, in shooter games, the player keeps track of their position, direction, speed, aim, results and more. The brain processes all this information and then coordinates with the hands since all actions are done through the controller or keyboard. These skills can be applied to real world situations like surgical procedure (Florida Hospital, 2013).
Finally, gaming is stimulating, a learning experience and a social activity. The reason why people find it so enjoyable is that games are usually the right degree of challenging and the player takes an active role (unlike watching television) so there is an incentive to achieve (Gee, 2003). Let’s also not forget that many games, like “Rise of Nations” or “Age of Mythology” are educational and have a lot to offer in areas like science, politics, history and cultural studies and some games are practical, like pilot-training simulations. The gaming world is very popular. Thus, playing video games has become a social activity. In fact, nearly 60% of frequent gamers play with friends, 33% with siblings and 25% with a spouse or parents. Many games require cooperative play and logistics, comradeship and frequent interactions between team members.
Like so many other issues these days, the concept of video games is controversial. The line between a healthy amount of gaming and an excessive amount is easily blurred and crossed– especially when video games are as addicting as studies claim. As parents, it is prudent to find moderation in all things. Banning games entirely may be good for some households, but others (depending on the prominence of gaming within the environment) will find that it may socially isolate their children, take away a source of joy and possibly cognitive development. However, opening the door to the good, will also allow access to the bad including exposing the children’s minds to the realm of violence, taking their free time away from doing other things, and putting them at risk for obesity. In the end, it is important that the parent monitors what kinds of games children are playing and being exposed to. Part of this job is to know the descriptors and the genres they represent. The Entertainment Software Rating Board has ratings that provide concerned parents information about the content of the games (ESRB, 2014). Efficient use of these ratings can help parents to make more informed choices for their children.
Cesarone, Bernard. “Video Games and Children – Child & Adolescent Development: Overview.” Gracepoint. Gracepoint. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. http://www.gracepointwellness.org/28-child-adolescent-development-overview/article/1949-video-games-and-children
Cesarone, Bernard. “Video Games: Research, Ratings, Recommendations. ERIC Digest.” ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign, IL. November 1998. Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
“Gartner Says Worldwide Video Game Market to Total $93 Billion in 2013.”Gartner Says Worldwide Video Game Market to Total $93 Billion in 2013. Gartner, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2614915
“Video Game Addiction: 81% of American Youth Play; 8.5% Are Addicted.”Metrics 2.0: Business and Market Intelligence. Metrics 2.0, Jan. 2007. http://www.metrics2.com/blog/2007/04/04/video_game_addiction_81_of_american_youth_play_85.html
JAMES PAUL GEE. “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” ACM Computers in Entertainment. Vol. 1, No. 1, October 2003. http://studentweb.niu.edu/3/~Z1629863/tportfolio/games.pdf
Tumbokon, Chacha. “The Positive and Negative Effects of Video Games.”Raise Smart Kid. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. http://www.raisesmartkid.com/3-to-6-years-old/4-articles/34-the-good-and-bad-effects-of-video-games
Matthew W.G. Dye, C. Shawn Green, and Daphne Bavelier. “Increasing Speed of Processing With Action Video Games.” A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Vol. 18 No. 6 (2009) : 321-326. http://psych.wisc.edu/CSGreen/dye_CDiPS09.pdf
Vargas,Jose Antonio. “Virtual Reality Prepares Soldiers for Real War.” Washington Post 14 February, 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/13/AR2006021302437.html
“Video Games Help Doctors Improve Surgical Skills.” Florida Hospital. Florida Hospital, 9 Oct. 2013. https://www.floridahospital.com/news/video-games-help-doctors-improve-surgical-skills
“ESRB Ratings Guide.” Rating Categories, Content Descriptors, and Interactive Elements from ESRB. Entertainment Software Rating Board. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp
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