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Do Video Games Make you Dumber?

Despite video games’ growing popularity, there remains a vocal group of people who insist that playing video games is bad for mental health, especially for developing minds.  The reasoning stretches every imaginable angle: violence, sex, drugs, delinquency, and just overall evil. Video games have been around for a while but they have only recently begun to enter mainstream consciousness to the level of movies and music. The root of the criticism directed at video games is that they mimic real life and can make it difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality, especially problematic if the games contain unsavory elements like the ones listed above.

Is this really a problem? After all, every medium of art incorporates elements from the dark side of human nature, but they didn’t cause anyone to think that it was okay to do it after reading,watching, or listening to it. Of course, video games have a huge distinction from previous forms of art, they are interactive and require active participation from the audience. Critics argue that this causes more cases of “life imitating art” than before. This seems to make sense but what they tend to overlook is that there are consequences for negative actions in both video games and in real life. Even if the consequences in a video game seem to encourage bad behavior, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that it doesn’t apply to real life. Cases of “video-game induced violence” tend to involve other pre-existing factors like anger issues or delusion.

What about the argument that video games are mindless entertainment and decrease intelligence? We’ve all heard about video gaming recluse who lost his/her scholarship because couldn’t tear themselves away from the screen. Again, the problem here lies not in the video game itself, but with the gamer. The constant desire to escape reality is a symptom of larger problems and could just as easily lead to drug abuse or gambling addiction. In fact, video game addiction is slowly being recognized as a treatable condition, but at least it’s less destructive than the other forms of escape.

Lastly, what about for young children with developing minds? Surely they shouldn’t even look at a video game until later right? Wrong, video games can be just as beneficial to them as Sesame Street, an award-winning educational TV program. After all, the interactive element of video games can immerse and reinforce numbers and letters being taught just like Sesame Street does. Furthermore, video games can encourage exploration and discovery in a way that isn’t possible in other forms of media or in real life. By providing a safe place to make mistakes, learn from them, and formulate their own theories; video games can engage developing minds in unimaginable ways.

All this isn’t to say that video games are completely harmless, but like all things must be monitored and used in moderation. With the advancement of technology blurring the distinction between “video games” and reality, they can become a valuable tool for training, for example flight simulators for pilots. Although nothing will truly take the place of the real thing, at least you can restart the level if you crash!

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