Is the game controlling you or are you the controller?

Sophomore Anthony Holubecki plays video games often, whether it be on his phone or on the television. Just like any teen, he plays video games at school, after school and on the weekends when he’s bored or with friends.

Although Holubecki spends time playing video games, he never fails to get his homework completed or miss a baseball practice.

“I think gaming is a way to have fun,” Holubecki said.

Even though a game of Flappy Bird or Candy Crush can be amusing, is this generation really paying attention to the effects that video games can cause?

Despite common belief, games are proving to have more positive outcomes than expected.

Still, scientists and many parents are concerned that gaming seems to cause a number of negative problems.

A recent study, conducted Pew Internet & American Life Project, 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls play video games on a regular basis.

As the numbers rise, this generation is faced with deciding if video games should be ignored or if actions should be taken against them.

In a national Harris Poll survey of 1,178 American youths (ages 8-18), ISU Assistant Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile found nearly one in 10 of the gamers (8.5 percent) were pathological players.

“I think video game addiction can become a serious issue, there is a psychological component to addiction and when the player enjoys the virtual life more than his or her own real life issues can arise,” high school health teacher Kristyn Crawford said.

Addiction to video games is becoming a bigger issue as technology advances, creating more simulating “escape” for gamers.

Although an “escape” from reality is fun for a gamer, too much of this is proven to lead to dangerous obsessions.

As games become more interactive and realistic through graphic enhancement, the virtual experience will become even more stimulating and captivating.

Gamers can enter a trancelike state where they lose track of time and see themselves in the game.

Increasing interactive capacity with the game and other players enhances this illusion. This subsequently increases the appeal and the addictive potential of the game.

“If any addict is using their drug of choice, including gaming, as a means to escape or avoid reality, their emotional development is stunted — they are not dealing with problems and issues and growing in maturity,” licensed clinical social worker David Rennard said.

If an addiction really takes hold when someone is 13 years old, they will continue to operate as an adult with the emotional capacity of a 13 year-old,” Rennard said.

Rennard knows firsthand what this addiction can do to someone.

When a gamer is addicted to video games they will experience symptoms that a drug addict would deal with. These symptoms include increasing isolation and irritability.

As with any addiction, the person’s thinking becomes distorted. This change in the thinking process is referred to as “stinking thinking” in AA and other recovery groups.

Shifts in their priorities dealing with school work, family and friends will occur. Sometimes, students will zone out during class, fantasizing about game play they will do after school.

“Some of my patients have reported spending more than 55 hours per week online,” Rennard said.

Their need to play the game overrides reason. Gaming can become especially dangerous as it alters the mind in an aggressive way.

A young teen, Kendall Anderson, let video games become all too real as he went on a rampage and killed his mother. The 16-year old let video games ruin his life after an arguement with his mother resulted in her taking away his game console.

Before he realized what he was doing, Anderson murdered his mother using a claw hammer by brutally striking her 20 times as she slept.

In addition to the long list of effects are video games causing lack of sleep. As more time is spent playing these games, a person will be more likely to stay up late.

“In my professional experience, I’ve had students come into my office wanting to take a nap because they’ve stayed up the night before playing video games,” Kaneland High School nurse Barb Giese said.

A small new study has found that video game-playing teens were able to get a good night’s rest as long as they played no more than 60 minutes immediately before bedtime.




The negative results gaming have vary from affecting sleep cycles to relationships with family and friends. But despite common misconceptions, gaming can creat positive outcomes too.

For example, in Illinois, East Alton Middle School made sure to encourage interactive video games by having students participate in Nintendo Wii games. The idea was created to boost physical activity and decrease obesity rates in Illinois.

“If content is chosen wisely, video games can actually enhance some skills. But overall, the research has demonstrated that they’re far more powerful teaching tools than we imagined. But the power can be both good and bad,” Gentile said.

Part of Gentile’s research shows that if players practice the learning skills of analysis, synthesis, evaluation and application in a game setting, they should become better at those skills.

Fortunately, more educational games are being created nowadays to help all types of people. Games can be used as a teaching tool, however it’s uncommon for gamers to freely choose an educational game over a shooter game.

Even if the game isn’t educational, research showes that even the most action-packed video games can improve certain skills.

Scientists have found that games involving aiming or shooting on a screen at a target can actually increase a person’s ability to see objects in a twilight vision, which is associated with driving at night.

Recently, research tested the contrast sensitivity of a group of people who regularly played action video games, such as Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty, where the player has to shoot at virtual targets.

They found the group’s ability to detect different shades of grey was 58 percent better on average than people who had not played these games.

Playing action video games can train a player’s brain to process visual information much more efficiently. These positive result can last up to several months, even after a person has quit gaming.

Improving vision is not the only positive effect games have. The University of Rochester in New York conducted a study that showed people who play action-based video and computer games make decisions about 25 percent faster than others without sacrificing the accuracy of their choices.

Furthermore, video games positively affect concentration abilities.

The study by University of Rochester researchers Daphne Bavelier and C. Shawn Green on the first-person shooter game “Unreal Tournament” found that players improved their perceptual and attention skills by playing that game.

This is just one of the many studies that show there are improvements in attention skills. Gamers have to pay attention to a string of events in a game, which requires concentration and critical-thinking abilities. Later in life these gamers face situations that need these types of skills to guide them.

Gaming can also produce an overall increase in hand-eye coordination because while playing a video game, people have to focus on the screen at the same time as using a remote controller to complete actions.

As many people might believe, video games do have negative results, but contrary to these beliefs, games can have positive outcomes as well. These include an increases in vision, concentration and hand-eye coordination.

Not all video games are as bad as they are assumed to be. Looking at the facts, video games are hard to put into a good or bad category because they can be used for both.

It all depends on the frequency of use and content of the games.

Teens like Holubecki are using video games harmlessly and purely for fun, yet somtimes gaming can get out of hand.

As this generation advances into more technology, there are bigger risks to the effects these games can cause. People will continue to look for that vacation from reality but when is it considered too much?

“I believe video games are harmless and it help teens to enjoy themselves,” Holubecki said.

With the negatives, always come positives, but hopefully our world will always find ways to use video games for the better.