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Fun entertainment, or harmful pastime?

By Robert Franklin

According to a late-2015 Pew Research study, 67% of adults aged 18-29 play video games. Are these popular games a fun form of entertainment, or a socially harmful pastime? The students and faculty at PLNU have diverse opinions about this subject.

“I’ve always seen video games as a hobby,” said Josh Morse. Morse is a writing major and president of the TeSPA esports club, which hosts video game competitions. He says that video games are a way to do something with people who may feel uncomfortable at sports events or book clubs.

Morse said Point Loma’s ASB has given them positive feedback for being so active in holding events and attracting so many people. (Morse said the club’s mailing list is over 180 people).

He also said that the club had attracted many different ethnicities, and that gaming “brings out the most diversity of any activity.”

Morse regards video games’ narratives as “a new form of literature,” he said. For others, it offers them another reason to be in community. He counts gaming as something that brings people together.

Morse cited the increase of televised game competitions as a sign that “The culture is moving more towards appreciating video games.” Morse said. “Businesses are recognizing there’s money to be made in esports.”

PLNU’s esports club sent 6 students to a Super Smash Bros. (An action fighting game published by Nintendo) tournament last year at SDSU, and came in second place.

Writing major Jack Shelby and Accounting major Gregory Prudhomme also speak fondly of video games.

“There’s nothing quite like getting a bunch of friends together and sitting down and all playing Mario Kart,” Shelby said. He has “good memories” of playing the game with his friends.

Prudhomme, who plays video games in his daily routine, sees gaming as a form of stress relief in modern culture. “We sort of imagine ourselves in the world of the game and react to things how we would react in real life,” he said.

However, there are those who think there are better uses of one’s time.

Sora Chiba, whose major is undeclared, said he always had the option of paying for games, but he chose to invest in surfing equipment instead. “I never had the means of getting them, never had the desire.” He said, shrugging. “My love for surfing was greater.”

Annalee Sasahara, graphic design major, said, “I used to play video games a lot when I was growing up, but now I don’t really like to play them because I just don’t really like to sit inside for a long time.” She praised games you play with others, but thought shutting yourself away to play them could be too isolating.

Megan Richardson, a Resident Director at Nease Hall, shared some concerns she had with video games. Recently, she said, the RDs went to a seminar about games and virtual reality. She said that although some can be harmless, research shows that games portraying extreme violence or sex can alter normal brain activity.

“Even though it’s fake, doing those kinds of things to an image of a human actually changes brain pathways and lessens people’s empathy, or real relationships in their actual lives, because when you are interacting with virtual humans it diminishes your capacity to interact with real humans.” She said.

“From my experience, students who choose to game a good portion of their day really struggle getting to class and they get less sleep which has a lot of detrimental effects on a lot of other areas of life.” Richardson said. “Like, their grades start to slip, and they are more socially isolated.”

However, she said that the effects depend on the game. She appreciates games involving sports or playing with people more than those involving killing, objectifying women, or “doing things that you hypothetically would hopefully never do in your real life.”

“When people hit my radar, they’re already usually struggling for some reason, so my anecdotes might not be applicable to the general gamer,” she said. But she’s seen cases in which “they stay up until 4 am playing,” or they interact significantly less face-to-face.

Dr. Kris Lambert weighed the pros and cons of video games using experience from teaching and as a psychiatric nurse.

She said that when video gaming was first popularized, “in the field [of psychology] it was always thought that it could be detrimental to a child’s development.”

She said most psychologists thought they can be isolating and too violent for developing minds. She warned young patients’ parents as well as her own kids to steer clear of video games.

As time went on, she said “I see the value” in gaming. “Now there’s groups that literally come together in the same room, and they’re playing against each other, and they’re coming together in the same room, and they’re laughing, they’re cracking up.”

Her family has warmed up to games as well. According to Lambert, when her husband comes home in the evening, she often asks “What are you gonna do?” His reply: “I’m just gonna go kill some guys.” Then he starts up a Civilization historical strategy game to relax.

However, she did say that there have been cases in which patients with behavioral health issues could have been negatively affected by video games.

She mentioned the infamous case on the news in which a girl killed her friend because she thought Slenderman—a villain from the horror game of the same name—wanted her to do so. Lambert said that game was harmful coupled with her recently-diagnosed schizophrenia.

Lambert also stated that it depends on the person. In some cases, video games can be helpful.

Lambert said she has two students in her Psychology class on the spectrum of autism. “They have actually been creating games, and designing games.” She said.

Josh Morse observed that gamers are “no longer in their mothers’ basements.” There’s some sense to that. Many gamers are now finding money in competitive gaming. Video games may provide community with friends. Yet, there are some undeniable risks in gaming for others: some risks that might be too great.


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