Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Are Video Games Bad For You?



Short answer

Video games can actually be beneficial - if not played excessively. Taken too far, they can lead to deterioration of relationships and possibly of the brain.



Long answer

With most of America's teenagers (97%) being video gamers, it is important to know the facts about video games and health. The fact is, the consequences vary from player to player, but in general - the longer one plays, the more negative the effects become. Various studies have been conducted to find out how video games affect not only a gamer's sociability, but also his/her brain itself.

Positive effects are linked with a fair amount of gameplay which does not go into the excessive range. Social benefits gained from playing video games include learning to work with others, learning to set and solve goals, learning how to positively respond to failure, learning management skills, learning how to lead, etc. Physical benefits from playing games include increased manual dexterity and increased mental capacity for problem-solving and high-level thinking skills. Reflex/response may also be increased by playing video games.

In general, since a video game is a simulated version of reality, many of the skills used to beat a game are applicable in real life. When that involves rewarding players for helping others, then a player may develop real-life empathy. However, not all games are like the Sims. What about games like Grand Theft Auto, which reward players for killing pedestrians in almost every way imaginable? Well, according to studies, violent games are linked to increased aggression - and while video games do not deserve half the blame they are burdened with for some kids' violent decisions, they certainly do play a part when a player starts to blur reality and fantasy.

Video games can also lead players to become socially isolated and instead of increasing attention span, as happens with moderate players, may actually decrease it. This, in turn, leads to a decrease in academic achievement or lackluster work performance. Video game makers would have you only look at the positives - and there are many - however, there are also negatives to beware of depending on the type of game and how avid a gamer you are. One other thing to mention is that there is a debate in the scientific community on whether or not excessive playing may lead to neurological diseases such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer's by shrinking the hippocampus, but further research is needed to reach a conclusion. Children should be encouraged to play games (especially educational games), but not excessively.

Possible short-term side effects

  • sleep deprivation
  • headache
  • nausea

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased aggression
  • neurological disease (possible)
  • isolation
  • ruined relationships


  • better teamwork
  • increased empathy
  • problem solving skills
  • quantitative reasoning skills
  • perseverance
  • reasoned judgments

Healthier alternatives

  • educational games
  • reading
  • exercise

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-28-2015
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-28-2015
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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