Gaming Is Good For You! (If You Pick Out The Good Bits)

By John Walker on April 5th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

And chocolate and loud music.

After yesterday’s discussion of the perceived/imagined dangers of video gaming, and so many before it, it’s good to take a look at what good gaming can do. That’s what ‘Frugal Dad’, Jason White, has done on his finance blog. You can see it below.

It’s pleasing to see something like this coming from a site that’s otherwise not to do with gaming, from someone without an agenda in the business of gaming. In fact, he’s a dad with kids he worries spend too much time with games, and decided to look into it. Written for a small-c conservative finance site. This is what he found:

Gaming is good for you

Source: Frugal Dad

Clearly these are very selective numbers, reporting only the good news, ignoring the bad. Take a statistic like, “76% of married couples said playing MMORPGs together had a positive effect on their marriage” – well, that means that 24%, 1 in 4, found that playing MMOs had a negative effect on their marriage. It’s how you spin it, and I’m pretty sure that opposite version would make for some fairly hefty headlines.

Actually, follow that one stat backwards and you can see some significant agenda shifting. In this infographic we have:

“76% of married couples said playing MMORPGs together had a positive effect on their marriage”

Frugal Dad sourced this from Slate, where it was reported with the headline:

“How Playing Online Video Games Can Help Your Marriage”

But revealingly the URL for the story reads:

“mmorpg_like_world_of_warcraft_can_help_or_hurt_a_marriage”

And they got their story from a study by Brigham Young University, who headlined their findings:

“Online role-playing games hurt marital satisfaction, says BYU study”

That’s quite the game of Bias Telephone.

In fact, go to the source and you’ll find rather less comfortable information, like how if only the husband (the survey only featured heterosexual couples) plays MMOs, then you have rates of over 70% saying the games hurt their marriages. Look deeper and it seems this might actually be something defined by whether couples go to bed at the same time – something that’s less likely when one is raiding at all hours.

In other words, we always need to be applying the same level of scrutiny to facts that seem in our favour as we do those that go against. But don’t let that stop you printing out the infographic and using it to win arguments.

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36 Comments »

  1. Ross Mills says:

    ““76% of married couples said playing MMORPGs together had a positive effect on their marriage” – well, that means that 24%, 1 in 4, found that playing MMOs had a negative effect on their marriage.”

    Not necessarily, you’re ignoring “This game has had no discernible effect on my marriage” – Do we have data for that?

    • Wreckdum says:

      I think the last part is the most important. If you are playing games for over 21 hours a week and you are an adult… It’s not healthy. Unless you are a billionaire philanthropist who has no responsibilities in the world except helping people with your wealth. If that isn’t you then you are probably either slacking at work, slacking in your relationship or ignoring your children. You can’t fit these MMO 40+ hour a week gaming schedules into a healthy adult life. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Diet, physical activity, real life relationships. All these things should take priority over games. But for the vast majority, they don’t.

      • Rusty says:

        “But for the vast majority, they don’t”

        The vast majority of whom? And what’s your source?

        • wonderpookie says:

          I think that statement was more of a keen observation of the world and society in which we live than a hard fact. An observation I would agree with.

          Be it gaming or work or any other past time and indeed even responsibilities, I believe most adults struggle to prioritise family time properly.

          • Rusty says:

            Yeah, I get that. I pretty much agree with Wreckdum, personally, and based entirely on my own subjective experience.

            It’s just that the article is kind of about basing one’s conclusions on facts and the trickiness thereof. I certainly think that getting the balance between gaming and other stuff is hard – I’ve got two jobs, a mortgage and two daughters. But saying, “Most people get it wrong,” without defining “it’ or “wrong” or which people seems a little light on content.

            Of course, maybe Wreckdum just means most people get most stuff wrong, which I have to concede is right (although if we both think so, that may mean we’re wrong… Wait, one of us always tells the truth and one of us always lies… no wait… come back to me, I had something for this).

      • wonderpookie says:

        Cutting back on and keeping my gaming time in check is exactly what I am struggling with atm in light of getting married and having a baby :(… but you’re right! Diet, physical activity, relationships all important if I want to raise that lil brat right!

        I’m still hopeful that once she gets to a certain age, my gaming time can once again increase as we game together! Father and daughter pwning noobs! Or more likely, daughter pwning her noob dad :(

      • Fumarole says:

        A healthy adult life need include neither a relationship nor children.

      • kiwlosad says:

        Mobile Mini 2.5″ SATA 320GB USB2.0 External Hard Disk for 3DS Wii Microsoft Xbox360 Sony PS3 PC http://aox.me/ss44

    • Shuck says:

      Neither the article referenced nor the press release it used as a source mention how the other 24% break down. Sadly the Journal article in question seems to be behind a pay wall. So yeah, we don’t know what fraction of those 24% had gaming negatively impact their marriage and which saw no effect.

  2. mrtypo says:

    Call me Picky McPickerton but if 76% said gaming had a positive effect, there may have been a neutral effect on at least some of the remaining 24%.

  3. jokigenki says:

    It could also mean that one person in the couple thought it did, and the other didn’t.

    The title of the original report is also rather disingenuous, as the researchers admit that the results of the study were inconclusive, as other factors had an overwhelmingly stronger effect. If the one spouse spent all their time constructing model railways, that could also cause strife. The report should’ve been titled “Level of shared interests correlates to quality of marriage”.

    • Shuck says:

      It seems to be even more specific than that, at least in the cases where one spouse playing MMOs was a problem – it was the lack of a shared bed-time that caused strife.

  4. Bhazor says:

    Yet the movie industry doesn’t feel the need to go on the defensive when someone criticises a film as offensive.

    • sinister agent says:

      That’s because people might say a film is offensive. Nobody who anyone listens to says that all films are bad. They do, however, often claim that games are.

      Also, there’s a huge difference between “offensive” and “harmful”. As far as I can tell, none of the recent articles on here were discussing offensiveness at all.

      • Bhazor says:

        If the industry would grow out of its teenage obsession with tits and explosions it wouldn’t need to defend itself when someone says nasty things about it.

        I just think it’s sad that so many videogame makers are so defensive when they’re criticised for their content. Truth is alot of developers deserve criticism with Zynga in particular setting out to be as addictive as possible and relying on all the same tactics as casinos and gambling rings. Or MMO’s that practically demand constant spending to be competitive. If games had work of merit at the forefront then people would seperate that from the exploitative parts. Just the same way as how people seperate porn from cinema.

        • Phantoon says:

          Tits and explosions? Are we talking about Michael Bay and movies or video games?

          • Shuck says:

            Too many games are like Michael Bay movies without the substantial bits – and that’s saying something.

        • sinister agent says:

          But nobody says bad things about films in the same way they say bad things about games. Films don’t all get lumped in under “murder simulators” the way games do.

          Yes, games could do with a better fluff:substance ratio, but it’s a bit unreasonable to suggest that merely defending games when they’re attacked is a symptom of some flaw in games. People speak up when games are criticised simply because games are criticised in a way that other media aren’t. If you replaced “games” with “films” in any such article or speech, you’d get plenty of people saying “what absolute bollocks. Films aren’t harming kids, and here’s why…”.

    • pilouuuu says:

      And if you watched an offensive movie, people will only say you made a mistake, watch a better movie next time, but if you play games and they’re evil, they’ll say you are an horrible, childish person who is wasting time!

      That’s why we need to defend our hobby…

  5. Premium User Badge

    DrScuttles says:

    While this also applies to John’s previous article (arguably more so, but meh), I’ll just leave you with something from Stewart Lee.

    Or if you can’t be bothered, I’ll sum it up. “You can prove anything with facts.”

  6. Bhazor says:

    Just noticed

    “Fitness game workouts can boost heart rate and stamina”

    Rejected headline: “Workout regime improves fitness”

  7. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    “Kids who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day for three months had a thicker cortex than those who didn’t play. The cortex is believed to process coordination and visual information.”

    Well, sorry to rain on your parade, but gray matter increases in the cortex can be seen in practicing nearly every skill. And they’re not saying which part of the cortex either; I hardly think your brain grows in every area. Saying that the cortex (which is really 2/3 of your entire brain) processes coordination and visual information is a shocking overgeneralization.

    But, well, it’s an eye-catching, concise infographic. Some level of bias is to be expected, nothin’ to do about it.

  8. Dervish says:

    I like my hobby, but I also like good science, and I think it’s a bad idea to try to tilt opinion with flimsy support. The (non-controversial) claim that SOME games CAN be good for SOME people SOMETIMES is 100% compatible with the simultaneous claim that video games are directly responsible for a shocking rise in youth violence. Even if you admit the biases, it’s a dangerous game to willingly use psychological tricks to support your cause, no matter how feelgood the examples are. The tendency for infographics to prioritize style makes them doubly risky in terms of backlash.

    As an additional grumpy comment of the day, the style of this infographic is very overused.

  9. pilouuuu says:

    And most importantly, people who play games have more fun than other people.

  10. Grayvern says:

    As my favorite sociology lecturer was fond of saying you can find a study to support literally any viewpoint.

  11. Thants says:

    The biggest problem is he implies that playing “social games” is inherently good. People playing FarmVille doesn’t support the argument that games are good for you.

    • Turbobutts says:

      Just because it doesn’t seem to be your kind of game doesn’t make it any less of a game, and therefore doesn’t make it any less of a mental training to players. Sure, it’s casual, but it’s better than nothing.

      • Dervish says:

        Any game at all = mental training = good? I think you’ve blindly moved to the other end of the spectrum. The claim of Farmville being damaging needs support, sure, but the idea that any game is better than nothing is implausible on the face of it.

  12. LuNatic says:

    I learned more about history from games like Age of Empires and Rise of Nations than I ever did in school. Surely I can’t be the only one?

  13. Aankhen says:

    Ah, infographics. ‘Go ahead, check my sources. No, you can’t— you can’t click on them. Look, just, I don’t copy them. No, no, I didn’t mean copy copy them, I meant type them out copy them. Yes, that’s— yes, exactly, just type it out. See? Easy peasy.’

    Also, that is quite the selective sourcing.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Keirley says:

    Thanks for the good work John, it’s always great to see journalists/critics being so consistently sceptical about an issue.

  15. Melf_Himself says:

    I am a vision scientist, and the statistic regarding amlyopia is complete garbage. So I am dubious of the rest of the infographic, given the author’s obvious tendency to over-exaggerate (or more likely, trust media releases that have misrepresented the facts).