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Oct 10, 2008

Biggest Gaming Myths

Video games lead to violent kids, girls hate video games, only kid’s play video games, video games lead to insomnia..., and the list is endless. However, how many of these are actually true and how many are mere myths.

In an essay published, MIT Professor Henry Jenkins debunked some of the most common myths related to video games. Jenkins wrote this essay in conjunction with a PBS Documentary, The Video Game Revolution. Here's bringing to you the biggest eight gaming myths.

Video games lead to an epidemic of youth violence

A Finnish online site recently removed a game called Kindergarten Killers and issued an apology. This followed the unfortunate incident where a lone gunman killed nine fellow students and a teacher before shooting himself at a Finnish school. But are video games alone to be blame for such psycho acts?

No, says a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. According to the study, video games do not incite teen violence and can actually improve social interaction. The researchers discovered that 97 per cent of teens aged 12-17 play video games, and that their gaming activity has become an important part of their social experience - dispelling the myth that gamers are anti-social outsiders.

Children who play games together are more likely to volunteer, raise money for a charity or participate politically than those who play alone, the study found.

Scientific evidence links games with youth aggression

According to Jenkins, claims like these are based on the work of researchers who represent one relatively narrow school of research, "media effects." This research includes some 300 studies of media violence. Jenkin writes that most of such studies are inconclusive and many have been criticised on methodological grounds. In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context.

He adds "Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand. Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played. Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. That's why the vague term links is used here."

Video games are not a meaningful form of expression

Again, it is commonly believed that video games don't offer any meaningful form of expression. Debunking this myth Jenkin argues that several earlier games were little more than shooting galleries where players were encouraged to blast everything that moved. However, current games are designed to be ethical testing grounds. They allow players to navigate an expansive and open-ended world, make their own choices and witness their consequences.

These games provide a medium that allows players to experience guilt over the actions of fictional characters. In a movie, one can always pull back and condemn the character or the artist when they cross certain social boundaries. However, while playing a game, a player chooses what happens to the characters.

Video games are socially isolating

Another biggest myth regarding video games is that they turn kids into loners. However, the Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that for most teens, gaming is a social activity and a major component of their overall social experience.

"Social game play is thought to offer the possibility for youth to have collaborative and interactive experiences, experiences that potentially parallel may real-world political and civic activities," the report states.
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