Video games are one of the world’s most beloved leisure activities, with over three billion active gamers globally as of 2023.
The popularity and prevalence of gaming have reached unprecedented levels and are only expected to grow with each passing year.
But video games have their fair share of controversy. Many claim that the cons outweigh the benefits while avid gamers say the opposite.
Objectively speaking, gaming offers many benefits when done in moderation, however, too much gaming can be harmful.
Examine the pros and cons of video games with us so you can decide for yourself.
Pros of Video Games
What are the advantages of video games? Gaming helps build essential skills that allow gamers to perform daily tasks efficiently. Many of these skills also benefit careers and relationships, making video games a multifaceted tool for self-improvement.
Here are the top advantages of video games:
Improved Cognitive Function
Studies have shown that video games enhance cognitive abilities among gamers. Some of the most impressive benefits of gaming on cognitive function include:
- Faster processing speed
- Improved deductive reasoning
- Improved visuospatial (recognizing nearby objects and estimating distances between them) ability
- Better mathematical intelligence
Sharper Problem-Solving Skills and Logic
Playing video games requires various skills and abilities such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and logic. Gamers must use these skills to work through levels, challenges, and missions. Extensive playtime involving these skills helps players develop more gray matter while increasing brain connectivity.
Developing these skills may also improve performance at work or in school.
Better Hand-to-Eye Coordination
Gaming enhances hand-to-eye coordination, helping you perform tasks or chores that need them more quickly. These activities may include regular tasks like performing manual duties with your hands, typing, and driving, or professional responsibilities like performing surgeries.
A 2007 study confirmed these benefits by studying laparoscopic surgery trainees who played video games. Researchers found that training surgeons who regularly played games enjoyed increased accuracy and could finish tasks faster than their peers who didn’t play.
Quicker and More Accurate Decision-Making
Another crucial benefit of video games is they help gamers make more precise and faster decisions. Many video games push players to make quick judgment calls using cues or other information they receive within the game. Fast-paced games are especially great for improving players’ decision-making abilities.
A few games with fast-paced action, particularly competitive ones that involve playing against other gamers, punish players for making wrong decisions. They require players to make the right choices at the right time to win.
This skill is essential in many fields of work, especially in emergency services. These jobs require accurate decisions in a limited amount of time using the facts and details available.
Enhanced Ability To See More Details
The topic of gaming and vision is still hotly contested. A few studies have proven that too much screen time leads to eye fatigue and may damage your vision.
Its potential harmful effects are:
- Eye strain
- Watery or dry eyes
- Achy, itchy, or burning eyes
- Blurred vision
- Loss of focus flexibility
- Increased light sensitivity
- Retinal damage
Meanwhile, other studies tell us that gaming improves one’s ability to clearly see details, particularly within their periphery. Hence, it may aid the performance of tasks that require clear vision such as driving, flying planes, web development, surgeries, photography, and more.
Having said that, not going beyond the recommended screen time will help players enjoy the benefits while reducing their risk of eye damage.
Collaboration and Socialization
Video games encourage teamwork and social engagement. Several of them require players to work with others in order to succeed. This makes them a modern way to mingle with others regardless of age and geography. For instance, games can be used for team-building and fostering relationships with other players.
However, playing for too long and too often can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This, in turn, can cause mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
So, while video games provide a social outlet for many people, balancing in-game contacts with real-world social activity is essential.
Cons of Video Games
The many advantages of video games may seem appealing on the surface. But it’s still crucial to note that these benefits come with a catch: their cons can outweigh them if gaming turns from a hobby into a compulsion. Gaming may negatively impact the quality of your life, health, relationships, and work.
What are the cons of video games?
Here are the most common disadvantages of video games:
The biggest drawback of video games is they can cause addiction. Video game addiction is a mounting global issue and may become more prevalent in later years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already categorized gaming disorder as a mental health disorder. Moreover, in 2017, the global prevalence of internet gaming disorder was approximately 4.7%. Given that there are over three billion gamers worldwide, these stats are shocking and underscore a serious problem.
A big factor influencing internet gaming disorder is the fact that games are designed to be addictive. They offer people instant gratification and egg them on to play constantly. Gamers who play daily may also earn special rewards and bonuses that encourage them to play even more.
However, the consequences of gaming addiction are more complex than they might seem at first. Here are some ways addictive games inadvertently end up controlling various facets of our psyche:
- In-game character progression begins to replace real-world self-improvement and personal development
- Virtually connections with other gamers substitute real-life socialization
- In-game mechanics may lead to gambling
- In-app purchases, loot boxes, and microtransactions may lead to exorbitant purchases that one cannot afford
Once gaming becomes an addiction, it can hold back one’s personal development, professional life, and interpersonal relations.
If you have a gaming addiction, you can seek help from a video game addiction therapist near you.
However, these studies have also reported that gaming is not the sole factor behind aggression. Gaming may increase the risk of aggressive thoughts and feelings in a person along with other risk factors.
The media also promotes a stigma around gaming by saying that video games are violent and thus encourage violence in society. But pinning this issue exclusively on video games is far too easy even if they are a potential contributing factor.
Although the relationship between gaming and violence is still hotly debated, many parents report heightened aggression among kids who play excessively. These children may even damage property. So, parents must pay attention to their children’s gaming behavior and ensure that they play age-appropriate games. Parents must also seek professional help if their kids engage in increasingly aggressive behavior.
Avoidance of Real-world Problems
A common issue with excessive gaming is players end up neglecting other areas of their lives. Games offer solace, comfort, and a safe place to fail. They present a convenient way to get away from real problems.
Escaping from stress and entering virtual worlds isn’t essentially bad for you. But the fun ends and the problem begins when players ignore their chores, careers, relationships, and other aspects of their lives. In such situations, game addicts must cut down on playtime, manage their lives better, and purposefully engage in other hobbies and activities.
Increased Risk of Gambling
Modern video games encourage players to gamble and engage in unhealthy and compulsive spending via microtransactions and loot boxes.
Players suffering from a gaming disorder are also prone to developing a gambling addiction. The accessibility to gambling-like mechanics within video games exacerbates this issue.
Also, children often play these games which means that they can access gambling mechanics using real-life money. Too many parents reported discovering thousands of dollars charged to their credit cards from in-game purchases without their knowledge.
Physical or Mental Health Problems
Video game players can experience physical or mental health problems if they don’t play in moderation. Too much playtime can cause or aggravate various conditions like:
- Lack of motivation
- Poor emotional regulation
- Depression and social anxiety
- Poor sleep hygiene
- Muscle loss and fat gain
It’s essential to be mindful of your gaming behavior and check if you’ve developed these symptoms. If you have any, cut down on your gaming hours. If you’re unable to do so on your own, consider video game addiction therapy.
Playing excessively can negatively affect your ability to pay attention to other areas of your life such as school, college, work, family, and friends. Spending long hours in front of your screen may lead to a lack of concentration and focus.
This is because gaming demands a lot of focus and attention to detail. Unfortunately, our daily bandwidth for remaining “in the zone” is limited. So, the more time you spend playing video games, the less concentration you will have on other activities.
Will Video Games Harm or Help You?
The pros and cons of video games are two sides of the same coin. The extent of their effects ultimately depends on the gamer. Gaming has amazing advantages for players. It helps improve life skills and reflexes but too much playing defeats the purpose and leads to ill effects.
If you suspect that you’re addicted to gaming, learning about its various drawbacks through articles like this will help. At the same time, you should look for ways to limit your gaming time whether it’s by adopting a stricter schedule or seeking professional help.