As a lifelong gamer, I have been on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to how video games have affected me growing up. Personally, some of my video game experiences have been bad while others were fantastic.
That’s why I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how video games potentially affected me as a child and how it can affect others, especially in the new age of technology we find ourselves in.
Starting things off, I was exposed to video games when I was very young. Resident Evil for the original PlayStation back in the mid-to-late 1990s was the first game I saw. Seeing a zombie turn around, blood dripping from its lips with dead eyes staring back at me, is something I will always remember and why I detest horror movies.
Additionally, although it may not seem like it now, I didn’t really have a social life growing up. In high school, while my peers were going to parties and such, I was at home, playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. I was in college when I finally broke out of my introverted shell and became more outgoing (by playing basketball at the rec center religiously.)
On the flip side, video games have also given me purpose in a strange way. For example, when I first purchased Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2005), I thought nothing of it — I was a fan of the Need for Speed series, with the Underground games being my favorites.
However, when I booted up my Xbox 360 to play the game, the image of a silver BMW M3 GTR with blue vinyls racing through the streets of Rockport – the setting of the game – and evading police with extreme precision awoke something in me. Seeing and being able to play with such a beautiful machine in a video game was a euphoric experience for me.
I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to finish the game just to drive and hear the mechanical cacophony of that BMW again.
(Spoiler alert: the BMW was “taken” from you by a nefarious streetracer, who then used it to rocket himself to the top of the racing ladder.)
Once I finally obtained the car after a few years – due to a bug, I couldn’t properly finish the game – it was everything I remember it being and more. For me, finishing the game to get the BMW wasn’t enough; it became my dream car.
As such, I spent the next decade or so saving up and working multiple jobs. By the time I graduated college, I saved up enough money to buy my own BMW coupe, a 2001 BMW 330Ci. It wasn’t the M3 GTR – since only 10 had been made for public purchase – but it was the closest thing to it. I eventually hope to fix it enough to the point of being able to take it to the track in a livery similar to M3 GTR.
That said, you might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with anything?” To answer that question, it’s to show how video games can influence a child – both good and bad – growing up by using my personal experience as an example.
Now obviously every child is different and so video games can affect different children in many different ways. That, in and of itself, makes how video games can influence a child growing up tricky to ascertain.
There’s been talk of how constant video game playing can cause “video game addiction,” though more research needs to be done before it’s included into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Also, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” – meaning impaired control over gaming – in 2018, further adding credence that excessive playing can negatively affect a child.
Not only that, but it’s still unknown to what extent violent video games affect children growing up. While some may say that being exposed to such things doesn’t lead to violent outbursts, there are others who say that violent video games are detrimental to a child’s development. That last assertion has some merit, however.
There have been studies done that show children that have been exposed to violent content – including video games – may become numb or imitate violence as well as become more aggressive, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Still, it’s important to note that these behaviors develop over time and with frequent exposure.
On the other hand, playing video games has been shown to positively influence children as well, by boosting creativity, refining problem-solving skills, improving memory and more. With more children glued to a screen due to the pandemic, this will be a fascinating topic to pay attention to as time goes on.
So far, early returns have shown that playing video games have had a positive effect for people during the pandemic. For example, Animal Crossing: New Horizons provided gamers – and regular people alike – an escape from the horrid situation they found themselves in. Not only that, but more people over the ages of 45 began gaming as well as a result of lockdowns and isolation.
Lastly, video games can also help children learn, though it should be stated that they are not suitable substitutes for actual teachers. Nevertheless, there are educational video games out there that can influence a child into finding what they may like.
In all, can video games influence a child, both good and bad? Absolutely, although it all depends on the situation. If going by my example, then yes, video games can influence children both good and bad.
Ultimately, it depends on what content they are consuming and for how long. Moderation is key, especially during the pandemic. Considering how much more capable children are nowadays, I have a feeling they will be alright and understand that everything has a good and a bad side.
Just like video games.