The Effect of Video Games on the Brain
The Effect of Video Games on the Brain
The effect of video games on the brain is a research area gaining popularity as the percentage of children and adults who play video games is on the rise. Some people believe violence in video games and in other media promotes violent behavior among viewers. While there is not sufficient data to validate this claim, there are a number of studies showing that video games can increase aggressive behavior and emotional outbursts, and decrease inhibitions. From a few of these studies, and from my own observations of children playing video games, it is quite obvious that the video games do have at least some effect on the behavior of the player. The extent and long range consequences of these behavior changes after one has turned off the video game are not so easily deduced. One source states that "While research on video games and aggressive behavior must be considered preliminary, it may be reasonably inferred from the more than 1,000 reports and studies on television violence that video game violence may also contribute to aggressive behavior and desensitization to violence" (1). Another study reports that "Hostility was increased both in subjects playing a highly aggressive video game and those playing a mildly aggressive video game. Subjects who had played the high-aggression game were significantly more anxious than other subjects" (2).
I had a chance to observe the effects of video games first hand on two boys, ages eight and ten, when I babysat them earlier in the semester. They were playing the video game "Mario Cart," which is really not a very violent game; the object is to win a car race by coming in first while maneuvering through different courses. When the younger brother won, the older brother got up and started kicking him and yelling insults! Later on that day, the younger brother was playing another video game by himself and when he could not beat the level, he threw down the controller and screamed at the t.v. screen, "Why are you doing this to me...?!" and burst into tears. I was very shocked by this reaction and was not quite sure how to handle the situation. This game had brought an eight year old boy to tears, right in front of me. "Certainly, video games can make some people go nuts. You just have to look at some enthusiasts playing video games on their cellular phones, mumbling to themselves heatedly even though others are around them. At game centers (penny arcades), frustrated people punch or kick game machines without regard to making a spectacle of themselves" (3). From the above descriptions, it seems that players get somewhat "sucked" into the video game and become oblivious to their surroundings and much less inhibited to share their emotions. What types of changes are occurring in the brain to activate this behavior which one exhibits when "sucked" into a video game?
Akio Mori, a professor at Tokyo's Nihon University, conducted a recent study observing the effects of video games on brain activity. He divided 260 people into three groups: those who rarely played video games, those who played between 1 and 3 hours three to four times a week, and those who played 2 to 7 hours each day. He then monitored "the beta waves that indicate liveliness and degree of tension in the prefrontal region of the brain, and alpha waves, which often appear when the brain is resting" (4). The results showed a higher decrease of beta waves the more one played video games. "Beta wave activity in people in the [highest amount of video game playing] was constantly near zero, even when they weren't playing, showing that they hardly used the prefrontal regions of their brains. Many of the people in this group told researchers that they got angry easily, couldn't concentrate, and had trouble associating with friends" (4). This suggests two important points. One, that the decrease of beta wave activity and usage of the prefrontal region of the brain may correlate with the aggressive behavior, and two, that the decrease of beta waves continued after the video game was turned off, implying a lasting effect. Another study found similar results and reported: "Youths who are heavy gamers can end up with 'video-game brain,' in which key parts of the frontal region of their brain become chronically underused, altering moods" (5). This study also asserts that a lack of use of the frontal brain, contributed by video games, can change moods and could account for aggressive and reclusive behavior. An important question arises: if the brain is so impacted by video games as to create behavioral changes, must that mean that the brain perceives the games as real?
Perhaps looking at what effects video games have on autonomic nerves can begin to answer that question. "'Many video games stir up tension and a feeling of fear, and there is a very real concern that this could have a long-term effect on the autonomic nerves,' Mori commented" (6). Autonomic nerves are those connected with involuntary internal organ processes, such as breathing and heart rate. "Heart rate can be altered by electrical signals from emotional centers in the brain or by signals from the chemical messengers called epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. These hormones are released from the adrenal glands in response to danger..." (7). Multiple studies have reported that playing video games can significantly increase heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen consumption. If studies show that heart rate is increased when playing video games, then it seems that the brain is responding to the video game as if the body is in real danger. Does repeated exposure to this "false" sense of danger have an effect on what the brain then perceives as real danger?
From the above studies and observations, video games do effect the players in some ways, since it appears that players get so wrapped up in the game that they forget their surroundings and begin to see the game as a real quest. Studies have shown that playing video games can increase heart rate and blood pressure, as well as decrease prefrontal lobe activity while the person is playing the game. This could account for changes in the player's mood and cause him or her to become more aggressive or emotional. However, the extent of these effects on the body once video game playing has ceased are preliminary and need to be confirmed.
1)Mediascope website, highlights data from various scientific studies concerning video games.
2)Mediascope website, violent video games causing aggression.
3)Japan Today News website, an interesting news site and discussion board.
4)Mega Games website, a hardcore gaming site, including cheats, demos, and facts.
5)Beliefnet website, centers around spiritual, religious, and moral issues.
6)Sunday Herald online, a news resource.
01/19/2006, from a Reader on the Web
If you have evidence of video games causing some form of harm to anyone, then who should be blamed. Or what action, in any, should be taken? personaly, i play video games 2-3 hours a day, and i am a nice kid. i do well in school and i don't let anyone push me around. i think it is the kids who base their life on video games and have low self-esteam are what people see in the news today. And it is not all video games, it is the one's that are rated "mature" that parents are getting for their kids. i think it is the parents fault in some way at least. thank you for your comments and i hope you thank mine. sincearly, "Ivan"
I agree with Ivan, although I tend to play more than he does. While there are some problems with playing video games there are benefits of playing them as well, such as; better hand eye cordination, tend to think faster, quicker, and others i dont remeber at this time ... Jake, 18 April 2006
personally i feel the same way im 11 and i full heartedlly support your opionon ... Jelanie Hill, 21 September 2006
Change in attitude and reaction cannot be considered an effect on the brain from video-games. The attitude that one shows when he/she loses in a video-game, is a natural reaction that he/she personally has to change. This attitude is represented in almost everything you would consider a game. It's called poor-sportsmanship. Many people take losing pretty hard and find creative ways to express their frustration. Trash talking during a video-game, is no different than trash talking in any other game. You can't blame video-games for the physical reaction either. If a poor-sport played a game of basketball, he/she would get all of it's frustration out on their opponent, because basketball is a contact game. In a video-game, the physical activity is only limited to the hands, so they can't get it all out. This behavior is, again, result of poor sportsmanship.
Video-games are an easy thing to blame for people's personal problems. You can't base a judgement on an observation that could be the result of almost anything. Point Proven? ... Mrey, 2 November 2006
After playing videogames 2-3 hours I experience drastic mood swings. So I cut down. thanks for opening my eyes ... Aaron Smith, 10 January 2007
i think that video gaMES ARE blamed 2 much kid make there own choices , id know i am one . life gives you problumes some deal with it difrently ... Erik, 23 January 2007
thanks to serendip, i was able to find plenty of research to back up my science fair project!! ... Bob, 1 February 2007
Over 50 percent of the populations kids regularly play video games.
Every now and then one person does something stupid like kill somebody and the blame instantly goes to video games because "They cause violence."
No one thinks of the bad parenting or bullies and such at school but because they have played video games, that is what caused it.
Let me take for example Columbine, a tragic event to many a person but the blame was instantly pinned on the fact they played DOOM the video game.
No one thought about the parents that let all the planning and weapons go on in there own house.
People should stop assuming every violent act a kid does is based on a video game ... Jordan, 16 February 2007
Same here. Lol, and I think it can also stimulate your brian. My friend's did a science fair project about this and the results showed that they did better on a math test after playing a video game ... Zane, 20 February 2007
Hi my name is Pamela and what you said about how violent games affect people is like my brother he plays video games for 3 hours and then after that if someone talks to him he will hit you or something like that ... Pamela, 4 May 2007
I do know that there are specific incidents where people are sucked into a game, and are mad when they don't win. I strongly belive that kids can play video games such as "Halo" and "Shadowrun" and still be nice. I have spent this summer playing video games, somewhere between 3-5 hours each day. Yes, there were some times where I outbust in anger, but only when I was thinking about how much time I spent on this game, and lost. So I went and beat on a pillow. I started taking bike rides in the middle, which, in the end, took my mind off things, and so I could return and play calmly. I am going to enter the Denver Metro Science Fair this year with a project relating to this. I wish this website the best of success ... Jon Zulanas, 11 August 2007
i agree with the former person. video games don't really result in violent behavior. it is the parents fault sometimes. when they but their kid a game that has intense violence and gore and language the child might get messed up ... Japlowsky, 23 October 2007
8 year olds who scream and yell at a screen obviously has another problem than just video game rage which no one wants to point out that video games don't cause rage its that people get too involved ... David, 1 November 2007
Your report on video games is heavily flawed. I'm sorry. One thing, it's not the kids fault. It's the parents buying M Rated games for four year olds. It's true, my cousin has done it for his little boy. And the violence is just bad sportsmanship. That's heavily common. And for "Penny Arcades". Arcades have been dead since the late 90's. There are only a few places in a state that actually have arcades with GOOD arcade games. And can you really blame the kid for getting mad? Throwing down a week's allowance worth of quarters, almost getting to the end of a game to see the ending, and then dying? It sucks, it really does. No one can be blamed for that. And why do you act like gamers are mindless zombies, slaves to the game? Us respectable gamers don't just sit there drooling in front of the TV. Most gamers don't. And hell, anyone gets mad after dying in a level 50 times. But you know what we do? We get ticked, sware softly to ourselves, and realize the best course of action is to turn the game off, and walk away. You mention too much of studies too. Studies aren't always right, and most studies just waste money. Did you know the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house? Well, yeah. Electrical appliances, razors, scissors... Just because something has been studied, doesn't make it true. In short, you tried really hard, I can see that, but you have to take in the factors of parenting, and how behaved the child is. You focused more on the trivial ideas more then the basic ones ... Sam, 15 November 2007
Hi there. I'm essentially a lifetime gamer, and I used to play as much as I possibly could in my free time. What you're saying correlates fairly well with my experience, low self-esteem, anxiety, and latent aggression. However, I'm not really like that any more, and not because I've stopped playing games. The people I came into contact with while growing up changed me, and my behaviors. So now I still play games, but at a far less rate than I did (yay for jobs). The point I wish to bring up is that I don't think it's video games especially that are bad for people, but the way they are reacted to. Granted, they lower Beta waves and raise Alpha waves, but who says that can't be changed by interaction with people and actually using the brain for thinking/working? I also wonder if it's the change in video games from the past and the video games today. Video games have indeed been dumbed down, and are made to feel more life-like. I mean, I played Dig Dug, but I don't think that had much effect on my brain waves, unless of course in the regard that it required me to think and plan where to go next... But yes, I do agree that video games, like television and everything else, should be used with moderation and not wholesale commitment to them ... Scott, 24 November 2007
my view is that there are both positive and negative spins to this argument. I play vidoe games alot a few hours a day and it does not seem to have any negative effects on me. infact i feel it helps me vent anger not cuase it. say im mad i might pop on my Wii and play a few levels on a game, after that i feel alot better. another thing, the computer/console games i play have greatly helped me on my hand i caurdanation skills, i feel because of vidoe games i can type better, and actualy make contact with a golf ball. and one final thing i must stress what i notice is that when i get angy at a vidoe game once the game is off i imediditly feel better ... Mathew Giso, 6 December 2007