Online games are a popular form of entertainment in contemporary society. Adults and children of all ages play online games on their computers, phones, or gaming stations. Apart from entertainment, online gaming can have some other benefits to users, including improved critical thinking and problem solving, increased communication skills, and enhance hand-eye coordination. However, they also have significant adverse effects, including impaired academic performance, video game addiction, irritability, and depression. The present paper will seek to outline and explain the positive and negative effects of online games for adults and children.
History of Online Games
The history of online games began in the mid-20th century. It can be traced back to NIMROD, a computer game that was introduced in 1951 (Rivenes). In the next few years, more games were developed and launched, thus increasing the prevalence of computer gaming and created in 1962, Spacewar! It became the first computer game that was playable on multiple devices, thus laying the foundation for today’s online gaming (Rivenes).
Within the next three decades, scientists developed more technologies that enabled users to play games online, including host-based networks, time-sharing, and the Internet. A popular game, Dungeons, and Dragons were also created in this period, thus introducing role-playing games (Rivenes). Since the development of the Internet, companies have released many new online games, thus increasing their global popularity. The creation of new technology, such as smartphones and gaming stations, has also facilitated the development of online gaming. Today, virtual reality devices are being developed and popularized, which will also prompt a new stage of online gaming. Technology development has made online games accessible to people of all ages, genders, and walks of life, and thus the popularity of online gaming is now at its all-time high.
Positive Effects of Online Games
One of the main positive effects of online gaming is that it can help adults and children to develop new skills. For instance, many users note that online games have helped them to acquire problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Indeed, According to Adachi and Willoughby, adolescents who play video games, including online games, have increased problem-solving capacity compared to those who do not play computer games at all (162). However, this finding is only true for certain types of games, such as strategy and RPG. Also, many online games for children target the development of key academic skills, such as reading, counting, and writing. Although children can learn these skills in other settings, online games are more engaging and can thus stimulate their interest in learning, which is also a positive outcome. Therefore, online games can help children to learn faster and be more successful in their academic life.
As opposed to other types of computer games, online games offer a way for users to communicate and cooperate with one another. For example, many games include a chat where users from all over the world can meet and talk. Some online games are also designed for teamwork and include tasks or challenges that must be completed by a group of people. Thus, online games can help people to enhance their communication skills. This is particularly important for people who are shy or socially awkward in real life. In online games, they can communicate with others without fear and can thus build confidence to meet new people and establish friendly relationships in real life. Furthermore, as online games are played by people from all over the globe, they present an excellent opportunity for users to befriend people from other countries. This can promote cultural exchange and facilitate relationships between people from various nations. As a result, online gaming can also have a positive effect on the global community.
Improved hand-eye coordination is the main physical effect of video games, including online games. In many online games, people are required to react to new events quickly and to move their hands in order to overcome the challenge. Thus, many researchers believe that video games can benefit visuomotor control or hand-eye coordination. In particular, Markman notes that action games, such as first-person shooters or driving games) can have a positive effect on hand-eye coordination. Improved visuomotor control can be a significant advantage in other activities where good coordination and quick reaction are required. For example, people’s performance in various team sports and driving can be enhanced as a result of online game playing.
Negative Effects of Online Games
Video Game Addiction
Given the fact that video games are part of a multi-billion global industry, it is not surprising that they are engaging and interesting for users. However, at times, playing video games or online games too often may result in an addiction. As noted by Wittek et al., the prevalence of video game addiction is 4.2%, and the prevalence of problematic gaming is 12.9% (673). Problematic gaming occurs when playing video games or online games has a negative impact on a person’s life. For example, problematic gamers may become detached and emotionally unstable and perform worse in their career or academic life. Video game addiction is a threatening issue associated with online games, as it creates problems in people’s real life. In addition, it may be difficult to treat and can be related to other behavioral issues, including misconduct and excessive drinking (Brunborg et al. 27). Thus, it is critical to be wary of the time spent in online games each day and to ensure that gaming does not affect other areas of life.
Impaired Academic Performance
Online games are especially popular among youth, which means that many school and college students play online games on a regular basis. Although some games can help to perform better academically, many young people choose other types of games, such as action games or shooters. These games are often highly addictive and, while they do not contribute to academic performance, they draw the students’ attention away from their studies. Thus, students who play online games every day could struggle with completing tests and assignments, as they fail to spend enough time studying. Brunborg et al. show that playing video games results in decreased academic achievement (30). Moreover, it can lead to misconduct, thus affecting students’ enrollment in schools or colleges (Brunborg et al. 30). To address this negative influence of online gaming, it is critical to decrease the time spent playing games daily and focus on academic progress instead.
Another significant influence of online games is on the mental health of their users. According to Hellström et al., online gaming in adolescents could lead to depressive symptoms (263). This effect was particularly evident in adolescents who played online games on weekdays for over 5 hours daily. This could be explained by the fact that youths who are engaged in online gaming often use it to escape from reality instead of resolving crucial problems. For example, adolescents can begin gaming excessively when they have poor relationships with their parents. However, playing online games does not solve the problem, thus leading to depressive symptoms. Also, adolescents who play online games might feel lonely and alienated, as it is harder for them to communicate with people in real life.
Another significant concern associated with online games is that certain types of video games can lead to irritability, aggression, and emotional instability. Specifically, action games and RPGs often put a lot of pressure on the user, and thus people could experience a heightened emotional response, leading to these problems. Hollingdale and Greitemeyer support the opinion that users of violent online video games are often more aggressive than those who play neutral games or avoid gaming entirely (1). Thus, the type of games played also has an essential effect on the users’ mental health.
Perception of Online Games: Survey Results
As part of this study, a survey was conducted to uncover people’s knowledge of online gaming, its prevalence, and side effects. The survey consisted of 9 questions with two answer options: “yes” and “no”. A total of 28 participants completed the survey, and all of them were recruited online. Firstly, the study showed that the majority of the participants were males between 18 and 30 years old (85.71%). The vast majority of the participants had experience playing online games (96.43%). However, only 25% of respondents considered online gaming to be a must-do activity, whereas 32.14% and 28.57% stated that they viewed it as a can-do activity or an unnecessary activity, respectively. Still, almost 40% of respondents played online games daily, and over 42.86% played online games for at least 2-3 hours in a row.
As for the effects of online games, the majority of participants did not note any adverse side effects of gaming (53.57%). Furthermore, a significant share of the respondents indicated that they experienced the positive influence of online gaming (60.71%). Nevertheless, when it came to primary and secondary school students, the vast majority of the respondents believed that online gaming could have a negative impact on their health and academic achievement (78.57%).
Overall, the results of the survey suggest that online games are popular among adults and that most adults view them as a fun activity for their leisure time. Few respondents noted the negative effect of online gaming on their life and health. However, most people felt that children would suffer from the negative influence of online games. This suggests that people view online games as mostly safe for adults but somewhat harmful for children.
All in all, online gaming has a variety of positive and negative effects. Nevertheless, most researchers note that the frequency of side effects is associated with the frequency and duration of gaming, as well as the type of games played. Mentally stimulating games, such as strategies or some RPGs, can assist people in developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, whereas action and violent games could lead to unwanted psychological consequences. The study also revealed that most adults perceive online gaming at an older age to be harmless but are wary of allowing children to play online games excessively. In future studies, it would be useful to examine the people’s perception of different types of games, as it could help to explain their attitudes towards online gaming in children.
Adachi, Paul, and Teena Willoughby. “Do Video Games Promote Positive Youth Development?” Journal of Adolescent Research, vol. 28, no. 2, 2013, pp. 155-165.
Brunborg, Geir Scott et al. “Is Video Gaming, or Video Game Addiction, Associated with Depression, Academic Achievement, Heavy Episodic Drinking, or Conduct Problems?” Journal of Behavioral Addictions, vol. 3, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-32.
Hellström, Charlotta, et al. “Effects of Adolescent Online Gaming Time and Motives on Depressive, Musculoskeletal, and Psychosomatic Symptoms.” Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 120, no. 4, 2015, pp. 263-275.
Hollingdale, Jack, and Tobias Greitemeyer. “The Effect of Online Violent Video Games on Levels of Aggression.” Plus One, vol. 9, no. 11, 2014, 1-5.
Markman, Art. “Video Game Play Benefits Coordination.” Psychology Today. 2017, Web.
Rivenes, Logan. “The History of Online Gaming.” Data Path. 2017, Web.
Wittek, Charlotte Thoresen, et al. “Prevalence and Predictors of Video Game Addiction: A Study Based on a National Representative Sample of Gamers.” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, vol. 14, no. 5, 2016, 672-686.