I can remember how excited I was to open my present on Christmas morning to find out that my parents had bought me a Playstation. The excitement and the possibilities that lay within that ugly looking grey box filled my boyhood heart with wonder! It was in the mid to late 90’s and I was playing games like Croc (Legend of the Gobbos), Gex 3D (Enter the Gecko), Tomb Raider and MediEvil. For a long time before this point many of my childhood friends had been into video gaming and a large portion (not all I might add) was spent in front of a Master System or a SNES where we played retro games that teased our young imaginations whilst we ate monster munch crisps and tried to beat each others scores. Video games were alot different when I was growing up and in this current generation there is much more emphasis on the games looking real and cinematic. My parents put alot of trust in me and the games that I played. I was never deprived of playing Grand Theft Auto when I was growing up because my parents knew that whilst I was inside playing on that game, I wasn’t outside the house causing mischief. There would be the odd occasion where I would compulsively play a game like Resident Evil 2 for an entire day but I always had other hobbies like Bike riding, learning to play the guitar and drawing. My parents did encourage me to have an active lifestyle away from my games console and this was incredibly important. There was something lovely about being comfortable in your warm house whilst the rain fell heavily outside, and you were just playing a great game. You often see on the news some child does something outrageous and then the news will have its moment to say how video games are to blame and that a particular game (normally GTA) is solely responsible!. I do believe that Video Games could drive someone to do something outlandish, especially a child who is still learning about the world, but video games are not the sole factor. I know that games are very entertaining but I do wonder what sort of negative effects they might be having on the human psyche. There is someone I know who lives near me in their early 20’s and ALL they do is sit at home and play video games. They have no other interests except for going to work to pay for the next upcoming game. On gorgeous sunny days he can be seen with the blinds closed in his room staring at a screen with a stupid headset on talking to all the other outcasts from across the world. It would be very easy to point a finger at those people, but when you think about it the key word is safety. Most of these recluses have the safety that when they are in the game world they never have to worry about violence because none of it is real. There is no fear about self awareness because you can be whoever you want to be. By today’s standards of gaming you can create characters of your own right down to the style of hair and eyebrow ridges. There is the obvious safety of having a constant opportunity to succeed, but the biggest safety of all is in knowing that if things are not going your way you can hit the off button, try again another time or never play again. In life we do not have the choice to hit the off button during difficult situations. We can’t all be the super hero with unrealistic biceps and an interesting back story. I do understand why so many people like to play games because they can have all the excitement of being in explosive social situations without any risk. The lust for gaming is best portrayed in the largely unknown James Cameron film Strange Days (1995) in which a unique piece of military equipment is leaked to the black market allowing people to take part in fully-immersive virtual reality where being apart of it is like being alive. The product attracts many rich bankers who would pay thousands just to experience sick and twisted fantasies.
Surely playing video games is just the same as watching regular TV except that you are stimulating your mind instead by putting it through scenarios alongside problem solving? perhaps this is why there is so little evidence of video games having the major impairment on young minds as the media would hope it would. In an article from last year on how video gaming effects the mind when dreaming a psychologist Jayne Gackenbach wrote:
“The major parallel between gaming and dreaming is that, in both instances, you’re in an alternate reality, whether a biological construct or a technological one,” she says. “It’s interesting to think about how these alternate realities translate to waking consciousness, when you are actually reacting to inputs from the real world.”
I agree that ever since I have had video gaming as a part of my life I have rarely had a bad dream. The closest I ever came to having a bad dream is an anxiety dream such as being late for work or common dreams like when your father breast feeds you at the tender age of 7 dressed in a clown costume. You attempt to cry and is greeted with complete silence. The only sound that can be heard is the chains handing from the ceiling clinking together and the drone of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. (That was sarcasm by the way).
But seriously I do think that playing video games on a daily basis is not harmful, but it is when you are a complete recluse, and have no social interactions at all, then there is a problem! The person I mentioned previously was at risk of being detached from society all together. It is painful watching him in social situations but it is clear that he is making a conscious effort to get out and do things which are more fulfilling.
Just like everything we do in life the key is having balance and “taking everything in moderation” which I hate saying because it seems like such a parental thing to say. Video games are fun and just another form of entertainment and I would recommend for anyone at any age to try it!