Video games do affect our brains“Cover me, I’m going in,” my squad leader’s words filtered into my ear through my headset.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
“Cover me, I’m going in,” my squad leader’s words filtered into my ear through my headset.
I concentrated through the sight of an Mk11 sniper rifle and watched as three members of my squad approached an enemy M-COM station.
A couple hundred meters away and camouflaged to match the rocky side of a hill, I knew I was relatively safe. The safety of my squad, however, depended on my ability to complete two tasks — mark an enemy location and when the time came, pull the trigger.
Within seconds of activating the targeted M-COM’s self-destruct sequence, my squad fanned out and took strategic locations around the building. By completing our main objective, we had gone from offense to defense. From my distant vantage point, I saw the enemy approaching in what would hopefully become a failed attempt to protect their M-COM.
I lined up my sight and pulled the trigger.
BANG! “Headshot, enemy down,” I said.
BANG! “Shot center mass, enemy down.”
BANG! “I missed. Enemy stationed north of your location,” I relayed to my squad.
My team advanced on the enemy’s position. I looked around for the last remaining member of the enemy squad and located him heading to the M-COM station. Within seconds, I readied my rifle, adjusted my sight for gravity’s pull on the bullet’s trajectory and pulled the trigger.
BANG! “Enemy hit, but not disabled. He’s rushing the M-COM,” I said.
“Hey, are you going to take this trash out tonight?” my wife asked.
Suddenly I was reminded that I wasn’t in the mountainous region of Kazakhstan. I was sitting comfortably in my downtown Dickinson home on my couch in my pajamas with a PlayStation 3 controller in my hands and a virtual surround sound headset on my head. The experience on the battlefield was nothing more than a digital picture on a high-definition TV.
“Yeah, I’ll do it in a minute,” I responded.
As I walked the trash the half-block to the nearest dumpster, I reveled in the success of my squad and the mini rush of adrenaline that came with the excitement of hitting nearly all my targets. Walking back to the house, I couldn’t help but think of the debate on violence in America and what role the video game industry has played in making society more or less prone to violence.
From shooting 8-bit space invaders to operating a four-man tactical team in a virtual battlefield, video games have evolved into movie-quality 3-D renderings as the industry pushes the boundaries of technology and realism to provide an entertainment experience.
No matter how real it may look, I have always and will continue to enjoy violent video games. When I need to blow off steam, I fire up the PlayStation, put in a war simulation game and I run amok with weapons blazing.
For quite some time now, scientists have studied video games and the affect they have on humans. While it’s true psychologists have said children who play violent video games become prone to externalizing their anger and anxieties, another study found that surgeons who played video games for three or more hours per week make 37 percent fewer mistakes and can complete a surgery 27 percent faster than their non-gaming counterparts.
This, among other studies, shows us that video games have an effect on us when we play them.
Do they make us prone to hijacking a car ala “Grand Theft Auto?” No.
Do they turn us into real life rock stars ala “Guitar Hero?” No.
Do they turn us into war-ready soldiers fit for the battlefield ala “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield?” In my experience, no.
But they still affect our brains. And when it comes to developing minds, we shouldn’t really take any chances.
That’s why I’d like to take this opportunity to remind readers that video games are rated by the Electronic Software Ratings Board. From “E for Everyone” to “M for Mature,” ratings are easily found on the cover of most, if not all, video games. Use these ratings to make responsible decisions when purchasing an entertainment experience.
As for me, I’m an adult and I know what I like in a game. I also recognize the difference between virtual battlefields and everyday real life. And who knows, maybe a well-played round of “Battlefield 3” will mean the difference between me laughing or spewing a line of obscenities the next time an Oil Patch-bound semi cuts me off in traffic.
Byrd is The Dickinson Press copy editor.