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An Individualized Approach to Video Games

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    As a mother of two very different boys, my ideas of how the world works and how it should work is probably different than most parents. I have one son who can play a video game and go about a normal life, and another who seems hopelessly addicted and will lie and cheat to get on the game system. This set of circumstances got me thinking, if I have two vastly different children who I know were raised in a very similar fashion, is it the games or the children, or is this just an overpublished topic that can not be generalized. Many people look to cites like PBS to find information on how to best raise their children and they will likely find articles that say that they “did comprehensive review of every study… and the results show that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, and physical arousal (Keim).”

    Like many parents I read these articles and I am worried that my children will become violent, start cussing, become addicted, or develop a mental illness such as anxiety or depression. The very first violent video games were what were know as 8-bit graphic games, some of those would not be considered violent today, such as Pacman and Space Invaders (Porter 422). In the early 1990’s 16-bit graphics were developed, only then was the depiction of blood and more realistic depiction of killings possible (Porter 422). It was not until the columbine shooters said it was the game “Doom” that prompted them to perform the massacre (Porter 433). Since then much of the research into video game outcomes has been on only the negative effects of gaming (Porter 433; Kovess-Masfety 349; Adachi 202; De Simone 149) only recently have researchers began to define what positive outcomes could come out of responsible video gaming (Adachi 202).

    I feel that this topic is far too broad to decide whether video games are good or bad for all children. In the past we may have been getting information that was skewed in some way to make us believe an agenda. I argue that you must take it on a child by child basis and as a parent you must take the time to evaluate the positive and the negative effects video games may have on your child as well as the sources where we are getting information.

    Over the last couple of years there have been numerous studies done to prove that video gaming, when done responsibly even with violence and antisocial behavior in game (Adachi, Kovess-Masfety, De Simone), can have a positive effect on young children. J.J. De Simone who is a Data Scientist, Statistical Analyst, and an Educator writes that “Several genres revealed positive associations with in-game prosocial actions, learning about civics, and witnessing and/or practicing antisocial behaviors while gaming. Specifically, the role-playing genre… (149). In his essay De Simone studied the research From the Pew institute and conducted his own study to conclude that children may learn prosocial behaviors, such as sharing, helping ideas and items from the commonly violent first- person shooter (FPS) and role-playing games (RPG) (158).

    Kovess-Mastefy uses a study conducted by The School Children Mental Health Europe to address other possible positive youth outcomes such as higher competency in reading, mathematics, and spelling…. Which was associated with higher video game usage (354). So, with this information we see that when using gaming in a responsible way, that is, not used in excess and does not interfere with the child’s natural interactions, and with the right amount of parental monitoring, there are many possible positive outcomes from the use of video games… Such as cooperation, sharing of information, and sharing in-game items, improved reading and math skills.

    There are many more positive outcomes that could come from responsible video-gaming. Well-being and motivation are looked at through the lens of self-determination theory (STD) (Adachi 203). Three basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) can improve a child’s sense of well-being, through choosing actions in games (autonomy), feeling capable of achieving in games tasks (competence), and playing games with others (relatedness) (Adachi 203) because some video games require players to stop and examine their situation and consider different strategies before continuing players improve their problem-solving skills, and exposure to the challenges in-game may lead to greater persistence over time (Adachi 204).

    Another concern many have expressed is the thought that video gaming is a passive activity where children just sit there for long periods, the release of such games as Wii Sports and Pokémon Go help to prove that not all gaming is passive (Adachi 206). It has also been shown that when children play video games related to sports, they are more likely to be interested in real life sports because they may experience the thrill of victory, gain knowledge or strategies related to sports, and have fun playing them… and this can raise their self-esteem in sports play (Adachi 206). Deciding what is the best course to take with our children can be a daunting task. Each child is different and for each of them we must make our decision based on their specific needs instead of simply suggesting that there are only positive or negative outcomes for each activity. Why is all this information being ignored and only the negative making the evening news? One possible answer is the world craves the negative information, we are searching for a scapegoat. Someone outside ourselves to blame for our shortcomings.

    Recently, The World Health Organization recognized “gaming disorder” as a diagnosable condition (Cameron). To be classified as having gaming disorder patients must exhibit at least five of the nine symptoms… Such as, withdrawal symptoms when gaming is taken away, not being able to play less, giving up other activities and continuing despite problems (Cameron). Gaming disorder can lead to negative mental health consequences such as depression, anxiety, and social phobia, they claim that calling it a disorder will call attention to the disorder and gather funding to research the subject (Liau 303). While others say that playing video games may cause violent behavior, it is possible that children predisposed to violent behavior pick violent video games to begin with (Porter, 424). Protective factors can help your child if they find themselves obsessing over the latest video game, such as, emotional awareness, emotional regulation, goal setting, social competence, familial factors such as parent-child bond, and a warm family environment (Liau 305). When we consider that this is a possible outcome, we must then study our own child to gage their maturity and ability to self-regulate in the virtual world.

    So why is there so much negative press about video game violence causing children to act in ways that are uncommon and even violent? All too often in the event of a great tragedy people look in uncommon places to lay some blame. President Donald Trump said after the Parkland, Florida shooting ‘I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts (Loria).” They see gun violence in a video game commonly played by many children and adults and use this to crack down in other areas such as gun control promising funding to research the effects of video game violence on our youth, only to spend that money on the budget for gun control (Loria).

    When we are faced with the daunting task of deciding what is wrong or right for our children it can be overwhelming. We must take into consideration that the world is changing. In an interview with David Thomas, who teaches critical video game theory at the University of Colorado, says “We live in a media-rich world, and video games are part of that diet,’ he says. ‘Kids are incredibly savvy these days. But being children, they still need guidance. Games can be beneficial to children as a modern form of media, albeit one that they need to learn how to use, cope with, contextualize and manage (Steinberg).’ We cannot listen to politicians or even some of the biggest news cites out there anymore to deduce what is best for our children.

    We must get involved in the conversation and do the research into not only the games themselves but the reason why these games are being targeted as only being bad. When I take into consideration what I learned from doing the research I find that this topic is far too diverse to label as solely good or bad. I implore you to get out and play the games, research the positives and negatives as well as who is saying what about those games. No two children are alike and the outcomes of possible violence in video games is not a static. It truly does depend on the child and the video game offered to the children. We cannot ignore how video gaming helps our children and simply decide that they should never play if they do not exhibit any pre-existing issues that would make them susceptible to becoming “addicted” or violent.

    Work Cited

    1. Adachi, Paul J. C., and Teena Willoughby. “The Link Between Playing Video Games and Positive Youth Outcomes.” Child Development Perspectives, vol. 11, no. 3, Sept. 2017, pp. 202–206. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/cdep.12232.
    2. De Simone, J. J. “What Is Good Can Also Be Bad: The Prosocial and Antisocial In-Game Behaviors of Young Video Game Players.” Atlantic Journal of Communication, vol. 21, no. 3, July 2013, pp. 149–163. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15456870.2013.801756.
    3. De Simone, J.J. (n.d.) Posts [LinkedIn page]. Retrieved October 10, 2018 from
    4. Keim, Brandon. “What Science Knows About Video Games and Violence.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 28 Feb. 2013,
    5. Kovess-Masfety, Viviane, et al. “Is Time Spent Playing Video Games Associated with Mental Health, Cognitive and Social Skills in Young Children?” Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 51, no. 3, Mar. 2016, pp. 349–357. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s00127-016-1179-6.
    6. Liau, Albert K., et al. “Pathological Video-Gaming among Youth: A Prospective Study Examining Dynamic Protective Factors.” Addiction Research & Theory, vol. 23, no. 4, Aug. 2015, pp. 301–308. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3109/16066359.2014.987759.
    7. Loria, Kevin. “How Playing Video Games Affects Your Body and Brain.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 19 June 2018,
    8. Porter, Guy, and Vladan Starcevic. “Are Violent Video Games Harmful?” Australasian Psychiatry, vol. 15, no. 5, Oct. 2007, pp. 422–426. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/10398560701463343.
    9. Rogers, Cameren. “WHO Calls ‘Gaming Disorder’ Mental Health Condition.” WebMD, WebMD, 20 June 2018,
    10. Steinberg, Scott. “Why Does the Media Still Think Video Games Are Bad for Kids?” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 July 2010,

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