Have you decided what to buy for Christmas yet? In the UK, we spent over £2 billion on video games most households have at least one games console. Chances are that someone you love will want a video game for Christmas this year. Oh how things have changed….
Video gaming to be all about sweaty teenage boys spending hours alone in darkened bedrooms: It isn’t anymore! Over the last few years; thanks to the family-friendly Nintendo Wii, and ‘serious’ adult games, playing video games has gone from a geeky pleasure to a socially acceptable pastime for all ages.
But should we be worried? By getting video games for kids are we stopping them developing social skills? Do action games make us more violent people?
Today’s blog will explain how the ‘Xbox Kinect’: the new console that can apparently spy on you and will try to get some truth about the nation’s new favourite hobby…
Xbox Kinect Video Review: What is the fuss all about?
The recent launch of the Xbox Kinect attracted huge crowds, the sizes normally only seen when a ‘Harry Potter‘ book is released. But what is all the fuss about? ‘Kinect’ sounds more like a plastic construction kit for building toy cars…
‘Xbox Kinect’ actually turns out to be a pretty snazzy piece of technology, although it is (yet another) small black box to rest on top of your TV. This is unlike your Sky Box or DVD recorder: It actually ‘watches’ you! Video and depth-perception cameras track the movements of up to six people in the room and microphones listen to and interprets your speech. The days of greasy joypads and sore thumbs are over because with the Xbox Kinect YOU are the controller!
How well does it work? Here’s a video review to check out…
But it’s more than just playing games: The Kinect lets you watch pre-recorded TV, movies or video conference with your friends. And you can control it all with just your voice or wave of the hand. It all sounds rather cool and very 21st Century…
Kinect’s Sinister Side
But there is a creepy side to all this; ‘Kinect’ is a box that automatically watches you, interprets your voice and can transmit all this information over the internet: If CCTV on the streets doesn’t get you indignant about violation of your rights to privacy then this just might! Very recently Xbox developers, Microsoft admitted that they could use Kinect to monitor its owner’s behaviour! They said they might collect all this information for market research to develop targeted adverts to households; so don’t be too surprised if you start seeing furniture commercials when your sofa is looking battered!
It all sounds a lot like something out of George Orwell’s ‘1984’, but then unlike in the book no-one’s forcing you to have one! You could just be like us and not even have a TV…!
Video Games: A Harm to Health?
The media loves a good scare story; especially on a slow news day. Tired of hearing about Terrorism, Swine Flu or Climate Change? Video games are great for tapping into the insecurities of the middle-classes. If you read these headlines, then little Sammy definitely won’t be getting a Nintendo DS this Christmas:
- ‘Violent Video Games Damages Brain‘
- Playing Video Games Doubles Child’s Risk of ADHD
- Video Games cause Sleeping Disorders in Children
- Video Games make people More aggressive
But is there any truth behind the headlines, or is it just media ‘spin’ and scare-mongering?
These issues aren’t new but thankfully, there is now plenty of good research done on the effects of video games. All the conclusions are unsurprising and rather less dramatic than the tabloids would have us believe – and largely depends on the type of game being played:
- Watching lots of violent movies or video games do tend to make people think more aggressively
- But playing non-violent video games tend to make your thoughts less aggressive
- Playing video games for too long worsens school performance
- Playing educational games improves academic performance
- Late-night videogaming has a small effect on sleep patterns
There is absolutely no evidence to show that video games negatively affect brain growth or can cause brain damge.
And what of the reports of violent video games turning teenagers into knife-wielding psychopaths? Careful research shows that playing violent video games only causes people to become aggressive who already have a tendency to be violent. So parents, breathe a sigh of relief; little Sammy will not turn into a gun-crazed criminal just by playing Halo 3!
That said, it would be sensible not to expose young children to the more realistic and violent video game – in the same way a parent should limit a child’s movie and TV-watching habits.
Video Games: Good or Evil?
On balance, it seems that common-sense is the order of the day: Too much of anything is a bad thing, and video games are no exception. Most of us can separate virtual experiences from the real world but violent video games should be avoided in people with a tendency for aggression.
Are video games ever good for you?
I’m relieved that my mis-spent youth playing a Commodore 64 hasn’t caused me too much lasting harm! But are video games ever good for you?
Writers of the Daily Mail probably won’t want you to know this, but playing video games actually improves problem solving, spatial awareness and attention skills! I’m not a huge video game fan but I think I might occasionally blow the dust off the Nintendo Wii for a dose of Mario – for medicinal purposes only of course!
Thanks for reading – comments and feedback are warmly welcomed!
Here’s an interesting article looking at the impact of online video games on socialising
Xbox Kinect Techinical Specifications
3D game programming reduces X-ray exposure in CT scans
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Tobias Greitemeyer, Silvia Osswald, Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behavior, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 98, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 211-221
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M.W.G. Dye, C.S. Green, D. Bavelier, The development of attention skills in action video game players, Neuropsychologia, Volume 47, Issues 8-9, July 2009, Pages 1780-1789