Just think: soon enough, interactive entertainment will celebrate its centenary (if, of course, we take the starting point from the Nimatron slot machine). During this impressive period of time, games have come an incredible way – from experimental fun of a narrow circle of technical enthusiasts to a gigantic entertainment industry that fully belongs to the world of art. And it is no coincidence – after all, video games not only provide an opportunity to break away from the viscous routine of reality by touching a work of art, but to become a part of it. Try on the role of an eminent racer, an experienced Viking, a popular superhero, or maybe desperate Western characters; or, which is more relevant than ever in the era of forced social seclusion, go on an expedition to the tropics, return to a happy childhood, fly around the globe, hang out with Keanu Reeves and much more. But the power of interactive entertainment is not limited to coloring the gray everyday life or new artistic impressions – this is just the tip of a giant iceberg. Video games are the greatest social good that can reduce violence, help fight many diseases, and have a beneficial effect on learning. We will tell about this, but first – a couple of lines about prejudices …
⇡ #“Cruel games are to blame for everything.”
Alas, in parallel with the awareness of the benefits of the video game industry, there is another point of view. And if the opinion that games are an absolute evil, turning a person into a weak-willed vegetable is a very dense delusion, then other antagonistic theses are still strong in the minds of individual citizens. One of these: “violent games breed violence in life.”
Overly active political and public figures acted ahead of the curve, and back in the seventies of the last century (one of the first “victims” of attacks was the pixel Death Race) they confidently declared: video games bring up aggression, raise a generation of sadists and will certainly create the basis for tragedy. Years passed, but not a single case of a violent crime caused by a “pernicious” hobby was ever recorded. Nonetheless, tireless moral activists have tirelessly tried to link horrific events from reality (one of the most famous being the Columbine High School massacre) with the world of interactive leisure. But unsuccessfully – the root of the tragedies was not on the computer screen, but in the social depths, troubles in life, in the family, at school, on the personal front or something else. Yes, and an unbalanced psyche can easily be shattered by anything – a book, a film, a song, a TV show, a game, a picture, an article in a publication, but at least a view from the window …
But nevertheless, a considerable number of works are devoted to the study of the destructive influence of cruel games on consciousness. The most prominent scientific opponent of on-screen violence is psychology professor Craig A. Anderson. He studied more than a hundred studies on the subject, but made rather uncertain conclusions, rather, emphasizing his paradigm of beliefs: games make children more aggressive, but not much; rather, it is a risk factor. And he separately noted that parents need to control the hobbies of their offspring more, because, unlike genetic predispositions and social status, they can control this aspect …
There are also much less scientific approaches to game antagonism. Some of them are downright replete with an unprecedented “awareness” not only in the subject of video games, but also in the understanding of human psychology in general. Overflowing with surreptitiousness and conspiracy, but, nevertheless, the bestseller (!) By David Grossman with the impressive and comprehensive title Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence. atrocities on television, in movies and video games ”) is one of those. Here, for example, it is said that shooters create “ideal soldiers” who are ready to kill anyone with unprecedented ease without a twinge of conscience. The author develops the hypothesis that it is quite difficult for an ordinary soldier to cross the “barrier” and interrupt a person’s life for the first time, albeit in battle; video games supposedly eliminate this psychological barrier – after all, a gamer can mow hundreds and thousands of virtual enemies in an evening. David made a proposal to protect all civilians from digital leisure and transfer it entirely to the competence of the military. By the way, the author did not provide scientific substantiation for his hypotheses, using mostly subjective and specific personal experience. Fortunately, the great crusade against the media also remained only in the author’s fantasies.
⇡ #Violence only on screen
Recent serious research suggests that there is no connection between violent play and actual violence. One of the largest and most qualitative studies on this topic was conducted by the scientific publication Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. In the experiment, scientists tried to trace the connection between the passion for violent video games in adolescence and how it will affect a mature person ten years later. Scientists divided the subjects into several groups, some of which played violent games a lot and often, some in moderation, and some just a little. The results showed that the level of aggression among those who preferred violent games was not higher than among those studied in other groups, and the violence on the screen did not create a desire to embody at least something of what was done in the game in real life.
Earlier research has also confirmed that screen violence does not lead to antisocial behavior. And for any hypothetical DOOM to really start to have a noticeable negative effect on the psyche, you need to play twenty-seven hours a day. This experiment was carried out by Professor John Wang and psychologist Christopher Ferguson, known for several great works devoted to the study of games and their place in human life.
Peru Ferguson owns such notable books (alas, did not reach the shelves of domestic stores) such as Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong and Grand Theft Childhood (translation of the title , I think, is superfluous). The main theses of his work: the influence of games, like any other media products, on criminals is overly exaggerated. The scientist questions the results of many studies, allegedly proving the opposite, and expresses skepticism in relation to both the methodology of experiments and their meaningfulness.
Ferguson has repeatedly emphasized that such false studies, which seek to find the culprit in the person of video games, confuse people, distract from more fundamental topics and problems that really relate to the safety and well-being of children and their parents. After all, violent crimes are a consequence of the neglect of many factors: impoverishment of the population, problems in families, gaps in social spheres, failures in resolving issues of accessibility of medicine and education. And if something requires urgent action, then it is these questions, not video games.
Also in his works, he traces one curious trend: over the past decades, there is more blood on screens (not only with video games), and in the real world – less. And other scientists agree with him in this – video games can really reduce the level of violence and crime …
⇡ #Violence reduction factor
Most experts say with confidence that games have nothing to do with violence in the world. But there is another position – interactive leisure activities reduce the crime rate on the planet. Among them are Russian public figures, for example, political scientist Yekaterina Shulman, known to the gaming community primarily thanks to an interview with Sputnik radio. There she said an amazing thing: “There is a philistine logic: games with violence provoke real violence. In reality, exactly the opposite happens … “
Sociologists confirm that the level of violence and crime on our planet is steadily declining. Here, of course, it is important to understand that we are talking about a smooth and gradual process in developed countries, and not about the immediate eradication of all atrocities on the globe. Nevertheless, a tangible process is underway, and this is encouraging. Naturally, this is the merit of many factors – the development of civil society, the strengthening of human life as a fundamental value, the strengthening of empathy among the prevailing part of the world’s inhabitants and other important changes. But video games have also been found to have a noticeable impact.
Studies have shown that interactive entertainment can reduce crime. More precisely, its most common subspecies is street crime, in which young people are involved. The study Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime, conducted by Scott Cunningham, Benjamin Engelstetter and Michael R. Ward, covers this question in greater detail. A group of scientists was able to determine the correlation between the popularity of interactive entertainment and the decline in crime among young people.
In their study, they note: the relationship between the propensity of a particular person to violence and his preference for games with elements of cruelty (note, not the other way around) is observed. But later they lead to the obvious idea: if such a person spends time playing games, sublimating antisocial fervor on the NPC, and does not walk the streets in search of satisfying their base impulses, then this is definitely a positive trend. By keeping a person’s attention at home at the screen, the game literally destroys interest, for example, in the prospect of joining a street gang, in idle vandalism, or, worse, robbery, robbery or murder. And there simply won’t be any time with energy for unlawful actions …
The Vilanova and Rutgers research group is in solidarity with them in these conclusions – in their qualitative research Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Versus Data (“Cruel games and violence in life: rhetoric against real data”). As evidence of the hypothesis about the impact of video games on the crime rate, the authors provide interesting statistics: they compared data on sales of big game hits (image above) and the number of violent crimes (image below) committed during the same time period. It turned out that every time a new Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed hit the shelves, the number of offenses dropped noticeably. And, besides, it kept at this level for several months – after all, it will take a considerable amount of time to complete a big game.
Cunningham, his colleagues and other researchers of this issue, ask to be careful with the data obtained and not to rejoice in the victory over youth crime ahead of time. After all, the popularization of video games is relevant, to a greater extent, for developed countries, and the social factors pushing people onto the criminal path are by no means defeated. Nevertheless, experts almost unanimously point out that the global number of violent crimes has been steadily decreasing for a couple of decades …
⇡ #Doctor, teacher and friend
Speaking of the social good of video games, I would like to recall several other areas where our favorite interactive entertainment has found important applications. For example, in medicine: patients who have experienced a stroke are assigned games as rehabilitation. They contribute to the restoration of brain activity, and, consequently, the return of damaged motor functions.
Interactive artwork has also been shown to generally have a positive effect on cognitive performance, improve visual attention, increase coordination, slow brain aging, and even help fight depression. Psychologist Brian Suton found out: even if a person is overwhelmed with stress in life, the process of playing still causes a surge of joy, pleasure and motivation. For quality relaxation, the professor recommends Minecraft or Diablo. His opinion is shared by other scientists – for example, a New Zealand research team has shown that video games can help consolidate the success of treatment of long-term depression and overcome anxiety.
By the way, another positive effect of video games on the mind has been proven – it’s easier to learn with them. The use of elements of the game (not only on the screen) activates involvement in the process, promotes emotional immersion in the material, and helps to develop flexibility of thinking. Notable application examples include a special edition of Minecraft: Education Edition, which teaches children in US schools in math, programming, productive teamwork, and urban planning. But a geometry teacher from San Diego, for example, used Half-Life: Alyx in teaching his science. In Russia, this year, State Duma deputies seriously thought about integrating video games into the education system and introducing e-sports into the curricula of schools and universities (and five years ago we recognized e-sports as an official sport, and not for the first time). And in 2019, the Institute for Internet Development already proposed to introduce school electives in Dota 2 and Dota Underlords, Hearthstone, the FIFA series, World of Tanks and Minecraft.
Удивительно, но игроков почему-то до сих пор принято представлять асоциальными интровертами. А ведь всё, как обычно, совсем не так. Мало того, что само активное геймерское сообщество колоссально по своей численности, так и игроки чаще предпочитают затворничеству взаимодействие и организовывают бессчётное количество событий, турниров и благотворительных акций. Например, спидран-марафоны Games Done Quick, участники которого перечисляют заработанные средства Фонду профилактики рака и «Врачам без границ».
Да и сами разработчики не отстают: пару лет назад, к примеру, Blizzard Entertainment выпустила специальный облик «Розовая лента» для персонажа Overwatch Ангела; деньги с продаж лимитированного образа (около $12 млн) были переданы BCRF — фонду, занимающемуся борьбой с раком груди. А вот создатели Alba: A Wildlife Adventure не без помощи игроков смогли посадить почти полмиллиона деревьев. Конечная цель, между прочим, впечатляет — один миллион!
И раз уж мы заговорили о разработчиках, то вспомним, что видеоигры для них — это, в первую очередь, хлеб. А сама индустрия исполняет вполне ощутимую экономическую роль в современном мире, создавая колоссальное количество новых рабочих мест, выплачивая налоги и пополняя бюджеты государств немалыми средствами. Ещё бы — годовой (за 2020-й) оборот рынка составил $159,3 млрд, что больше музыкальной индустрии ($57 млрд) и кинооборота ($43 млрд) вместе взятых.
Тут, конечно, сыграла роль и пандемия. С другой стороны, и здесь игры пришли людям на выручку — помогли коротать дни на самоизоляции, сохранить психическое здоровье и не потерять социальные навыки, активно общаясь в чатах сетевых игр с друзьями и близкими. А ещё на заметку родителям: не забывайте играть со своими детьми, это — отличный способ поддерживать с ними доверительные и тёплые отношения.
Охватить весь масштаб реальной пользы видеоигр вряд ли возможно, ведь кроме описанных нами массовых явлений, существуют миллиарды частных случаев: кому-то игры помогли в становлении личности, кто-то познакомился с будущим партнёром или другом во время сессии в онлайн-игре, кому-то видеоигры помогли пережить тяжёлый жизненный период, а кто-то, благодаря незабываемому игровому опыту, нашёл своё призвание в жизни. Возвращаясь к тому, с чего мы начали: видеоигры — это не просто весёлый досуг или колоссальный пласт культуры и искусства; это — значимый элемент современного мира, великое социальное благо, важная часть нас.
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