In news that will provide sweet solace for GTA V gamers who are still stuck in the eternal, addictive time warp they entered on that fateful day 3 weeks ago, and will infuriate parents who are just thinking of the children about video games they assume are terrible but don’t really understand, Australian researchers from the University of Melbourne have found that the far-reaching benefits of gaming may well offset the oft-preached negatives of heavy exposure to on-screen violence, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Noting “extreme” gaming as the exception, Chief Executive of the research co-op at the University of Melbourne Jane Burns told SMH, “Moderate gaming can reduce stress and improve health and wellbeing…It also helps young people form connections with peers because gaming creates a sense of community, mutual participation and a shared passion. That’s the kind of thing that young people could harness to improve their mental health.”
The findings would be incredibly difficult to disagree with; the “gamers” I know are some of the most intelligent, well-spoken and culturally aware people I’ve ever met – their gaming habits bare exactly zero resemblance to the oft-vilified example of two WOW-addicted gamers’ deaths in 2005. Much like the collective hand-wringing that came about when the radio was said to destroy people’s book-reading sensibilities, and television to turn our brains and personalities to a pulpy mush, video games and gamers receive over-hyped, scathing press. Funny how there’s always a complete diregard to its dazzlingly beautiful, immersive art-form potential. Reading the depressing list of “publicised incidents” in Wikipedia’s handy list on Video Game Controversies and noting allusions to video game based obsession and inspiration for both the shooters at Sandy Hook and Columbine, there’s no question why video game violence and the real life incidents they supposedly inspire erupts hysterical concern.
And so, the social and stimulative benefits as unveiled by the University of Melbourne become lost in the perpetual furrowed-eyebrows that define any discussion on video games and their benefits. While the American Academy of Paediatrics has said that on-screen violence “represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents,” the Australian Government has deemed their findings inconclusive, according to SMH. Chief Executive of Interactive Games and Entertainment Association of Australia Ron Curry insisted at a conference in Sydney last week that “strong evidence that violent video games can cause long-term effects on aggressive behaviour”.
Gamers: as you were (Jumping off trains, duh).
Title image by Leon Neal via Getty.