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The sun begins its daily ascent, breaking the tyrannical hold of the darkness and ushering in a crisp dawn. And surely you’re outside, enjoying a rare treat for most people: sunrise. You’re awake at this hour almost every day, so you get to experience it on a regular basis, right?
You don’t indulge in this natural miracle because you are inside, holed up in your room, playing video games. At this point, your life is so intertwined with the virtual reality displayed on the LCD screen in front of you that the only miracle that grabs your attention is the sniper rifle that spawned right in front of you. Or maybe your particular poison is an enthralling space adventure, which leads you to the far reaches of the universe that the average human will never see.
This is the draw of video games. There is probably something for everybody, from ancient adventures fighting Roman oppression to high-tech space journeys saving the human race and finally to farming and harvesting your crops. There are games geared towards toddlers, teenagers, boys, girls, adults, children and even the elderly. There are an innumerable amount of genres to choose from if one only takes the time to consider their options.
Genres aren’t the only diverse demographic in the realm of video games. Age groups are specifically targeted by a plethora of games. Some games are tailored specifically for children, such as the Pokémon series, which is rated as suitable for everyone, while many are more adult-oriented, including the Halo and Grand Theft Auto series, which are rated as suitable for only mature audiences.
The aforementioned rating system is also an important innovation in the video game world. It ensures there are no surprises for concerned parents and naïve children. Games are rated by a body called the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which is similar to the Motion Picture Association of America in that they dole out specific ratings for each game. If a game does not adhere to this system, a few systems will not even carry it. Like movies, some games have an age limit of 17 while others are suitable for anyone to play. This keeps the less savory elements of the games from being surprising to potential buyers.
Video games are, for better or worse, completely ingrained in our culture. The Washington Post reports that 40 percent of Americans play video games, which means that 120 million people are involved in this ever-growing pastime. Keep in mind that this number is larger than all but 10 countries, according to the CIA Factbook.
It is easy to fall into a line of thought that considers video games hazardous to our society. Some are filled to the brim with violence that is considerably graphic, potentially more dangerous, and extremely realistic. There are concerns that these depictions might be overly influential in a child’s development, and this of course raises a multitude of red flags among parents. There exists a persistent fear that video games—particularly violent ones—do indeed encourage violent behavior in children.
But according to The British Medical Journal, studies have not found a conclusive link between violent behavior and video games. This leads to a real question: Are video games detrimental to society?
Based on the aforementioned studies, it seems reasonable to conclude that video games probably do not cause excess violence; they are, at worst, a neutral influence. The main drawback with video games is their ability to suck people in, reducing physical activity and contributing to obesity. Because of video games, children are less likely to be involved in physical activities since the games are much more enthralling and hours can disappear in the blink of an eye.
Video games are still useful in a number of ways. They are entertaining, exciting, stimulating and can even be educational. There is also something for everyone, and even though the quality of games varies, the number of good ones outweighs the bad ones. These games are an enjoyable escape from the rigors of real life. Unless used as a substitution for real experience, video games are a positive entertainment force. Indeed, they are no more of a detriment than movies, TV, books or even music because any of these other art forms can result in major time commitments as well.
The major selling point of video games, however, is their variety. Game genres include war, sports, adventure, space and even farming, among other things. There are games that are suited for all different ages and the Wii Fit, a Nintendo product, is specifically tailored as a fitness activity, in addition to games like Dance Dance Revolution. Rock Band and Guitar Hero video games put the player in the shoes of a musician and expose them to new styles of music, and sports games allow a player to enjoy a particular athletic activity from the point of view of an actual athlete.
There are even amazing amounts of different mediums on which to play these games, from a personal computer to a console and even to a cell phone, so almost every American has access to them.
Video games are also an incredibly convenient way to socialize with friends. Many a college student has made their best friends by bonding over Mario Kart races or a Goldeneye multiplayer round. Games now have significant online components, introducing gamers to new people that live all over the world. This allows the populations of different countries to interact, integrating ideas and cultures in an unprecedented manner. And unlike the Internet, the interaction is not merely through posts on forums and other textual messages. Rather, the gamers strategize and enjoy themselves with one another, which forges tighter bonds between countries.
In the end, video games expose individuals to new ideas and allow them to escape into their own imaginations. There are drawbacks but like anything, if video games are only enjoyed in moderation, they remain a special treat for the average gamer. Overall, video games improve socialization, experience and imagination, culminating in a net positive effect on society.
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