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There is a faction of American society that is deeply concerned with the social and psychological ramifications of gaming. This conflict is singularly unique in that while the object of scrutiny is not a recent development, the modern technology being employed has only existed for the past 20 years and is being subject to a reactionary backlash. This paper intends to ameliorate these concerns by showing that research supports the contention that modern computer games improve the cognitive processes of attention.

``Recent surveys have shown that upward of 84% of American teens (roughly 90% of boys and 75% of girls) play video games regularly''[4]
Should video games be shown to be harmful and totally without positive benefits, several consequences follow: First, the pace of research on affects of video games must be quickened so that the problem may be more fully understood. Second, the entertainment industry shall be subject to regulation in order to insure minimal harm towards those subjected to games. Lastly, at risk individuals who have been exposed to damaging games should be offered treatment options.

The first step, increasing the pace and breadth of research, is necessary because the current research, while fairly complete in exploring the link between video games and aggression, is deeply lacking in other areas. In our research we have found comparatively little information dealing with other aspects of the mind, such as perception, learning, or even the long-term effects of video games. The last item is perhaps not surprising given the recency of video games, however it does point out the need for longitudinal studies.

The next step, regulation of the industry, would be a necessary but damaging requirement. The video game industry is a multimillion-dollar enterprise that stands to lose if faced with such restrictions.

``The second most popular form of entertainment after television, video games have rapidly become the largest segment of the entertainment industry, taking in $6.3 to $8.8 billion in 1998...'' [15]
One potential issue with regulation, for example, is the conundrum between the need for freedom of expression, such as the artwork and code that goes into the game, and the need to restrict it. Already, laws that directly inhibit freedom of expression in programming, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, have raised the ire of programmers worldwide.

The last step, the creation of treatment options and publicizing the need, is necessary because parents do not always express due diligence and awareness of their children's activities and needs, and thus may not be a reliable counter to the influence of video games.

``In a 1999 study, most parents were not able to name their child's favorite game or named an incorrect game. In 70% of these incorrect matches, the child described their favorite game as violent.'' [15]
If parents do not reliably function as the gatekeepers to bring children into our society, it may fall upon the society as a whole and the professional sector, ie doctors and psychologists, to make up the difference.

The above scenarios, however, are all contingent upon the idea that video games are damaging, which is a viewpoint that the authors of this paper diametrically oppose. Steve, Chris, and Paul each had a stance prior to creating this paper, and we still retain them.

Deprived of video games at an early age due to claims relating video games to negative effects on the brain, Steve had to live without them until the age of 11 at which point he got his first playstation. Steve came across a quote from a Nintendo executive:

``Computer games don't affect kids - I mean, if Pacman affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.'' (Kristian Wilson)
and it stuck in his mind. Distressed that his deprived childhood might be due to misinformation, Steve chose to participate in researching this paper, if only to put right what once was wrong. It is therefore his initial opinion that the paper's thesis is correct.

Chris has been an avid fan of video games since he was a child, and he does not believe the negative rumors regarding video games. He chose to research this project so that he could substantiate his belief.

``Video games have never negatively influenced me or any other video game player that I have known, and I believe that all this controversy has just been created so senators will have something to pledge against in order to win votes, and video game haters will have something to (expletive deleted) about.'' (Chris Doody)
It is therefore his initial opinion that the paper's thesis is correct.

Paul believes that video games are a tool of artistic expression. They allow the programmer, designer, artist, sound technician, and other talented individuals to reach out and touch the heart and soul of an audience in a way that no other medium can; a way that allows the work and the audience to respond to each other rather than a passive one way relationship. While ideally he would attack the negative criticism against video games by attempting to debunk statements implying that video games instigate violence, due to the constraints of this research project, he is instead settling on showing a positive benefit of video games in the area of attention. It is therefore his opinion that the paper's thesis is correct.

If our position holds, it serves as a partial defense against the cry for controlling violent video games, or even non-violent ones. This would help ensure that people can continue to enjoy games to the same or greater extent than they have in the past, rather than having the future of games cut off from them by those who feel they are a threat. This is a good thing for us, it is a good thing for adults, and it is a good thing for our children.

``The video game offers an opportunity to master the intricacies of a complex, multi-cued, rule-governed environment, which young children presumably find intrinsically motivating'' [6]

next up previous
Next: Literature Review Up: The Games We Play Previous: The Games We Play
Paul Ingemi 2003-10-14