If your mother ever told you that sitting too close to the TV will ruin your eyesight, you’re already aware of one of the most pervasive urban legends about the so-called dangers of technology. Video games have a fair share of false information circulating about them, too. We’ve put together a list of three of the biggest lies about video games to help clear up some of the misconceptions.
1. Playing video games leads to violence
The gist of this whopper is that playing violent video games can lead to violence or aggressive behavior in young people. Skeptical? You’re not alone. This one has circulated a bit, partially due to the way the media portrays video games and partially due to some pseudo-scientific research studies.
There are two major problems with accepting this as gospel, though: 1) Much of the research linking violence to video games found mixed results, meaning the researchers didn’t come to a solid conclusion; and 2) Many of the studies were later criticized by other researchers as having poor research methods.
A number of studies conducted over the past several years have found no link between violent video games and violent behavior in the real world. A Harvard article summarizes some of the key research and also points out crime rates have been decreasing since 1996, while video game popularity has been on the rise.
2. Playing video games isolates you from friends
This tall tale relies on the assumption that gamers exist in basements, playing solitary games all the time. How this fib flourished is a bit of a mystery, considering console systems as far back as the Atari 2600 had multiplayer games.
According to a PBS article, 60 percent of regular gamers play with their friends. Plus, the social aspect of gaming has evolved since the Atari. These days, it can go even further.
You’re not limited to your circle of friends to play with anymore. Playing online lets you enjoy video games with people from all over the world. Popular voice chat programs like Mumble and Ventrilo even allow deep, real-time communication between gaming friends.
Even if you’re not into voice chatting, there are entire online communities for you to interact with. Many game developers have their own thriving communities on their forums. Video games have also been known to spawn fan-made sites dedicated to writing stories, sharing experiences and creating artwork based around their favorite game.
Besides, even if you don’t like social gaming, there is certainly nothing wrong with having a hobby all to yourself!
3. Playing video games is bad for your brain
This myth comes from viewing games as merely a waste of time or mindless entertainment. Don’t worry, playing video games won’t hurt your IQ. In fact, according to an ABC article, video games may actually make you smarter! So feel free to reward yourself after a night of studying with a puzzle or Hidden Object game!
Improving our video gaming skills enhances a type of thinking called “fluid intelligence,” which is the ability to think about a given situation and adapt accordingly. Research suggests playing video games improves your ability to analyze, allowing you to think about and react to new situations faster. There’s a reason why many firefighters, soldiers, pilots, surgeons, truck drivers, traffic controllers and train conductors use video “simulators” to hone their skills and practice emergency situations in clinical environments. The truth is, these type of games save lives.
Video games are far from mindless entertainment. Although the objective of most is primarily to entertain (and there is nothing wrong with that!), video games have been utilized to treat a number of mental health issues, as well.
In 2011, one video game even helped solve a scientific puzzle that had baffled researchers for years! Foldit, an online puzzle solving game, was originally designed for research. The complex puzzles challenged gamers to piece together the way proteins fold. According to a Scientific American article, protein folding is “one of the hardest and most expensive problems in biology today.”
How long did it take a large group of gamers to solve a problem that had baffled researchers and supercomputers for a decade? Three weeks!