Most parents abhor it; a son or, almost worse, a daughter who spends much of his or her free time playing video games. The blood is just not splashing off the screen and the youngsters prefer to go on until late at night. Parents with younger children are proud to talk about the limited ‘screening time’ they allow their offspring.
The appeal of video games is strong. Almost all children and young people play video games and spend about two hours a day on this. Which increases with the age of the young. This is not surprising considering the huge industry that works day and night to make video games as motivating as possible. Even many adults who claim not to play video games spend a few relaxing minutes here and there on Candy Crush or have maintained a virtual farm on Facebook for years.
How do video games affect behavior?
Not that aggressive
The question of whether video games are really that bad has been asked for a long time and often gets conflicting answers. Popular media often report research into game addictions and violent consequences of playing video games. Scientific research provides a somewhat more nuanced picture. Research into the effects of video games on aggression seems to show that it is at most small effects, and although there is a small group of problematic gamers (four percent of young adolescents; Van Rooij & Schoenmakers, 2013), this appears to be primarily reserved for a very specific type of video game, namely Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) in which you play together with other players in an online virtual world that exists independently of you such as the Rise of Kingdoms (read reviews and guide here – rise of kingdoms guide).
The type of game seems, therefore, not illogical, essential for the influence that can be expected. Research into video games often involves a comparison with food: you expect different health effects from an apple than from a bag of chips, and the same applies to different types of video games.
Gaming influences social behavior
Hardly any research has yet been done into the positive effects of video games, although a rising trend is visible. Cognitive benefits, such as spatial insight, have been identified several times. In addition, there is research that shows that video games can promote prosocial behavior (for example, helping others). This also applies to aggressive video games, provided that they are played cooperatively.
It is not illogical that positive skills can be practiced in video games. Just like traditional games, video games offer the opportunity to try out many behavioral options. In real life, children are more likely to apply behavior to which they expect positive responses. On the other hand, behavior that children know is actually not allowed is often only applied within the video game.
In addition to offering the opportunity to try out new behavioral options, video games also offer a highly motivating and optimal learning environment. Success within video games is only rewarded irregularly, a reward scheme that science has determined has the best motivation. In addition, dynamic adjustment of the level of difficulty to the skills of the player ensures an optimal learning environment. When the challenge of the game is just above the level of the player, he experiences the very pleasant flow- feeling in which he is completely absorbed in the game. Interestingly, this sweet spot is also known as the zone of proximal development, or the area in which the learning output is optimal. Video games are therefore regularly used within education and healthcare.
Also good for mental health
However, video games are still largely lacking in mental health care. Yet it is precisely there that the potential of video games is great; Skills that underlie good mental health can be trained in video games without getting bogged down in excessive didactics. Take perseverance, for example, if one initially fails; a very useful skill that is trained countless times in almost every video game.
In addition, many intense emotions within video games, where one can think of pleasure and frustration as well as sadness and anxiety, offer a starting point for practicing emotion regulation skills, for example.
That mental health and video game science are still in its infancy is a blessing as well as an obstacle. When developing and researching video games in mental health, one can pre-eminently learn from the mistakes made in educational games.
In addition to thorough research into effectiveness, the essence of video games must not be forgotten. A major part of the power of video games is that they are so fun and motivating. An arithmetic exercise in a game environment is exactly that and no longer. A video game in which you learn to regulate your emotions in addition to having a lot of fun is just a super fun game. Super fun for the youngsters, but also for their parents and society.