The Brain and Video Games

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Carson Reed had an interesting post about violent video games and the brain. If you are in youth ministry or have teenagers that play video games, especially the violent ones, you have to check this out.

"More from the Economist:Video Game Violence
In the study mentioned in yesterday's blog more interesting things emerge. Functional brain-imaging challenges another aspect of American culture. I think that I will simply quote the article without comment:

"Dr. Mathiak enlisted 13 gamers who played video games for, on average, 20 hours a week. While the gamers stalked and shot the enemy from the relative discomfort of a scanner's interior, the reserachers recorded events in their brains.

As a player approached a violent encounter, part his brain called the anterior cingulate cortex became active. This area is associated with aggression in less fictional scenarios, and also with the subsequent suppression of more positive emotions, such as empathy. Dr Mathiak noted that the responses in his gamers were thus strikingly similar to the neural correlates of real aggression. As he puts it, 'Contrary to what the industry says, it appears to be more than just a game.'"

Wow! I don't know about you, but I have noticed in kids who are the heaviest gamers a lack of empathy. For many of these guys they are spending hours at home each week living in a false reality, escaping the real world, isolating themselves from family and friends, and even God.

How do we as youth ministers combat this? Do we tell our kids they can't play video games? I don't think this will keep kids from playing games. I have tried to have Friday Night Game Nights here at church where my guys will bring the X-Boxs' and Halo, and we play games for a few hours. There have been some really positive things come out of this, namely, a few of our inactive guys have started coming to other youth group funcitions, as well as worship, and one young man has even given his life to Christ, not as a direct result of the Game Nights, but I hope by the Christ he saw modeled in me, and the other boys. On the flip side there have been some negative things from these game nights. Well, my guys just seem more aggressive, from what the results of the above study are showing, my guys aggressive behavior could be related to thier gaming? Hmm, maybe I need to re-think our game nights?

Let me know what you think about this study, and what we as youth ministers can do to help our teens.

5 Responses to “The Brain and Video Games”

  1. Blogger CL 

    Oh boy, this one is a struggle! With this specific issue in mind I fought and fought ever bringing a game system into our youth area. I finally succomb and bought an X-Box and PS2 for our teens to play. It get's played like crazy all the time. One thing I did do is tell our kids that the only games we will play on our boxes are sports related, unless it's like Finding Nemo or something. So I went out and also bought like ten games that way they are there and they don't try and bring their own games. Then there is the other issues, such as the most popular games are Halo, and Halo2 (that pretty much sums it up, right?)
    Which brings me to the bigger issue of, Why did we buy these things for them? So that they would have a place they could play games and have a good time, and to help me get them in the door so that other things can take place. So, with that said do I have to have the games that are most attractive to them to get them in there? You know the afforementioned, which by the way I have had some Youth Ministers tell me, those are good games they aren't bad for our kids. Shooting things, oh yeah, definitely fits right in to where we're headed.
    Anyway, what is the answer? Well actually I have found that this hasn't been that beneficial to our group anyway, what has? Relationships.

    So I guess I just don't know, except I know how to ramble on. Sorry to continue in the clouding...

  2. Blogger Jovan 

    "Wow! I don't know about you, but I have noticed in kids who are the heaviest gamers a lack of empathy. For many of these guys they are spending hours at home each week living in a false reality, escaping the real world, isolating themselves from family and friends, and even God."

    The teens we minister to are critized for being apathetic. I agree that the overwelming hours playing video games is a contributor to this. I know that I can pop in NCAA Football 2004 on the P2 and escape all my responsibilities and all my problems for at least 4 quarters (thats if I don't go into overtime).

    As far as game nights and playing Halo? It seems the same as trying to pick a movie to watch together as a youth group. The movies many of them want to watch are the ones I will not rent or go to the theaters to see. I can get just as much teens if not more to help clean up yards or deliver meals on wheels than do movies and game nights. I think that maybe I waist enough time by myself playing NCAA Football, do i need to waist theirs as well? But then again what if thats one of the only ways to spend time with some teens? Or what if thats one of the few ways to expose some teens to Christ? (is this what Jesus meant as being "shrewd as a serpant?")Surely we could think of something else? I remember thinking it would really be awesome if we had a foosball table and airhockey and pingpong tables in the youth room, the teens would love them. You know what? We got em (except the ping pong table is in storage cause it doesn't fit in youth room) and they don't even use them. Bad read on my part. When we get in the youth room, we enjoy talking to each other. The relationship bit is the important thing. When I watch a movie I don't talk, when I play a video game or play air hockey, I don't talk (unless it's trash talk). But is it the talking that is important of just being together? This is something for me to prayer contemplate further. I don't think I'm of any help.

  3. Blogger CL 

    Gotta say Amen to Jovan! You are totally right, I have never done "game nights" on Weds nights we have our worship time and our kids come in and play PS2 or XBox or pool, ping pong, air hockey or foosball. We have two ping pong tables and those and the pool table are always hot. Kids are always on them and I have had some very challenging conversations over them, it ususally ends up being like a small group but it works, and it has helped to bring unchurched kids in as well. So there is some more cloudiness for you...

  4. Blogger sudrakarma 

    I wonder if anyone will do a study to see if there is a correlation between violent videogame useage and survivability rates in and recoverability from actual combat. I've heard of stranger studies paid for with your tax dollars.

    Then again -perhaps it's no accident that our culture feeds its young a steady diet of electronic violence

    (cue evil bumper music) Dun-dun-dun-daaaaaaaaaa!

  5. Blogger Jason Retherford 


    I was just wondering, context is important here. What may be applicable in one setting may not be applicable in another. However, it does seem that these game systems are addictive. Like tonight, the two guys that came to our Tues. night Bible study this evening, they talked with passion about Halo 2. I asked them what thier life might be like, if they talked about Jesus the same way.

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