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Side Effects of Playing War Games

By Richard Nilsen

Playing war games, whether from the couch with a video game or out in a field with a paintball gun, has been the subject of much debate over the years. Psychologists have sought to find out if playing way games can make people more violent. According to the American Psychological Association, a study in 2004 showed that such games can increase the aggression of children, but some of these negatives can be mitigated by parental influence.


Since war games, whether "World of Warcraft" or a paintball campaign, encourage aggression as a necessary means to win, over time the person playing can develop more aggressive tendencies. According to a brain scan study at the Indiana University School of Medicine, teenagers who played violent video war games had more emotional arousal than those playing non-violent games. They also had a lowering of brain activity in sections that pertain to their attention spans, inhibition and self-control.

Reduced Self-Control

Because of the increased aggression associated with war games, people playing them can experience a reduction in their ability to control themselves. This tendency can show itself in interactions with other people, including classmates and family members. They may explode in anger more readily or simply have less interest in helping or interacting with family members.

Reduced Slow-Wave Sleep

According to a study by the "Pediatrics" journal, excessive video game play can significantly reduce the amount of slow-wave sleep a person has. This type of sleep is deep sleep of the non-rapid eye movement (REM) type. While it isn't clear how this affects people, a lack of sleep will be "made up" with more slow-wave sleep when sleep actually occurs.

Reduced Verbal Memory

Verbal memory, the ability to retain words that are spoken aloud, also has been shown to be reduced in excessive war video gamers. This can lead to poorer performance in school and lower grade-point averages. It also can cause difficulties between children and their parents since it is harder for children to retain what they are told. It may make communication difficult between game players, their parents, teachers and peers.

Development Problems

According to "Psychology Matters," the time when children should be developing skills to deal with other people in a healthy manner is the age that many start spending their time with violent video war games. Instead of learning conflict resolution in peaceful terms, they are learning violence solves all problems in their games. This may put them back in the development of interpersonal skills.

Personality Changes

The increase in aggression that has been shown in a study by Dr. Craig Anderson affects non-aggressive children at the same rate it affects aggressive personalities. His findings show that this reduces their interest in caring about or helping their peers. According to "Psychology Matters", violent video games teach children quite effectively how to act and think, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to deal with the real world where violence is not the answer.

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