Do you think video games are bad? There is a lot of study on the effect of the quickly developing technology all around us and so far, the jury is out on a lot of it. Part of the trouble of having hindsight 20/20 is that you have to get some years down the road to truly understand what type of effect things like social media, the internet and for the purposes of this article, video games, are having on us, our children and the future of society. Currently, the topic is hotly debated and widely disagreed upon, even among physicians and professors. Men love video games. Does it even matter?
First, it must be understood that women play video games too, at a rate that usually astonishes both males and females. While 58% of those who play video games are men, with 15% identifying as “gamers, a whopping 48% of women play video games, with under half, 6%, identifying as “gamers.” Be that as it may, video games affect male brains differently.
A Stanford study conducted by Alan Reiss, MD and his colleagues showed that the reward system in male brains is triggered more than in the female brain when playing video games. It’s not that girls don’t like to win or don’t understand the concept of a game. It’s just that guys like it more and tend to enjoy the aggression and territorial aspects provided by many games. There’s no surprise there, and that kind of information is not wherein the argument lies. The question is, is that a beneficial use of the male brain, or is it creating major societal upheaval and furthering the masculinity crisis?
There are plenty of negative voices surrounding the love that men have for video games, ranging from sociologists and psychologists to family counselors and teachers. Plenty of marriages have failed due to video game addiction and there are a lot of kids out there who succeed at playing video games while flunking out of school. This has led many to believe that video games are nothing but a problem. However, that’s just one side of the research.
Another study published in the Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation showed that video games, when played in moderation, were extremely effective in reducing stress levels and helping depression. This came in particularly handy for those looking to recover from stressful or frustrating work experiences. Teens who play video games are more likely to be able to manage frustration in work or at school better than their non-gaming peers. Video games can also be helpful in team building, communication, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.
For all their positives, video games still leave a lot of questions. Could video games be partially responsible for driving men into a dream world instead of facing reality head on? Is the current crisis we see in masculinity and the downward slope in male academic success related to entertainment in technology? The prominent psychologist Philip Zimbardo thinks so.
The famed Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted by Zimbardo in 1971, and in more recent history, he published a book called Man (Dis)connected, in which he argues that technology is destroying young men, stripping them of their drive and motivation to succeed in personal relationship or in their careers, and leaving them isolated in the gaming world.
Here’s the thing: playing video games is not the same as being addicted to video games. In the same way, that not everyone who tries heroin is going to become addicted to it (contrary to what D.A.R.E. may have told you in high school), not every man who plays video games is using it as a crutch to escape from reality. Addiction is the symptom of an underlying problem, not an unavoidable conclusion that occurs from engaging in an activity. Reading about the Rat Park experiment makes that obvious.
Men who become addicted to video games are trying to escape something, or cope with depression, or run away from a reality they lack the skills or support to face. That is not okay. That can create chaos for individuals, families and society. However, the majority of people that play video games are not addicted, just like the majority of people who drink a glass of wine at night are not alcoholics.
If playing video games is a hobby, something you do to connect with your friends, or a good way to unwind for a bit after a hard day at work, go for it. If gaming is the only thing that brings you joy in life, it’s time to find help. At the end of the day, the fact is that men love video games. Their brains want to solve problems, and in today’s world, not every job is letting them do that and feel that reward. If playing a video game can help them feel some of that in their everyday life, who cares? The next time your husband wants to play, you should encourage him to do it. When your son accomplishes something in a virtual reality, ask him about it. Video games aren't necessarily destructive. They are what you make them.
Do you think video games are harmful or helpful for men? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any stories you have!