Video games, especially violent shooters are often disparaged by everyone from politicians to parents. But in recent years the pendulum of public opinion has begun to swing the other way thanks to numerous scientific studies. Not only do violent games not create burgeoning serial killers, they can be healthy tools that improve motor and social skills.
A recent article by Vice links to many of the video game studies that are blazing trails through preconceived biases on games and violence. “Researchers are piling up solid evidence that complex gameplay is good for your brain,” writes Joe Donnelly.
One study showed that playing first-person shooters improved people’s response time, making them better real-world drivers. And many shooters are also team-based, creating empathy toward both teammates and opponents. “Cooperative play seems to have the biggest effect in terms of decreasing aggression toward other people,” said John Velez, researcher at Texas Tech University.
Games can also be a therapeutic outlet for those with poor real-world social skills, and help those struggling with mental issues. “We’re seeing these kinds of games whereby the player can relate to the characters, the storyline, and its impact on their emotional well being, particularly if they are isolated themselves,” says Berni Good, a psychologist who specializes in cyberpsychology. She uses The Last of Us as an example of someone’s who’s suffered from abuse forming a bond with Ellie. “With the disinhibition effect, it’s almost like everyone’s had a couple of glasses of wine. The social lubricant kicks in and they’re able to be honest and forthright.”
We are entering a world where middle-aged adults have grown up around video games. Gaming itself is evolving to tackle heavy issues like terminal disease, systemic racism, and civilians caught in a war. The notion that video games are directly related to violent behavior is outdated and misinformed.