Are video games screwing kids up?



This is a post I made in response to the following Facebook post and comments




Umm. I feel like I gotta hop in and support video games, pop culture, and technology for a moment (judging from my history of long-windedness, it may be a long moment lol).

Seems like there's some critiques of these things, video games in particular, that are coming from people who only pay attention to them in a peripheral sorta way — and jumping to conclusions due to hearsay (usually by others who're also unversed in that culture), guesswork, and the need for easy scapegoats for complex problems. I know how absurd and extreme it is to compare this to something as dangerous as racism, but both do appear to stem from a similar way of problem solving and non-critical thinking. Because both involve being unhappy with the direction of society and then perpetuating an ill-informed opinion about an entire group or culture that you aren't very familiar with (the equivalent group I mean is games themselves, not gamers), zoning in on what you perceive is the negative of that group, and jumping to a conclusion that "they're to blame" because of this outsider way of thinking. This same kinda cultural scapegoating on why the youth is ruined has been going on sense beatniks and rock and roll music in the 50s, to comic books, to NWA and Grand Theft Auto in the 1990s and 2000s. Every generation thinks the youth is more corrupt and deplorable than the last, and they try to zero in on whatever they can in order to make sense of it. Probably because the human mind is made so uncomfortable by encountering dilemmas that it doesn't have solutions to (there have been several scientific studies on this weird thing about people, showing how suceptible we are to jumping to even the wildest conclusions because of our genetic need to have an answer of some sort, even a bad answer, when faced with "an unknown" — this likely plays a big role in the tendency to believe in the supernatural and conspiracies).

But anywho, back to games. They aren't quite as negative as people make them out to be. The vast majority are narrative-driven. They're stories where you play as one of the characters. Like most stories, they're about good guys and bad guys. You may have to kill the bad guys much of the time, but that's hardly pushing immorality on kids. Most of the games, in fact, punish you for making immoral decisions. They actually penalize you for being immoral (for killing friendlies or shooting the hostage instead of the murderer who's captured her, for stealing, lying, etc.). These "morality bars" are commonplace on the most popular games. Games by the popular Telltale developers have it so that good and bad decisions act as the primary component to their games; if you "do the wrong thing" on those (make the immoral choice) it screws up your entire story. This trend of "playing the good guy in order to get the better story" is popular in tons of games and has been for a long time (I just chose this one developer because they do it so well and are so popular).

That aside, studies also tend to show that games not only don't screw you up, but they actually help nurture brains into having better memories, reaction-times, problem-solving skills, and several other benefits that I can't remember from the top of my head lol. I don't think it's been studied extensively, but from what little they've done this has been found — and for anyone who's played games, I doubt it's a surprising find.

Even if this stuff wasn't so, however, it still seems like a stretch to claim that games are somehow to root of kids being rude, mean or violent. Movies or TV either, for that matter (reality TV aside, most of this media, even sitcoms, show parables that promote liberal ideals and acceptance of others, not to mention they can be entertaining introductions to historical events and figures, a window into different people and cultures they'd never find in their immediate environment, and, just like books, they help expand vocabulary). It's no surprise that as technology has expanded, IQ has as well. Just take a look at the nerdiest people around, the ones raised on not just bits and pieces of video games, TV, and movies, but who gulped them down like ravenous media gluttons. Maybe it's not coincidence that they're some of the most intelligent, interesting, and coolest people you'll meet? Heck, who has time and money to be a druggy or to go out causing trouble when you spend all cash and boredom on media? The most dangerous thing about these arts are their tendency to isolate you from people and make you an introvert. Maybe introversion, and the isolation that could come from it, could lead to contempt toward others?

I don't know why kids would be any worse now than before (or even if they actually are morally worse, or if it's just more advertised for all to see now). But if cynicism IS rising, perhaps the targets for blame shouldn't be the arts or technology as much as it should be the news and a lack of critical thinking skills. The former being driven by a greedy want for ratings and web traffic to such a point that they only report on the most sensationalized, scary, negative, and divisive things they can find (excitement, suspense, and fear equals viewers). Unlike with fiction, there's no "right" or "wrong" spelled out there. Instead, you have two different sides screaming two different things and both vehemently claiming to be right — in turn, making their respective viewers perpetually combative with each other. This real-life negativity and combativeness, which leaks onto social media, family dinners, and everywhere else, seems to do nothing more than normalize rudeness, hate, cynicism, arguing, and a culture of debating to win as oppose to debating in order to achieve an ultimate truth. Personally, I'd be willing to bet a little news junky would be a much less pleasant kid to hang around than a little video game nerd.

That's just my stream of consciousness thoughts on the matter, of course. I don't have any special insight. Also, I'm a media nerd, so maybe I'm just biased. I don't know.