Are Video Games Good Or Bad For Society? [We Ask You]

We Ask You   Are Video Games Good Or Bad For Society? [We Ask You]Video games have now been with us for more than 40 years, and in that time they’ve evolved from simple concepts brought forth by muddy visuals (such as the Atari classics) to complex and involving gameplay made real by detailed visuals (such as the best games of 2012). In recent years they’ve also grown from niche hobby to mainstream fodder, especially with the emergence of casual games, and consequently casual gamers.

Strangely, video games have always been a source of controversy. In the early days it was parents worrying about kids spending all their money in arcades, and now it’s a whole range of issues which we’ll be outlining below. It’s high time we, and by that I mean both gamers and non-gamers alike, have a serious, even-tempered debate about the effect video games are having on society. If any. Which is the subject of this week’s We Ask You.

This Week’s Question…

We want to know, Are Video Games Good Or Bad For Society? On the surface this is a simple question with only two possible answers. But that’s not how we want to play this. Think long and hard about what effect you feel video games are having on individuals, relationships, and society as a whole. To help kick-start your gray matter, let’s look at some common beliefs about video games.

old arcade game cabinets   Are Video Games Good Or Bad For Society? [We Ask You]

Video games are blamed for encouraging real-life violence, specifically gun crimes where one person goes on a rampage. They’re blamed for promoting inactivity among children, which will inevitably lead to obesity. And they’re blamed for dumbing down society, as most youngsters would rather play the latest Call Of Duty than read a book.

They’re the negatives most people opposed to video games will spout whether asked to or not. But there are also positives. Video games can improve hand-to-eye coordination. They can help children learn new skills, such as problem-solving and those associated with cognition. And competing against others can help foster social skills against different types of online gamer.

Those short lists represent merely a soupçon of the pluses and minuses attributed to video games. And it’s time to see which side of the fence the MakeUseOf readership sits on. Do you believe video games are good or bad for society as a whole? Can the blame for any of the current ills of the world be leveled at video games? Are there any changes you’d like to see made within the industry? If so, what are they?

Don’t just answer with “Good” or “Bad,” instead let us know the reasons behind your thoughts, whether they are purely instinctual or keenly objective.

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen for the coveted Comment Of The Week, getting their name up in lights, the respect of other readers, and 150 MakeUseOf points to use for MakeUseOf Rewards. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

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57 Comments -

Akhil Kumar

I am a non-gamer. But I do play some games like CS with my friends. Playing video-games sometimes is an easy confidence booster, you can accomplish whatever you think of. There is a great amount of team work in the multiplayer mode. The age of Empires is like a chess game for me, you use your brains, plan and execute. The only difference is that AoE is more fun. So on a medium level, games are good.

Scott Hilderbran

Exactly, they keep me stimulated without effecting me on a large scale.

Richard Seese

Q: Do you believe video games are good or bad for society as a whole?
A: They are absolutely good. Most individuals nowadays seek video games as a temporary escape from the outside world. They give us adventures just like a book. They give us imagination, just like a book. They give us inspiration, just like art.

For people with disabilities, it is a way to reach out to others, while having fun (instead of wasting away on Facebook, or worse, alone). For people with social anxiety issues, it allows them to interact with others who have common goals. For the competitors in us, it allows us to shine, and work to be the best.

Q: Can the blame for any of the current ills of the world be leveled at video games?
A: Absolutely not. Look at other countries around the world that have the same games as us Americans. Look at their statistics for murders. The problem with America today, is that it’s such a melting pot, with zero responsibility for ones actions. If someone is mentally ill, should they be allowed to own a gun? No. On the same token, should someone mentally ill have access to violent video games? Probably not, depending on the type of illness. Whose responsibility is it, to ensure that’s enforced? Not the manufacturer. Not the retail store that sold the game. The parents or loved ones around someone who has issues coping with and understanding reality.

Parents should take advantage of the game ratings, and decide what’s best for their children. Loved ones should be working with doctors, to ensure mentally ill people have the proper treatment. Human beings that are completely capable of handling reality, and are of a mature age should not have to suffer entertainment at the hands of people placing blame on anything but themselves.

Q: Are there any changes you’d like to see made within the industry?
A: Yes. They should continue to raise awareness of the issues I brought up above, and engage parents more. Sadly, the only people who will stick up for the industry, is the industry themselves. They need to continue fighting the good fight, and not back down.

Dave Parrack

Taking responsibility, whether for yourself or your kids, is the key.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I can see this as the best comment already. It stands out from the rest and very logical.

Junil Maharjan

Like everything too much of anything is bad but in moderation is really great.

Sas

every game is bad for society eccept minecraft

Dave Parrack

I can’t say I see the appeal of Minecraft. But I agree that it’s a game that cannot ever be considered bad for society.

Aditya

It is about time that everyone sees that video games is a form of media, delivering contents to the players. Replace video games with other form of media, like songs, or paintings, and we can see just how ridiculous news headlines can become. “Songs” perpetuate murder, “paintings” make you smarter, “song listening” makes you a lazy person, etc. It is the content that we have to be aware of, not the media itself, and it can be anything from a piece of song to a complete video game.

Kirby

I believe video games as a whole is good for society. I believe I’ve improved my knowledge on the English language because of playing video games. It also provides a way to enjoy and relax and not think about all the problems one is facing even for just a few short moments.

The current ills of the world DEFINITELY CANNOT be attributed to video games. Its true that some video games are indeed violent but whether or not these games exists the ills of society will still be there. Even if you don’t teach a kid to lie (much less let video games teach a kid to lie) he / she eventually learns to lie so who’s really to blame?

If there was something I could change about the industry, I’d want better and more efficient ways of filtering games specially for kids. Although game ratings are placed on the box of the game, it isn’t enough to stop underaged kids from buying the game. Still I think parents / guardians should have more accountability on this matter and not the gaming industry.

Dave Parrack

Game ratings are pretty much useless. Whether because of game shops still selling to underage people, or parents totally ignoring them.

Kirby

Totally agree with you. Case of bad parenting I guess :p

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I think moral guardians aren’t able to do their part effectively if they’re still trying to play ‘observer from the other side of the fence’. They should be actively participate in their children’s gaming life, understand the industry wholly before shouting out any protest. Sometimes they’re just plain ridiculous, like those who ban books/films/games solely based on what they heard.

Tahmid

I believe it’s probable that most people wouldn’t be influenced into committing crimes because of video games. As far as I know there isn’t any scientific to support the claim that video games will make you violent. But I can see where people are coming from that might think there *may* be a correlation from a logical standpoint. However I don’t like going around and preaching this as if it were confirmed and that mentally ill people who can’t distinguish the difference what’s belongs in a game and in real life.

I don’t think video games are “bad” or that “mentally ill” people are the problem (a person and an illness are not synonymous). In fact video games are one of my favorite hobbies and I personally do fall into the category regarding mental illness so I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite and call myself a bad person. My best answer to make a “fault” on something or someone who be that there would probably be a lot of contributing factors into what makes someone do something violent so there’s not one identifiable cause.

I think what’s needed is for people to be able to discuss these unspeakable topics like politics where reasonable discussions and criticisms *always* gets drowned out by bickering, name-calling, and ignorance and insensitivity to each other. Without that happening I think we’ll always be in this stalemate where we don’t know where to go from here and nothing ever gets done.

Dave Parrack

There have been lots of studies conducted on the effects of gaming, and the results strangely seem to align with the thoughts of whoever commissioned it. Coincidence?

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Definitely not. We see what we want to see, remember?

Dave Parrack

That’s an unfortunate truth of human beings. Unless you’re completely open-minded about things you’ll always see things the way you want to rather than the way they actually are.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Yeah. At the end none of the research is ‘truly scientific’ due to prescribed bias.

Keefe Kingston

Hmmm…well, i believe they’re good. I can remember that as a child, i played games from Humongous Entertainment, not to mention various other educational games that taught me deductive thinking, words, and other stuff. Remember Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I loved playing that game! It helped teach me of other parts of the world, and of different cultures outside my own. SO video games can be education. However, now that i’m older (while i sometimes enjoy playing some of the games from my childhood for nostalgia’s sake), i tend to play more mature games, like Skyrim or Halo. However, then i also enjoy games like Minecraft, and Star Trek Online. One would argue that playing violent video games makes you violent, which may be true depending on who the person is. I however do play violent video games sometimes, yet that doesn’t make me violent. If anything, we as humans have a tendency for violence. I believe that video games actually creates a controlled environment, in which that violence can safely be released, without actually harming anyone. So I think that video games are good for society. They help educate, release steam, provide entertainment, and while some might say it makes one anti-social, for me it actually gives me something to talk about!

Dave Parrack

Thanks for your contribution. FWIW I play violent games all the time and yet run away from the first sign of trouble. I struggle to see the correlation.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Same here. I kill a lot in game, but I’ve never had the desire to take anyone’s life. I think it has to do with someone’s psychological condition.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Humongous! I played PuttPutt and Pajama Sam in my primary school. They’re good games. Shame that Humongous went out of business.
I agree. I think sometimes those caught for violent act just try to blame something so they’re not deemed totally responsible for the act. Like suppose I’m caught for theft. I remember that game I played last night and say that I wanted to act like in that game. Newspaper blows up the news with headline ‘Teenager Tried to Steal After Playing Video Game’. Cue the controversy. Panicked moral guardians will blame the first thing they can think of.

Dave Parrack

The other things that person did before they went out stealing are never mentioned. While I don’t believe it for a second, if the same reasoning was followed to its logical conclusion then eating a big meal or going to the toilet could also conceivably be blamed for the crime.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Exactly. But none of them would make good headline, right? ;D

Jag Singh

Depends who you ask. My wife would say yes they are bad for society – but that’s maybe because I became addicted to COD, which ended up with her hiding it! But I’m sure if you ask the readers here, they’ll say no.
The violence argument doesn’t hold up. I understand games are becoming more life like, but they are just another form of fictional entertainment – like films or even books. It depends more on the person’s psychological well being and how they’ve been raised.
There is merit in that games are keeping us indoors and distracting us from focussing on our health. Particularly the kids, there is a role for games in contributing to childhood obesity.
However it’s not just down to games. It’s a symptom of the digital age we live in, where all types of distractions are just a touch away.
In summary games are just another form of entertainment, and it’s just like anything else in life, if you do too much of one thing, it’s probably bad for you.

Dave Parrack

Everything in moderation… never a truer word has been spoken.

the freshest

I believe that a video game is just a faster, tech-based format designed around a method of content delivery with vast origin of systems like books, t.v.s, the web, that allow for escape from mundane turmoil. Knowing this I could only answer as to if society differed because of said content which could only be decided on a per-game, variable filled basis so i shall not get into that, what matters is the opening of the mind to new content without it being over controlled by money hungry corporations who are willing to take things to far for the sale. To restate your question and an answer in my own words, Has content in video games helped or hindered society, imagined as up to this point in time? I would think that because everyone who plays a game is different that should be taken into account with tests on long term game use and such so ill say bad but that industry seems raw,soon to be ripe for integration into speeding not slowing humans and thus society into a better future. The right video games help every, to much belief in non-reality cant be good so it has to be balanced somehow for everyone.

Dave Parrack

Was society better before the invention of the TV, the Internet, and video games? Perhaps. there were a lot less distractions.

?Kim?

Games can be fun and I do enjoy them, but every time I hear my students talking about how many “dog tags” they have collected, or how they “shot him in the leg” or “killed him” I get a feeling of dread. The parents of these kids are at fault, because they are not following the guidelines and ratings, but in general, because of this, I’d have to say no, games are not necessarily good for society, but I’d clarify that with “violent games are not good for our youth.” Adults should be able to choose and decipher the difference; some young people can’t

Dave Parrack

Can I ask what ages are your students? Unfortunately age ratings are taken with a pinch of salt by most people.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Actually, I think sometimes adults are overreacting. We certainly know everything isn’t real, and a game is a game. We played it for fun and that’s it. I agree those children’s parents are at fault, but at the same time, I don’t believe they’d ever try to do such thing in real life. Relax.

Rubis Song

People use to say that game (violent one) reward players for simulating violent behavior, and sometime teach children that violence is an acceptable way to deal with conflicts. But as far as the issue of video game violence goes, I simply believe that those that become violent after playing video games are most likely already have an unstable mindset prior to the incident. I think that it can happen that people predisposed to violence can easily be attracted to violent entertainment. But it certainly not the game that is creating this behavior in them.
If it was the case we could have seen the same as for the television, movies or other images that are displayed on the news each and every day. So, blaming the actions of an individual on a video game is just not correct.
In fact recent research have found a wide range of cognitive, emotional and social benefits to gaming in recent years, such as the fact that gamers of all ages perform better than non-gamers on tests of attention, speed, accuracy, and multi-tasking or even that kids who spend more time playing videogames score higher on tests of creativity. Off course, when it comes to children, if they’re too young to play a mature game, don’t let them buy it or play it.
So, in my opinion over the next years, we can expect to see more and more research into how videogames positively impact our real-life skills and abilities. And I believe there will be a time when we will play not just for the fun but to become better versions of ourselves.

Dave Parrack

There are some who argue that television and movies also affect people in this way, but I agree with you that they don’t.

Video games as life-skill teaching tools? I like it.

Scott Macmillan

I believe everyone is responsible for their own actions on their computer.Some will use games responsibly and for some they will become an addiction.

steve

It’s entertainment. The same can be said about television. If you watch 8 hours of TV straight… is that any different than playing 8 hours of video games? Videogames are fine in moderation.

Dave Parrack

I could certainly make the case that watching a rolling news channel full of stories about crime and wrongdoing could be as harmful as playing video games. Strangely that link is never explored when the news channels mention that Criminal A was a gamer and that there could be a link.

Omar

Are books bad for society? Are movies? If you answer no to both then the answer to whether video games are bad for society is no. All are just forms of media and expression. I wish this question would stop being asked because the answer is obvious to anyone except those who don’t support gun legislation.

Austin Halsell

I don’t think the issue is as black and white as that though. I think the biggest difference is that books and movies are also largely considered forms of art. Can the same be said of video games? Not quite. Not to say that video games cannot be art or artistic, that is and was never their intent.

However, I do think the question is tiresome, and skirts the real issue. I think the better questions are “when, why, and how do video games negatively affect an individual?”

Dave Parrack

I think video games can be art, absolutely. Have you played Journey? Or Ico?

The question you add is part of the debate. No one has replied with a simple Yes or No, instead exploring the whys and wherefores.

Austin Halsell

I agree absolutely that video games can be art. I say as much in my first response. The difference is that literature, film, music, etc. began as art. So, when discussing artistic value, the question isn’t “Is this novel/film/song art?” it is “If this isn’t art, why not?” A video game has the admitedly harder job of answering “How is this art?” And let’s be honest, the vast majority of games are not art but solely entertainment. My point is that video games came out of a desire for entertainment, not artistic expression and because of this differentiating factor should not mindlessly be shoved together with literature, film, and other more inherently artistic media.

As for the question I add, I don’t think that is assumed in the initial question though I’m sure that’s what you intended. This may be invalid since it is only personal opinion and experience, but I find that when most people talk about “society” we neglect to remember that we are in and of society, and help dictate how “society” is affected by things. How a piece of media affects society is entirely up to how it affects each of us individually. To me, it is to easy to hide behind “society” instead of internalizing any negativity personally. I think us gamers need to ask “Are these games I play and media I consume making me a better or worse person? Are they making me more violent or more forgiving?” And once we answer and respond to that personally, society will be affected. We can’t change society. We can only change ourselves.

Scutterman

Literature, film, and music started out as pure art, but now more often than not they are purely entertainment. I would go so far as to say that the proportion of literature, film, and music that is intended as art is similar to the proportion of games which are intended as art. This makes the comparison, in today’s society, as completely valid.

I do completely agree with you about society though. I firmly believe that to improve society, all it takes is for every person to make one change to themselves to improve how they interact with other people.

Scutterman

When it comes to gun crime, I did a lot of research into the subject after the last major shooting and the only reliable conclusion I could come to was that the guns are just a symptom of a larger problem. You can take away the guns but the problem will remain and re-emerge in a different way.
This can be extended to video games; People who are encouraged to violence by games often have underlying problems. The games are just one of any number of triggers. You can try to take out all of the triggers, but you’ll be better served by identifying and treating the actual problem.

I saw a report on the TV the other day that encouraged parents not to give their children everything they wanted because it would be bad for them. I did a double-take at that, because I was so completely taken aback that it needed to be said at all. The same applies here. Anything is bad in excess. If you’re concerned about your kids playing too many games and not exercising, control the amount of time they play and take them outside to get some exercise. If your child doesn’t have a wide enough range of activities in their life, encourage them to seek variety.

If you want to see an example of deliberate blur between fiction and reality, look at the military training program. They switched to using person-shaped targets rather than round targets. This was to make the transition between shooting a target and shooting a person less of a leap. That’s tantamount to brainwashing if you ask me.

In the end, video games sell because the buyer has wants to escape from real life and enact a subconscious fantasy. If people didn’t like shooting other people in the games, the games wouldn’t sell. This implies that games are a tool for existing desire, and can’t be blamed for the outcome. People need to take responsibility for themselves and for society, rather than using excuses and scapegoats.

Scutterman

Okay, it looks like it put one of my comments in the wrong place. The second comment was meant to be a comment on the article, not a reply.

Dave Parrack

Good comeback. You’ve managed to at least make me think twice. Which is more than Roger Ebert did when he argued that games can never be art.

I think most people realize society includes them as individuals. Which is what makes this issues such as emotional one because gamers feel attacked personally when a link is drawn between their hobby and how it’s harming society as a whole.

Austin Halsell

I don’t believe video games to be the sole problem. I’d say that over-stimulation with entertainment in general to be a bigger issue. Who could say that it’s video games affecting someones warped views when they also regularly watch equally negative TV shows and movies or visit websites for hours and participate in the brutal comments sections (looking at you youtube) and forums. And it’s hard for anyone to escape these things, even if you’re not knowingly looking for them.

Any one of us could easily spend the next day off going to see Django Unchained in the morning then spend a couple hours with the latest Call of Duty and finish up with a few episodes of the Walking Dead. Who are we to say which is worse?

Lastly, I said this in response to someone’s post, but I don’t think that the question asks the right question. If we’re looking at video games (or anything else for that matter) how can we lump them all together? There is no way that you can consider Cooking Mama as negative as Dead Space, no matter what your stance on the negative affects of video games. So the question really should be “when, how, and why do video games negatively affect an individual?”

Omar

I think the trouble is taking the US violence (gun or other) as a model for the state of the world. Video games and media portraying violence is everywhere. Other developed countries seem to be doing just fine. The world does okay when kids in mentally vulnerable stages of their lives aren’t given weapons to express their feelings.

Dave Parrack

Cooking Mama can still be included in the debate in regards to affecting how children grow up… they’d rather be inside playing a game than outside running around.

Austin Halsell

True. I hadn’t thought about that aspect of ‘negative’ affects on society. Mostly I guess I zeroed in on the violence and all that, but videogames do have other cons.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Short and concise.

Bumferry Hogart

All the shooting games look the same, all the sports games are just variation of the same theme…. granted there may be one minor thing that sets one against the other, but ultimately games are (or at least should be) for kids to play when its raining.
Adults who play games more than they speak to potential partners really should be seen by a head doctor.

Dave Parrack

What do you do for fun? Why are games any less of a legitimate pastime, regardless of age, than any other?

sl0j0n

Some video games are “good” for the individual,
but most are harmful.
One kid shoot up his school, killing several.
When asked how he learned to shoot, since no one in his family had guns,
he said he learned from video games.
The U.S. Army uses video games to recruit and train infantry soldiers.
If the games did not work in that regard,
the Army would not have invested in “America’s Army”,
the video game that cost $32.8 million.
Video games have been called “murder simulators” partly because of the desensitization effect the games have on players.
Combined with the many other sources of psychological and emotional influences designed to dehumanize children and young adults, who have not yet developed the mental abilities to protect themselves from negative and harmful affects of conscious and subconscious indoctrination, it should be obvious that anything that promotes violence in that context is harmful.
Video games can be useful, but the design and focus has far more often been towards a purpose that, like poison or artificial ingredients in food, has harmful effects on the consumers while maximizing profits for the producers.
Video games are like tobacco; addictive, poisonous, and very profitable.

Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

Dave Parrack

Tobacco kills you, video games do not. The question of desensitization is a good one. While I don’t personally believe video games prompt anyone to go on a killing spree, they could well affect someone’s ability to get past the damaging aspect of doing such a horrific thing.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

You raised some good points, but I want to say:
Video game is indeed a good aid in acquiring certain traits/skills, as it’s essentially interactive simulator by design. However, killing pixels on your screen is totally different from killing real life people with blood and flesh, so I can’t agree with your argument of ‘desensitization’. They might be able to handle a real gun. Whether they’re able to use said gun to do the deed is up to the individuals. I believe kids like the one you mentioned were just blaming video games in attempt to justify their actions. They certainly had some kind of disorder for being able to do what they did.
Ratings were invented specifically because of the reason you said. Therefore moral guardians should be smart instead of hysteric.

Aaron Chung

I say it is good cause it allows people to just relax and express their feelings without ever doing any harm to anyone

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’m definitely with the pro side. Video game is good to society if used right. As with anything else, the key is moderation. It’d stop being good when you’re heavily addicted.
I grew up with video games. Dear parents or child advocate who are against video games, I tell you, it helped me learn English with all the idioms and slang, something I couldn’t get in classroom and I develop great deal of logic spending time formulating the best strategy to beat the games. My academic achievement is satisfying, and my over-achiever friends are all gamers too. We used to discuss games inbetween classes, and we used elements of video game to aid in our study (also known as ‘gamification’). Based on some games I liked, I also developed interest on some specialized subjects like World History and did research on my own. Yes, video game is okay for your children.
Also, screw anyone who said it’d cripple your social life. In fact, we bonded with our cousins and relatives by playing together in whenever we met. Video game is a nice topic for ice-breaking, and it has connected me with many like-minded people.
You don’t like what your children are playing? Sit with them and discuss it together. You can’t ban the whole internet so they won’t see porn. Same principle applies here. By being open minded, you can watch the industry and help them be better. If you have time, maybe try to play with your kids. You can help them pick appropriate titles to their ages, or explain questionable contents to them. They’re more likely to hear adults who try to understand their world.
Adults who play video games, remember it’s all for fun, take the goodness and leave the bad sides. Remember your responsibility. People tend to look down to those who play video games mostly because they make themselves look like that. If you play video game and is a decent person, you’re cool.
I hope I’m not too harsh. The society’s misguided stereotype stems from both sides. Those who protests rarely look past the troubled ones, and on the other hand, we gamers sometime don’t help the established image.

Aska Nag

I think that video games are needed. I already middle-aged man, I have two children, so that I can judge about this quite adequately. To remove tension, stress after a day of work I like to spend a few hours at the computer, playing their favorite games, RPG and strategy. And this I do not cause any amotivational aggression or unwillingness to read books. But people need to be able to cope with their weaknesses, and not stupidly depend on something in particular of video games.