Opinion: This lady is saying some crazy stuff about gamers

walker Warning: This is an opinion piece. It’s not objective reporting. Happy Saturday.

Professor Laura Padilla-Walker (seen on the left) of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University recently published a study in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence titled More Than a Just a Game: Video Game and Internet Use During Emerging Adulthood. When asked about the study, Padilla-Walker commented “The most striking part is that everything we found clustered around video game use is negative.”

Everything? So NOTHING good comes from playing video games? That’s crazy talk. Is it negative that games generally make for better surgeons and fighter pilots? Is it negative that Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour kinda/sorta teach people how to play the drums? Is it negative that all the groomsmen at my wedding were guys I met on Xbox Live? They weren’t, but you can imagine if they were. That would have been weird!

The impetus behind the study – which you can download for $34 – “was to gain a clearer understanding of the pattern of video game and internet use among college students and to examine how electronic leisure was related to risk behaviors (i.e., drinking, drug use, sex), perceptions of the self (i.e., self worth and social acceptance), and relationships with others (i.e., relationship quality with parents and friends).”

Participants included 813 undergraduate students (500 young women, 313 young men, M age = 20, SD = 1.87) who were mainly European American (79%), unmarried (100%) and living outside their parents’ home (90%). Results suggested that (a) video game use was linked to negative outcomes for men and women, (b) different patterns of video game and internet use existed for men and women and (c) there were different relations to risk behaviors, feelings about the self, and relationship quality based on the type of internet use, and based on gender. The discussion focuses on the implications of electronic leisure on the overall health and development of young people as they transition to adulthood.

According to the Telegraph, the study found the following:

  • People who play video games at least every other day were “around 10 per cent more likely to drink alcohol and take drugs than students who rarely played the games.”
  • “Those who played computer games every day were three times as likely to use cannabis as those who never played.”
  • “Most of the men asked, 55 per cent, were regular players, using their games console at least every other day. By contrast, only around 7 per cent of women admitted that they played computer games that often.”
  • “Female gamers were more likely to suffer low self-esteem than other women, an effect not seen among male players.”
  • “As the amount of time spent playing the games increased, the quality of relationships with friends and parents deteriorated… although the effects were described as ‘modest’.”

Padilla-Walker further commented:

“It may be that young adults remove themselves from important social settings to play video games, or that people who already struggle with relationships are trying to find other ways to spend their time,” she said. “My guess is that it’s some of both and becomes circular.”

Allow me to explain to Professor Padilla-Walker how college works for most kids. Video gaming is at an all-time high on campuses everywhere. I’ve never played so many video games in my entire life than in the four years that I was in college.

Know what goes great with playing video games when you’re in college with all your buddies? Beer. Also, booze. And for some, cannabis. The fact that the study only found a 10% increase in alcohol and drug use among college-aged gamers is, frankly, shocking. I’d expect it to be much higher than that.

Your study, Ms. Padilla-Walker, should have looked closer at those who don’t play video games habitually. Sure, you’ll find that fewer women play games than men but you should have asked women how much time they spend watching men play video games in college. Ask any of the women who lived in my house or next door to my house how many times they’ve witnessed a game of Mario Kart 64 (this was back in 2000 or so, mind you) while drinking with everyone else.

The students who aren’t playing video games or at least watching people play video games are the ones you should be more concerned about. What are they doing? If you can walk down a dorm hallway on a Friday night and not hear the gunfire from a first person shooter or the whistles from any EA Sports title intermingled with the clanking of beer bottles, something is wrong.

And the whole “female gamers have lower self esteem” thing? You surveyed 500 women and only 7% admitted to playing games at least every other day. That’s 35 women in college likely to suffer from low self esteem out of 500 – pretty good if you ask me. Sounds like they’re just being honest, though. The Entertainment Software Association puts female gamers at about 38 percent, according to CNN. So consider that the 31% of women in your study who didn’t admit to gaming might be trying to mask other stuff as well like, oh I don’t know, low self esteem.

Finally, back to the “everything we found clustered around video game use is negative” piece. You can’t say things like that and have people take you seriously.

High-fiving after a one-timer builds camaraderie. Yelling joyfully after returning the enemy’s flag to your base is therapeutic. Laughing hysterically after your buddy botches the landing of an impossible trick releases endorphins.

Sure, there’s a sadder, darker side to video games but that only pertains to people who play MMORPGs – like when I used to lock myself in my room and play Everquest eight hours a day. Yes, that’s a bad time in every gamers life, but we all emerge from it much stronger than ever before and eventually return to playing games because they enrich our lives. So does beer.