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CON: Could video games lead to mental illness: Video gaming technology does more good than harm

By JR Ortega
Feb. 13, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2011 at 8:13 p.m.


Could playing too many video games lead to mental illness? A study in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, seems to think so. It found that people who are already addicted to playing video games are at higher risk for anxiety disorder and depression. Some gamers say that's not the case and experts in the gaming field explain that games can be helpful to society.

When Jonathan Fuentez sits down to immerse himself into the world of video gaming, he's not thinking about life's stresses.

And the 20-year-old is definitely not thinking about the latest two-year-long study which highlights video game addiction and talks about the mental illnesses it could lead to.

"I've played video games for quite a while," said Fuentez, who enjoys playing first-person shooter games and role playing games.

The study published in "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in January and examined 3,034 children and teenagers from Signapore between 2007 and 2009.

The study concluded that pathological gaming, or addiction to gaming, resulted in increased behavioral issues, like anxiety, depression and other social phobias.

The study isn't entirely true of all gamers, Fuentez.

"It helps me relieve a lot of stress," he said.

Similarly, he has also met some people who have become addicted to games to the point where it affects life outside the virtual world.

Those people don't like to talk about those problems, he said.

"I've known some people that have played World of Warcraft and have lost their jobs," he said.

Dr. Alireza Tavakkoli, a professor at the University of Houston-Victoria's Department of Computer Science, said he hasn't seen a strong enough argument showing that video games can be detrimental to people's physical and mental health.

"Any great technology can come with great peril," he said. "People can use it for good things and people can use it for bad things."

Tavakkoli cites a recent project headed by Sony and its Playstation 3 and Stanford University.

The project studies the folding and misfolding of proteins, which could lead to cures for Alzheimer's and cancers.

Playstation 3 users can download the software and when the game console is idle, it will begin using the program to fold proteins.

Researchers at the university are using the everyday person's Playstation 3 because they are 20 times faster than regular computers, Tavakkoli said.

"That could potentially save lives," he said.

Using video games for coordinating and strengthening motor skills and education is also a plus, he said.

"It opens a different paradigm for the learning experience," he said. "A student can learn biology by playing biology."

As for Fuentez, he's going to continue doing what he's enjoyed doing since he was a kid.

"Be responsible in playing," he said.

Related: PRO: Can video games lead to mental illness?

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