Kyle Heimann

Video Games

A few weeks ago, I was on The Kyle Heimann Show talking about video games. If you don't know Kyle's stuff, I highly recommend checking him out at Kyle Heimann

Anyway, Kyle asked me about whether I thought that video games were becoming a crisis in today's world. I told him I didn't think it was a crisis, not in the same way pornography or the breakdown of families or opioid addiction is a crisis, but I don't think I did a great job highlighting that video games can be a serious issue.  

Playing video games, specifically violent video games, can cause problems for some kids. There's a significant body of research that suggests that playing video games can increase aggressive thoughts and feelings, while decreasing positive desires such as the desire to help others or feeling compassionate. Full disclosure - I wrote my dissertation on violent video games and my findings echoed the research mentioned above.  I picked this as my dissertation topic not because I played video games much - I rarely did - but because 1) I thought they were an interesting advancement in storytelling and 2) if I had to spend 3 years working on a project, I wanted to be able to talk about it at parties without people totally losing interest. There is some debate still among researchers about how much of a problem video games are, but the argument tends to be "big problem vs no big deal" rather than "bad for you vs good for you." Not a lot of people are saying playing violent video games is really helpful in developing virtues.

When it comes to kids, how kids are impacted by video games varies kid-by-kid.  For some kids, it's no big deal. For others, they really struggle - getting spun up or angry or obsessive. This is no different than kids eating cake. For most, cake in moderation is fine.  But for a kid with gluten allergies or one who has a problem with sugar, that same piece of cake could be the worst thing for him.

Is this fair for kids who are more sensitive to video games or are more easily thrown off by screen time? No, but that's life. It's not really a question of fair, it's just the reality of the situation.

Video games aren't going away anytime soon. In fact, the popularity of video games continues to grow, just look at the rise of ESports and competitive video game play.  It's already possible to watch professional gamers play online, this has become more mainstream over the last 3 years with ESPN covering ESports and groups like the NBA teams funding groups of professional gamers. This is a trend that will continue to grow and it is not unlikely that 30 years from now people will follow ESports teams and players the same way NFL teams and star quarterbacks are followed now.