Do Games Influence People?

The Fear of Games

Moral panic surrounding games has made headlines and stoked fears for decades. Dungeons & Dragons was believed to cause depression, violence, and cultism. Similar fears arose about video games, especially violent franchises like Mortal Kombat , Call of Duty , and Grand Theft Auto. People feared that the interactivity of games and lack of consequence encouraged people to act out simulated violent behaviors in real life.

News articles began popping up that decried video games as “murder simulators”. Books warned parents of violence in games and media, such as Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill , which claims video games teach the social and motor skills necessary for firing weapons at people in the same way soldiers are trained for combat.

The fear linking these moral panics is that people, especially children, cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy when playing games. And so, their minds will be warped by the games they interact with. 

But is that fear justified by facts? Let’s see what the research has to say about the effects gaming has on our mental and motor abilities. 

What Skills Do Games Teach?

According to a study conducted by the ESA in 2021 , 64% of American adults and 70% of children under 18 play video games. Among this high percentage of players, no concrete links have been established between games and violence. Any overlap between games and violent behavior is more than likely coincidence, as the majority of people play games without developing harmful tendencies. 

But that doesn’t mean games have zero influence on people. In fact, games do affect how our brains perform, such as enhancing working memory , which is what we use to reason and make decisions. Gaming also improves your sustained attention , which is your ability to continuously focus on one task. 

And games do affect motor skills – a study from the University of Toronto found a correlation between long-time gamers and increased hand-eye coordination. So on the fear that games offer military-like training, playing games might improve your accuracy, but there’s no evidence a controller can teach you the actual mechanics of operating a firearm. 

Can Games Be Bad For You? 

While the moral panic and general fearmongering of video games causing violence lacks solid foundation, that doesn’t mean games are perfect and you should play them all the time. Health experts have found playing games excessively can lead to physical injury and sleep disorders. Video game addiction can cause social isolation, irritability, and mood swings. And children playing games that aren’t age-appropriate may be troubled by depictions of violence and suffer nightmares. 

When excessive gaming does become a problem, there is still no connection to crime, violence, or cultism whatsoever. When enjoyed responsibly, the data actually shows playing games influences people positively rather than negatively.  So really, there’s nothing to panic about after all.


Want to learn more about the effects of gaming and how it’s influence can be used for good? Ask us anything.


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