21st Century - Video Games or Traditional Sport Disciplines 3. 3. 5

Author: Ladislav Mesarič

Keywords: video games, benefits, bad sides, health, physical activity


Nowadays, video gaming is a highly popular and prevalent entertainment option; its use is no longer limited to children and adolescents. Demographic data on video gaming shows that the mean age of video game players is 31 years old and has been on the rise in recent decades. It is a common activity among young adults (Palaus et al., 2016).

New research from innovation charity Nesta reveals that those who play video games are better educated, no less wealthy and more likely than non-games players to participate actively in culture. The findings also turn the gamer stereotype on its head, with women more likely to play than men do and the average gamer being aged 43. However, among those that play, females do so less often than men do. (Nesta, 2017) Gaming is broad and complex. A ‘typical’ gamer may not exist. Based on the written, we can conclude that video games are not just for young people.

In our perception, video games still have something bad. Against this backdrop of nearly ubiquitous play, the popular press regularly pulses out urgent warnings against the perils of addiction to these games and their inevitable link to violence and aggression, especially in children and adolescents (Granic et al., 2016).

Video games are changing and the approach has changed. The more balanced perspective, considers not only the possible negative effects but also the benefits of playing these games.

The Benefits of Playing Video Games

According to meta study (Granic et al., 2016) video games provide people with compelling social, cognitive, and emotional experiences and can potentially boost mental health and well-being. Authors find the following benefits:

Cognitive development

Research into action games shows enhanced mental rotation abilities, faster and more accurate attention allocation, higher spatial resolution in visual processing. Meta-analysis studies showed that spatial skills can be learned in a relatively brief time by playing video games and that the results are often comparable to training in formal courses designed to enhance those same skills. Cognitive advantages from video games also appear to produce greater neural processing and efficiency, improve attention functioning and help with pattern recognition. Interactive games also appear to improve creativity as well. Although it is still not clear how well the skills learned from video games generalize to real-world situations, early research results seem promising (Granic et al., 2016).


Most gamers play video games for enjoyment and to help improve their mood. Along with distracting them from real-world problems (a special concern for young people looking for escape from bullying or other negative life situations), succeeding in video games can lead to positive feelings, reduced anxiety, and becoming more relaxed.


By setting specific tasks and allowing people to work through obstacles to achieve those tasks, video games can help boost self-esteem and help people to learn the value of persistence. By providing immediate feedback as video game players solve problems and achieve greater expertise, players can learn to see themselves as having skills and intelligence they might not otherwise realize they possess. Gaming helps people realize that intelligence can increase with time and effort rather than being fixed.

Social activity

Perhaps more than ever before, video games have become an intensely social activity. Instead of the stereotypical gaming nerd who uses video games to shun social contact, over 70 percent of gamers play with friends, whether as part of a team or in direct competition. Social and prosocial activities are an intrinsic part of the gaming experience with gamers rapidly learning social skills that could generalize to social relationships in the real world.

The vast majority of reviewed studies revealed positive health outcomes for older adults associated with digital video game play, especially related to mental and physical health benefits. Significant mental health positive outcomes, such as cognitive improvement, were reported in multiple digital video game interventions, which used measures such as working memory, focused attention, fluid intelligence, scales for dementia, scales for depression, information processing, enjoyment of physical exercise, and balance confidence to assess cognitive improvement. The most frequently reported significant health outcome among digital game interventions for older adults were mental health outcome factors (Hall et al., 2016).

Video games have been used as a form of physiotherapy or occupational therapy in many different groups of people. Such games focus attention away from potential discomfort and, unlike more traditional therapeutic activities; they do not rely on passive movements and sometimes painful manipulation of the limbs. Therapeutic benefits have also been reported for a variety of adult populations including wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries, people with severe burns, and people with muscular dystrophy (Griffiths, 2005).

Video games have many positive effects and are appropriate for people with disabilities. However, consideration should be given to suitability of some games for special groups of people. In addition to the above mentioned positive sides, video games also have many negative sides.

The bad sides of video game

Muscle pain, Obesity, Sleep Deprivation

Though the activity level needed to play Wii or Xbox Kinect are a step in the right direction, a majority of video games still involve sitting in front of a screen, often with poor posture. Excessive screen game playing leads to increased levels of muscle stiffness, especially in the shoulders, which can be caused by poor posture. Sedentary lifestyles and bad diets are directly linked to obesity. Playing too many video games has been associated with changes in physical appearance. Increased gaming can cause sleep deprivation and gamers can develop black rings in the skin under the eyes (Tazawa & Okada, 2001).

According to a report in Paediatrics, seven out of 10 children are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D, of course, is commonly absorbed from exposure to sunlight. Unfortunately, being holed up in front of video games console does not afford the same exposure to sunlight as being outside (Misra et.all 2008).

Negative aspects include the risk of video game addiction (although the prevalence of true addiction, rather than excessive use, is very low) and increased aggressiveness. There have been numerous reports of other adverse medical and psycho-social effects. For instance, the risk of epileptic seizures whilst playing video games in photosensitive individuals with epilepsy is well established (Griffiths 2005).

Answer to the main question

In accordance with the text above, video games have a lot of space in our field of operation. However, we have to answer the main question: 21st Century - Video Games or Traditional Sport Disciplines?

The answer is both. While video games show their advantages having regard to all the weaknesses traditional games are another story.

People have many different reasons for exercising. Sport activities provide the health related benefits. The main goals are to lower the risk of developing health problems and preventable disease. A person can be well even if he or she has differences in movement capabilities, whether these are caused by a particular experience or factors such as cerebral palsy, injury to the spinal cord and paralysis, or advanced age. Disabilities are not considered illnesses or deficiencies. Regardless of ability level, age or level of experience, exercise benefits can lead to wellness. (Kasser & Lytle, 2013).

For adapted physical activity, it is considered that it is one of the most sustainable support systems for promoting physical activity for people with different forms of disability and for the continuous development of scientific knowledge, based on the support of applied practice and human rights (Aleksandrović et al., 2016).

Video games can be used for special purposes, taking into account advantages and disadvantages, but they cannot replace traditional sports activities. We need to adapt physical activities so people with disabilities can participate and gain benefits.

Man was made to move. This is a biological fact that no video game can substitute. But even from video games we will have more if we play them in good physical condition.


Bakhshi, H. (2017). New research proves cultural value of video gaming. (https://www.nesta.org.uk/news/new-research-proves-cultural-value-of-video-gaming/)

Brown, A. (2017) Younger men play video games, but so do a diverse group of other Americans. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/11/younger-men-play-video-games-but-so-do-a-diverse-group-of-other-americans/)

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Misra, M., Pacaud, D., Petryk A., Collett-Solberg P.F., Kappy, M. (2008) Vitamin D Deficiency in Children and Its Management: Review of Current Knowledge and Recommendations. Pediatrics, Volume 122 / Issue 2

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Tazawa, Y. and Okada, K. (2001), Physical signs associated with excessive television-game playing and sleep deprivation. Paediatrics International, 43: 647-650. doi:10.1046/j.1442-200X.2001.01466.x