S2E24 Video Games

There are many positives and negatives involving the use of video games, and experts have been debating this topic for years. Dr. Pete and Dr. Rubin break down some of the most recent research around video games, the development of e-sports, and generational implications of the role of video games in society.




Pete: Do you know that in 2016, the US video game marketing was at almost $18 billion dollars Nikki?

Nikki: I did not know that. That is a lot of money.

Pete: And 65% of American adults are video gamers.

Nikki:  Yeah, well, I am aware that, you know video games are not going away people like Gamers….

Pete: Quite the opposite..

Nikki: I mean, it's a whole culture. There’s like tournaments, there are people that make a living actually, it's like your athletes, right?

Pete: It's like athletes. So today we're going to discuss video games. And there's such a negative connotation around video gaming. Do you think parents are worried about video games? Or it's like; “I used to walk to school bare foot”. Is  that our culture, this generations cross the bear like what's happening?

Nikki: You know that is interesting, because I think that this is a generational issue. Pete and I, as we've mentioned many times, we always get upset because we're like, “we're not millennial”, we were once called Gen Y. The term that I think resonates with us is Zenial. Right? The small window between…..

Pete: I’m an elder millennial…

Nikki: Well it’s the same, Zenial the small window between….

Pete: And wise…

Nikki: Yes, between millennials and Gen X. And so I think when we were kids growing up, like our parents’ generation, there was a lot of concern, because video games came into being in like, the, you know, late 70s, early 80s. So, you know, like Pong and stuff like that. But I think that now, with Gen X, people in their 50s or late 40s, or whatever, and their kids, those folks were more exposed to I don't. I think…

Pete: But not at this level. I mean, how many devices are connected to Wi Fi in one's household right now, in today's world?

Nikki: Right but I think that's different than video games. So I think maybe the shift has become concern about devices, whereas video games, I don't know if there's as much concern around them.

Pete: Well hold on a second, do you play video games?

Nikki: I do not. I mean I have but I'll say so again, it's a generational thing in my house. Because again like in the 80s and 90s, we weren't really allowed to have them. I remember we got Gameboy that was like a big deal, we [inaudible 2:54] Gameboy and then we had like….

Pete: Did you have Nintendo?

Nikki: Not until I was in high school. And it was when the first James Bond, the double O seven. But actually, interestingly, because we like the little Sega one that was like a game. We're playing Sonic or whatever. And we go to friends’ houses, and my parents were like, “you could play whatever but we're not going to use it a lot”. And because of that, both my brother and I, neither of us ever really got into it.

Pete: Well, the only reason I said that by judgment was because people game on all devices so there's a console needed.

Nikki: Right. Totally.

Pete: You reminded me of a show I watched recently on Hulu or something. I think it's called “get home before it's dark out” on Hulu and the girl saw a VCR player and she didn't know what it was. And then she's YouTube how to connect it so…

Nikki: Well of course now I'm having the urge to just like reminisce about all the… I mean Pete and I are of the generation of Oregon Trail…

Pete: Yes we are..

Nikki: Did you play Oregon Trail at school? Lemonade stand remember that?

Pete: No I don’t know that one ..

Nikki: Oh my God, there’s one called lemonade stand which; guess what guys guess what the game was?  Stop sell lemonade. That was the game.

Pete: Someone got paid a lot of money to do that.

Nikki: Yeah, totally.

Pete: You know, as you might imagine in my house any games we have were sports.

Nikki: Oh, of course yeah.

Pete: And I will say and I'll disclose this that I never really liked video games. I wasn't good at them. And that's probably why I didn't like them.

Nikki: Pete is good at most thing [inaudible 4:25] It is true, that is absolutely true.

Pete: Looking back, like in hindsight I found myself frustrated playing all the time, because I can't truly control the player. You know, your fingers were doing it and [inaudible 4:40] coordination, especially for a former swimmer because a lot of them don't but all right, so started this with this like inclination or this assumption that people negatively look at it today. Because I do think when I hear parents talking about their kids in session, they're worried about how much time they're playing with it. They're worried if they're losing that interpersonal connection.

Nikki: Yeah, sure.

Pete: The social mobility of it, what they're what parents don't realize is that they are socializing during it almost nine times out of 10 right now.

Nikki: Right. People play with others across the world, right?

Pete: All over the place.

Nikki: Yeah, it's all over the place. Yeah. Well, and I think this comes back to like this idea to have, [inaudible 5:24], the simplest way to say it's like, the everything in moderation, right? So if we start by letting go of judgment about it, you know, this is an activity that someone may or may not enjoy. If they enjoy it, okay, well, then now let's start to assess, why do you enjoy it? How often are you playing it? What's the impact? And it's just from a behavioral lens the function of a behavior is going to vary based on the context, Is somebody playing 15 hours a day not going outside and not taking care of their home and not interacting with any people? Okay, well, that's an example of like, we might be curious and say, that might not be workable, but is there somebody playing 7 hours a day, and it's a business for them and they're a rising star in the gamer world and they're really successful, and they're feeling really confident? Okay, well, maybe that's totally healthy. Right?

Pete: Well, there you are with your dialectic. Thank you,

Nikki: Yes. You're welcome.

Pete: Thank you Nikki for that. Well people often try and make this connection of like, the gamer who's playing the shooting games is the one that's coming out to these, you know, mass shootings. And I don't know, if we even have data on that, I know, in 2016, almost 30% of all games sold were shooter games. So is that impacting? Who knows? Because it from a behavioral perspective, it's chicken or egg. So sometimes it's that predisposed personality that lends itself towards those shooter games.

Nikki: Right.

Pete: And maybe there would be shooting up anyway? Or like, is that shooter game having an impact on the formalizing of that part of the brain. Do we know?

Nikki: No. Well, I mean, I think that's such a great point. And I think maybe also, and I do know that they study this stuff, I've just, unfortunately, not at all familiar with the details of the research, I think there can be a lot of questions and concerns  on the age of the participant in the games, right? So it's like, we do know young children, you know, local backup brains grow until like, mid to late 20s for human beings. Right? Most people don't know that. It's like, that's a long time for brain development. So…

Pete: And with neuroplasticity, it can grow and change until we die?

Nikki: Well, it can change Yes, but like in terms of like reaching your height growth, it stops growing. It's it reaches its full human adult maturity [inaudible 7:52] 20s. So a young brain, like a 5 year old, a 14 year old, right?

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: Like seeing, especially nowadays, it's like, again, with Pete and I generation, we thought I was like Sonic was like, really cool. It's like a cartoon, like, wow, these colors are amazing. It's like, now some of these video games, the quality is almost like watching a movie or something.

Pete: Or better.

Nikki: Or better. So I think like, it's knowing the impact of seeing extremely detailed, intense imagery that a young brain can't tolerate. And actually what's coming to my mind, interestingly enough, we should probably do an episode on this. It's like what they were trying to study in terms of like the impact of like, teenager’s access to pornography, right? So it's like seeing very intense imagery with a brain that might actually not be able to yet effectively tolerate or process it. And so I think that's maybe sometimes the question like, if a six year old is looking at a very realistic depiction of violence, like how is that impacting the brain? I think that's an important question to ask.

Pete: It's a great question. And we don't know because we still learning so much about neurology, it comes to my mind is that actually growing up, a neighborhood friend of ours had a seizure during Sonic as you mentioned that one.

Nikki: Oh, because of flashing lights?

Pete: Because the flashing lights and we are not we're not trying to scare people as they're listening to this our listeners, but that certainly neurologically that these that the vividness and the clarity in which these devices are displaying all characters or just environment is so real that maybe our brains can't tell the difference.

Nikki: Well, and I think this is you know, kind of the [inaudible 9:33] step into virtual reality right? So like these ideas of like when you’re…..

Pete: Defined after folks..

Nikki: Well so you know, types of games or experiences that; I'm forgetting what's it called Oculus? Is that the name of it? I think it's Oculus. I've actually a friend who works in virtual reality. I should have asked her. So it’s like you wear these lens so the brain…

Pete: Everyone has seen one of those videos.

Nikki: Yea.

Pete: I actually love those videos we have like, someone's grandparent with the goggles on and they're flipping the TV or the table over or falling.

Nikki: Right. And so it's like, because the brain is then being immersed in a virtual world. And so, in some ways that can be really fun for people and really interesting and you can have experiences that could never exist in the physical world. I'm a real big fan of the show ‘Black Mirror.’ Do you watch black mirror Pete?

Pete: No, I don't.

Nikki: Oh, well, it…

Pete: That’s the second show you gave me today.

Nikki: Oh, yeah. It's on Netflix. I like weird dystopian novels and shows, and I don't know why it's weird. Such an optimistic person…..

Pete: I like thrillers..

Nikki: Yeah.

Pete: But we will go into that on another episode.

Nikki:  Yeah, but so there's a lot of episodes where they explore sort of, like the impact of technology. And there's some episodes about virtual reality, and like, what that might mean if we can access those. There's a lot of like, ethical questions too about. And some people prefer to be in those worlds than the real world. So it’s like, what does that mean?

Pete: Well, I'll say that's one of the main benefits of video games, because say people with autism have been able to practice social skills in a more safe setting. And so that's definitely one of the benefits. I'll also list some others just based on research, mental stimulation, feeling accomplished, social interaction, it can be again, I think people think you're isolating, but really, it can help to foster emotional resilience. But in order to really use video games towards wellbeing, there's some strategies which are important. And that means being strategic with video games, like Nikki said before, having some kind of limits on them, is going to be critical. Playing with friends is a big piece of also fostering that wellbeing. One of the key things for parents to look out for kids is if they're feeling anxious while they're playing, unable to sleep, whenever it's disrupting the sleep, or if they're like avoiding social settings, that's where maybe you want to intervene and  really assess the video game usage.

Nikki: Yeah. So again, it sounds like you're really laying out some guidelines. As we always recommend here, it's like starting from a place of curiosity and just really openly assessing in a non-judgmental way. Like, what's actually happening we get the data about, what is the usage? What is their experience socially? And also, what's the impact? Does the person seem like a better version of themselves, right? Like, why we would we want to limit that behavior? Or do they seem like…

Pete: Okay I was the one that was throwing their controllers so I mean, if things are breaking in the room or…

Nikki: Right, I'm just laughing because like I said, it really is true. And Pete really is good at most things. He really is. He's really good at so many things. So we laugh, and you're like, “I'm not good at this”. I do not like this game.

Pete: I don't like it.

Nikki: I would well…

Pete: Only two things that your good at….

Nikki: Oh its very durable…

Pete: I want to also just share a quick story, because one of the things that we're doing now in my research lab is, so EA games, as Nikki alluded to in the beginning, it's actually talked about it being an Olympic sport. It has become a varsity sport. There are people who are professionally E gamers. And so if you've ever seen, which I've now been able to see like some of these; I guess they call them like technology rooms, or where there's just a whole bunch of screens. It’s pretty in with like these headphones. So you can be gaming in a room with 20 other people, but each on your own screen.

Nikki: Oh, wow.

Pete: Talk about stimulus overload.

Nikki: Yeah, well, for me, at least that would be but …

Pete: Me too…

Nikki: Yeah but not for everybody. Some people are really skilled in navigating that.

Pete: Well, so one of the things we're doing is we teamed up with an Esports league here in New Jersey. And there's a program that they've developed called epic, which is a social emotional learning and mindfulness based program to help gamers both develop social emotional learning, as well as skills towards mindful performance.

Nikki: I want to make sure we, of course, bring in some Eastern mindfulness concepts in this. And I'm glad you're saying that. I think this is an important example of; we can practice mindfulness with literally any behavior. So you know, again, people love to sort of buy into the myth that mindfulness, like meditating on a mountain top .Sure you can be mindful meditating on a mountaintop. I say to people, you can mindfully watch television, you can mindfully play video games, like all mindfulness means is paying attention to and experiencing the moment that you're in. That's all it is.

Pete: Without judgment on purpose.

Nikki: Without judgment, right? So it's like, whatever thing you're doing…

Pete: Just do it …

Nikki: You can do with awareness and presence, you know.

Pete: That’s right. So hope this was helpful for people, we're just going to break down a little bit about video games. There's good and bad, like Dr. Nikki's favorite thing there. The dialectic

Nikki: Helpful and unhelpful I would say.

Pete: Much better. Thank you for breaking that down. But really just recognize are your kids or are you still playing with curiosity? Have you set limits? And are you committed to a healthy way or mindfully playing video games? This has been When East Meets West I'm Dr. Peter Economou.

Nikki: And I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin. Be present. Be brave.

Pete: This has been When East Meets West all material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors Pete Eeconomou, and Nikki Rubin.

Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.