Thank you Daniels Murphy Communications for sending us a screener for this special!
It has long been debated about the effects of video games on the human brain. Do they make people more violent? Can they be addicting? Are there practical uses for them? The BBC’s special Your Brain On Video Games which premiered on the Science Channel on November 1st, 2016 set out to answer all of those questions.
More and more violent video games are coming out every year and despite the bad press they are receiving, they only account for 5% of the games that are released. There are 1.2 billion people in the world who play video games and a majority of them are over thirty-five. Many of them have been gaming since their childhood and video game addiction is only attributed to less than 1% of them. Gamers who play extended gaming sessions every day (on the tune of 20 hours a week) did not scientifically qualify as addiction through both the use of personality tests and brain scans. According to Valerie Voon from University of Cambridge, one of the indicators of video game addiction is requiring instant gratification in many real life scenarios.
Many professors including Craig Anderson and Doug Gentile from Iowa State University and Brad Bushman from Ohio State University have studied the effects of playing violent video games and how they raise levels of aggression. Their findings indicated that after playing a violent video game the aggression level of college aged students showed an increase between 4-9%. Studies have also revealed that gamers are desensitized to real world violence after playing violent video games.
Despite the desensitizing and slight aggression level increases there is no direct correlation of video games influencing violent crimes. In fact, many of the professors featured in the special believe the opposite. They believe the routine activities theory is taking place where less opportunities are available for potential criminals since they are too busy playing video games instead of committing crimes.
Besides possibly preventing crimes, video games have been shown to restore cognitive brain function in three different areas of the brain. The game used in the study was Super Mario 64. Therapeutic games have also been developed to help retirees restore brain functionality. To prove their effectiveness, the patients have scored better than twenty year olds playing the same game for the first time!
Video games could possibly save lives too. A custom game has been developed that is used to train prospective keyhole surgeons. Be warned that there is some surgery footage shown and it’s pretty gritty. I guess I haven’t been completely desensitized in my thirty plus years of gaming. I recommend this show to any concerned parent or gamer interested in the impact of video games on their friends and family.