Pain And Video Games
“Don’t play that game too long or it will rot your brain.”
Sounds silly now, but back when I was a child I heard this and similar things countless times from my mother and teachers. Video games are bad for you. Really? There have been countless studies performed by countless individuals and groups that have tried to prove this fact. Some of them point to the violent nature of some games making children more violent. To this I disagree. Life is plenty violent already. When I got into fights at school, it was not because I was playing Mortal Kombat back home, but because I was being attacked and had to defend myself. Others point to video games being a non-active form of play, linking it to the growing health problems facing our country, as well as others. Sure, I can see where the logic is there, but could that also be said of reading? Watching TV? Playing Monopoly? If kids want to be active, then they will be active. If they do not, then they will not. A great many evils have been laid on the heels of video gaming, and thus far each time I hear about such an issue, I notice a trend of bias in the study. Studies that hope to prove that video games do have a negative impact on people find it to be so, just as studies that hope to disprove such ideas are able to. Now, there is a whole new concern being levied against this digital medium of entertainment; physical and social numbness.
According to Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany and Stephen Loughnan of Melbourne University in Australia, people who spend too much time in immersive video games start having their own body’s ability to register pain dulled. Tests were performed where two groups who play video games, one group playing a highly immersive game while the others playing simpler games, each had to draw paperclips out of buckets of ice-cold water – a standard test for determining pain resistance. Apparently, according to Weger and Loughnan, those individuals who played highly immersive video games in which they were able to connect and characterize their avatars, were able to resist greater amounts of pain than those who played less immersive games. Weger and Loughnan believe that, by living via the perspective of a robot-like video game avatar, and by viewing real life the same way that someone would a video game, gamers are becoming more and more desensitized to pain, and important bodily tool for recognizing danger and harm. They also believe that this might develop further, with people losing sight of what is real and what exists in a game, treating real people with the same disinterest and apathy they do avatars in a game.
My thoughts on this: Are they serious? Truthfully, I find their findings incredibly hard to believe. The notion that gamers, like myself, are growing unable to decipher between a game and reality is, quite plainly, insulting. Sure, people can be very obsessed with games to the point of addiction, and that can be a problem, yes, and so is being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Sure, a lot of gamers are antisocial, but that is usually why people turn to games; as an outlet. Social individuals play video games too, last I checked. Honestly, I find the study ridiculous, and despite how I normally try to hold a positive outlook for these articles, I find myself unable to do so this time, and for that I apologize.
Of course, if what they say is true about immersive games dulling our ability to feel pain, maybe I am due for another round of Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins. Winter is coming and my bad ankle has been hurting lately.
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