Video Games are Healthy? Thoughts from a Recovering Gamer

Mar. 9, 2012 / By

Luis Pacheco, The kNOw Youth Media, Fresno’s Youth Voice

When  I was a sophomore in high school, the thing that mattered most to me was my
education. That is, until I went to a Black Friday sale and bought myself a PS3
gaming console. It quickly became an addiction. I just couldn’t lay off the video
games.

On a typical weekday, I would come home from school around 4pm. I had at least a
good 1 to 3 hours of homework to do every night, and the rest of my time I spent
playing video games. Weekends were even worse, because I had plenty of time to play.
I would wake up and start playing around 6am, and I wouldn’t stop until midnight.

My mom noticed that I was spending more time playing video games than doing my
homework, and that it was becoming a bad habit for me. So she started telling me
that video games were unhealthy, and that it would ruin my vision when I was older

Some scientists 
apparently now believe that gaming actually improves vision

and can even make us smarter and more creative. Jonathan Castro,
a 16-year-old who plays video games like Call of Duty, would agree.

“In the 8th grade I wore glasses with no improvement (in my vision) until I
played Call of Duty 4,” he said. An eyeglass wearer since middle school,
Castro said that when he went back to the optometrist after playing Call
of Duty 4, he discovered that his vision had improved.

Nevertheless, I still think my mom was right about video games being unhealthy
– some of the top-selling titles like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Uncharted
being the worst – and my reasoning has nothing to do with developing
better vision or hand-eye coordination.

Call of Duty, one of the most popular video game series, is classified
as a First-Person Shooter (FPS) game, which involves a lot of violence,
blood and killing. The game is appropriately rated “M” for mature, but
that doesn’t stop many parents and older siblings from buying these M-rated
games for their children or younger siblings. That’s the unhealthy part: When
it comes to gun violence in video games, some youth can get confused, and
it can lead to making bad decisions in real life.

All FPS games are about tactical strategy, so I can see how that could be a
healthy mental exercise, but certainly when the content is full of graphic
killing it can’t be all healthy.

Common sense also tells us that excessive amounts of time sitting inactive
in front of a television or computer screen playing video games means less
time for healthy physical activities like after-school sports. Even worse,
some video games, like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, which was released
last November, actually encourage gamers to buy junk food by offering
players special game codes – the codes will let you
“level up” faster – that can only be acquired by purchasing certain
brands of chips and sodas, like Mountain Dew or Doritos. This being
the case, it doesn’t seem a stretch to say that excessive video gaming
can also lead to obesity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another clearly unhealthy aspect of gaming has to do with time.
A lot of teenagers play online, and unless you’re a great gamer,
it takes a massive amount of time to “level up” – to win and advance
to the next stage of the game. But if you’re putting so many hours
into video games, you’re probably not going to be spending as much
time on other things, like homework or household chores. Your brain
becomes fast in a video game sense, but slow in reality. That’s just
how it is, and unless you’re playing an educational game, your
knowledge of facts begins to decrease when you’re playing an FPS
or a role-playing game (RPG).

Video game addiction can also affect your daily routine. If you’re
the type of person to go to sleep early, wake up super early and do
well at school, all of that can go downhill fast — like it did for me.
Once I got deep into video game playing, I started waking up late for
school and wouldn’t get up in time unless I had someone waking me up.
I stopped paying attention in class. Video games were the only thing
on my mind, controlling all I thought about. I started getting sleepy
in the afternoon. I repeated this unhealthy routine, day after day.

It’s not a stretch to say that in the most extreme cases, games can
even increase the probability of a student dropping out of school.
When video games become the only thing you want to do in life, school
just loses its attraction.

Even though experts now say there are some health benefits to gaming,
because of my personal experiences I still believe heavy video game use
is a bad thing overall.

Some parents, like my own mother, understand that and are willing to
tell their children that video games are unhealthy. The problem is,
youth don’t always want to listen.

But for me, the words have finally hit home. This past weekend, I
finally sold my PS3 console for $200. Since I feel less healthy when
I game, I recently made up my mind to focus on the things that will
improve my future, like going to college. After years of gaming, I’ve
decided that I want a better future for myself.

Luis Pacheco is a graduate of Edison High School and joined The kNOw
in 2009. He is the author of “Women Deserve More Respect” in Issue 5.
His hobbies are making YouTube videos and playing Call of Duty once
in a while. Luis is involved with volunteering work and helping his
fellow kNOw members through peer mentoring. Luis truly loves The kNOw
Youth Media and is excited to be a support for youth that need someone
to talk to.

 

 

 

 

 

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The kNOw Fresno

The kNOw Fresno

Through The kNOw Youth Media's program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.