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Stop Nagging Me, Mom: The Benefits of Video Gaming

Positive outcomes can come from unexpected places and things. One of those things is video games. Video games have been around for a long time now, starting out with arcade games. Now we have video game consoles in the comfort and privacy of home. Video games are constantly changing as new technology keeps on coming. The eventuality that people can enter the world of a video game in the literal sense is not so far away. As for the people who play video games, Rudi Volti notes how "[w]oman now comprise 40 percent of gamers…woman over the age of 18 now comprise a larger percentage of gamers (33 percent) than do boys 17 and younger (18 percent)" (236). Nowadays, the world of video games is more than just sitting in a chair with a controller in your hand. Video games are more than just levels where the main character goes from point A to point B. Video games are much more than that. To me, they are something that is held near and dear to my heart, and are a way to bring the world together. Most importantly, video games can benefit the world for the better.

To begin, violent video games can be more beneficial than harmful. With the issue of violence in video games, the age old argument comes up that children who play violent video games will become violent themselves. According to Rudi Volti, the power of violent video games may be more severe than we let ourselves believe (237). It is said "that graphic on-screen violence can have a stronger and more lasting effect on the players of these games" (Volti 237). Although violent video games can cause violence, it is a rare case. Christopher J. Ferguson, part of Texas A&M International University, compares violent video games to peanut butter, saying "'[t]hey are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems'" (qtd. in "Violent" 1). What Mr. Ferguson is saying is that the only people who are affected by video game violence are those who already have problems that make it easy for violence to trigger a strong emotional response, much like peanut butter being harmful only to those with allergies to peanuts. Only those who are "easily upset, depressed and emotional or [are] indifferent to feeling of other people, break rules and fail to keep promises, they may be more likely to be hostile after playing violent video games" ("Violent" 1). Surprisingly, violent video games can actually reduce violence in the real world. Lawrence Sherman, criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has noted that at the introduction of violent video games into our homes, juvenile violence dropped and juvenile charges decreased by two-thirds from 1993 to the turn of the decade (qtd. in Beck and Wade 53-54). Along with decreased violence, violent video games can teach cooperation. In a study conducted at the University of Gothenburg, people who play violent video games manage to get a grip on their anger and work cooperatively to be rewarded (Kantra 1). Although, the popularity of games with violence has been decreasing recently, and the popularity of casual games has been increasing. Casual games, simply put, are games that are made to be played by everyone ("Can" 2). Out of the twenty five billion dollar video game market, casual games make up three billion dollars ("Can" 2). In 2009 alone, console game sales has gone down ten percent, but casual game sales have gone up a minimum of fifteen percent a year ("Can" 2). In the end, violent video games don't make a person violent.

Not only can video games lead to decreased violence, playing video games can also help with social skills. Many say that video gamers are socially awkward and spend most of their time isolated from others. This is not true, as gamers "care about other people exactly as much as the rest of us do" (Beck and Wade 112). In fact, people who grew up playing video games are more people-oriented than those who did not (Beck and Wade 112). Not to mention, gaming can help with group settings as well. The Entertainment Software Association has said that "62% of gamers play games with others, either in person or online" (Kantra 1). Playing games with others can "…teach kids leadership skills, including delegating responsibility, and working effectively as a team" (Kantra 1). Video games are coming to a point where people interact more with each other as they play the game. Social skills can be helped through the aid of video games.

With these increased social skills, people are using video games to change the world for the better. One of those people is Mark Fischbach or Markiplier as he is known on YouTube ("Local" 1). Mr. Fischbach plays video games, mostly horror based, for YouTube, and says that the videos are "…basically [him] screaming like a little girl" ("Local" 1). He has gained over one hundred followers on YouTube, and is gaining fans at a rate of one thousand (give or take) a day ("Local" 1). However, it's not all about entertaining the masses and screaming like a girl for Markiplier. He uses his fan base to raise money for different charities once a month during live gaming sessions online ("Local" 1). The game sessions don't end until the set goal is met. Once, Mark Fischbach "[did] it for 24 hours straight. [He] was a little grumpy at the end of it, but [he] beat [his] goal, rais[ing] $1,100" ("Local" 1). On February 18, 2013, with one hundred thousand followers at his aid, Mr. Fischbach raised eight thousand dollars for cancer research in nine hours ("Local" 1). Overall, Markiplier has "raised more than $20,000 using Go-Fund-Me" ("Local" 1). With the power of video games and social media, Mark Fischbach has bettered the world by raising the money for charity. Other gamers are using the power of YouTube to stress the importance of physical activity. Many upload videos with arguments on enjoying the outdoors during extended periods of gameplay in order to fight better against the virtual enemies ("Health" 2). Not only are gamers using video games to better the world, video game companies are also attempting to improve the world. Gabriel Entertainment has teamed up with Ocean Secret for a game in the making that is geared toward adolescent girls that takes them on a mystery solving quest while slipping in anti-tobacco and cigarette messages ("Can" 1). In Bloomington, Wisdom Tools LLC. Has a game in the works called CampusCraft, in which one plays a college student in scenarios where they need clues by going to parties involving drinking ("Can" 1). The key to the whole game is that, if the player drinks too much or has sex with no protection, than he or she "…won't get the information they need" ("Can" 1). Dr. Greg Larkin, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, is hopeful that these messages in video games will get the point across. He says that "…in the past, people relied on billboards or signs at Little League or whatever, now, [video games] might be more engaging" ("Can" 2). The efforts of video game players and video game companies will provide the world with positive outcomes.

Along with the improvement of social skills, video games can help with cognitive skills. One thing they can do is help with nightmares. Research from Athabasca University in Canada has shown that people who game have a higher chance of having lucid dreams (Kantra 1). Lucid dreams happen naturally and are dreams in which the person is aware that he or she is dreaming ("What" 1). What this means is that the dreamer has "the ability to take control of their dreams to change the outcome" (Kantra 1). Essentially a person having a nightmare can alter the dream as to where it is no longer a bad dream. Besides helping escape from nightmares, video games also offer practical mental benefits. Psychologically, a discovery through research by T. Atilla Ceranoglu, member of the Massachusetts General Hospital, has shown that video games can aid in "psychological assessment of children and teenagers" ("Violent" 1). In terms of cognitive functioning, research at the Office of Naval Research has discovered that playing games has "improve[d] the fundamental ability to reason and problem solve in new contexts" (Kantra 1). Meanwhile, the University of Rochester has noticed that playing action games has improved decision making by twenty five percent more than people who do not play action games, without giving up accuracy (Kantra 1). The university also found that playing action based games allows the player to focus on more than one thing at a time (Kantra 1). According to Michigan State University, video game playing kids "scored 23% higher on creative tests involving tasks such as drawing picture and writing stories" (Kantra 1).Along with improved creativity tests scores, Christopher Ferguson states that an increase of popularity in video games has equated to a decrease in behavior problems, less violence, and improved scores on tests in American and European children (qtd. in "Violent" 1). Overall, much improvement has been shown in terms of cognitive functioning through the help of games.

Along with the improved mental befits, video games can offer physical benefits as well. There is a direct correlation between physical health and mental health. It is not well known is that "challenging the body keeps cognitive processing skills sharp" ("Health" 2). Of course, with the idea of playing games on a console or handheld device, many assume that it includes sitting on a chair or couch, therefore getting fatter and fatter. Nowadays, though, video games can actually help with physical wellness. With innovate ways to control the game, such as the Kinect designed for the Xbox 360 that uses the player's body for the controller and the PlayStation Move that requires the player to move around with the Move controller ("Health" 1), people are getting off the couch and into the game. Even video gamers who play games for a hobby are taking a liking to games that inspire activity as they are released ("Health" 1). University Medical Center in Utrecht member Pamela Kato has proven in her studies that special made video games can help lessen pain, control diabetes, and can even aid in the prevention of asthma attacks ("Violent" 1). With new technology coming out to get players more involved, video games will provide more physical benefits.

The world can benefit from the video game industry. The positive aspects of violent video games overshadow the negative aspects, which are very minimal. People have been interacting with others through cooperation and multiplayer gameplay. Video game players and video game companies have been using the popularity of video games to improve the world, and many mental and physical benefits can come from video games. The key to enjoying video games is moderation.