Recently, I was sent a request to post an advertisement on my website. Well, the company called it a “graphic”, which I guess is the technical term, but it looked like an old fashioned ad to me. At the top is the bold proclamation, “How Video Games Improve Health in All Life Stages”. Underneath this title are four catagories:
Under each category, there are graphs and percentages to show one just how helpful video games are. At the end of the ad... I mean graphic, there is a long list of website addresses to articles which support their claims. I ran into trouble here. The website addresses are not links, nor can you copy and paste the addresses. The only way to actually get to these supporting articles is do open another browser window and painstakingly copy the long address onto the new browser. I doubt many people do this.
I did. I learned some amazing things. Video games do indeed help with gait velocity, stride, and balance in Parkinson's disease. Video games can be a good way for people to exercise who are in the hospital for a long stay. Physical therapists do recommend Wii games for therapeutic support. I'm sure I would have found out many other wonderful ways in which video games improve health, however, I finally got tired of typing the addresses and I stopped.
In both my reading and my stopping, I learned even more. The advertisement is misleading.
First of all, the games which were studied were made especially for one population to serve a specific purpose. There is nothing in the articles which suggest there is any health benefit from the hundreds of very popular video games on the market. This graphic/advertisement is for a company which makes popular games, not the games listed in the articles.
Secondly, if I stopped before the end of the article list, and I was determined to check out the validity of these claims, how many readers would simply glance at the graphic and connect the title with the company. “Buy our games! Be healthy!” This is the message. I wrote to the company to ask which of their games were helpful for Parkinson's disease, but they did not answer.
There are many other arguments to say video games are not at all healthy, especially for young children. I will list actual links to some of those arguments after this article.
I'm not trying to bash all video games. The studies and reports I read were valid. There are certain circumstances when video games can be beneficial. If a hospital patient who needs something to motivate them to exercise, and there's a computer game that can help, go for it. For someone with severe disabilities, get a Wii!
For an obese child who needs to eat better, for goodness sake, don't give the child a video game! Serve healthy food. Go on long walks. Spend a lot of time outside. Have the child help with chores.
Remember the old cereal commercials? After a cute animation where sugary cereal saved the day, we were told “Super Sugar Crisp is a part of this nutritious breakfast”. The breakfast shown would include toast, orange juice, and scrambled eggs. Take out the cereal and you still have a nutritious breakfast. Take out the rest of it and what do you have left? Artificial vitamins and sugar.
If someone were truly starving and had only Super Sugar Crisp to eat, then I could admit it was healthy for that person. In the context of this video game advertisement, one could only say video games are a part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle which includes active exercise, being outdoors, doing purposeful work, being creative, eating healthy foods, and being social. Take the video games out of this lifestyle and nothing changes. Take everything else away, leaving only the video games, and what do you have left?
Video games can certainly improve health in some circumstances. I hope, even then, video games will be seen as just a very small part of the answer. Okay, I'll admit it. I love the never-ending online scrabble game. It's a occasional treat, kind of like Cocoa Puffs, but when it comes to working on my balance and stride, I would much rather do yoga and dance!
(I will be posting the promised links as soon as possible! Thank you for your patience.)