These days, most college students are as proficient at playing video games as they are at writing essays (in some cases they are far better at the former pursuit than the latter). It used to be that kids looking for entertainment would run outdoors and head to a friend’s house or pull out board games and puzzles. But in our current, technology-driven society, children are growing up with TVs, computers, and game consoles for companions. And whether older generations see a problem with this or not, the fact is that tech-savvy college students are the norm. This has led to a video game culture that is present on many college campuses. While some might argue that electronic gaming leads to lower grades and higher dropout rates, it’s hard to lend credence to this line of thought. Like any type of leisure activity, video games have the capacity to distract. But this doesn’t necessarily make them any more likely than books or board games to corrupt youth. So is the game culture on college campuses a bad thing? Here are a few aspects to consider before rendering judgment.
The first thing you must consider is that there are certainly positive aspects to the gaming culture. The majority of students that participate in localized or online gameplay do so as a means of social interaction. So in a way, it’s better than many other social activities that college students are notorious for (drinking and, ahem, dating, to name a couple). Gaming provides a way for students to interact socially with their peers that is both fun and competitive, helping them to form relationships, gain social acceptance, and potentially even develop higher self-esteem (through their prowess on the virtual battlefield or racetrack, for example).
Playing video games is also an excellent way to blow of steam. Anyone who has been to college knows that there is a lot of pressure placed on students to succeed. They not only suffer from stress related to juggling their course load, homework, and perhaps even a job, but most students are also on their own for the first time in their lives, responsible for everything from doing laundry and feeding themselves to waking up on time for class. This can cause extreme anxiety and depression for students that have no release. Video games provide an avenue for relaxation, which is probably why so many students use it as a coping mechanism to get through these difficult years of growth and maturation.
Of course, this is not to say that the video game culture prevalent on many college campuses doesn’t have casualties, literally in some cases. Some students take it to the extreme, letting their grades slip in favor of staying up all night playing online games. Others may drop out. And a handful of reports concerning kids that play until they actually die of dehydration or exhaustion have made for splashy headlines over the years. But these extreme scenarios are not as common as the media hype makes them out to be, and often such occurrences are less a result of the gaming culture than of individuals that are prone to obsessive behavior, an instinct to retreat, or other issues that would cause problems regardless of the presence of video games.
Just like the type of degree a student is going for (ADN to MSN, BFA, or MBA) has nothing to do with how hard they’re willing to work in pursuit of a diploma, video games have very little to do with how much a student is willing to slack off. So while pundits and parents alike can point the finger at video games as the cause of poor student performance, the truth is that if it wasn’t gaming it would likely be something else.
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