Which Came First, the Hardcore Gamer or the Bad Parent?

Illustration for article titled Which Came First, the Hardcore Gamer or the Bad Parent?

A recent study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University found that the more time middle school students spent playing games, the more negative an opinion they held about their parents. It seems like a simple matter of cause and effect, but which is which?


The Michigan State University study polled more than 500 middle school students, exploring both their video game habits and their relationship with their parents. The results showed a significant increase in negative opinion of parental figures in subjects that spent a greater than average amount of time glued to the television screen, controller in hand.

Subjects experienced a wide range of negative thoughts and feelings. Some felt their parents nagged them too much, which would make sense for a habitual gamer. Others felt their parents didn't spend enough time with them, which is pretty much the opposite of nagging.

So we've got a common destination with several different ways to get there, made worse that we're not even sure about the motivation for taking the trip in the first place.

"Does a parent's negative interactions with their child drive the child into the world of video games, perhaps to escape the parent's negativity?" lead researcher Linda Jackson, a professor of psychology, asked after completing the study. "Or, alternatively, does video-game playing cause the child to perceive his or her relationship with the parent as negative?"

Nancy Lee Heath, psychology professor at McGill University, tries to explain children's motivations to game.

"We do know that video gaming is a way of having other needs met, especially for boys, but some girls, too," she said. "It gives them a sense of control, a sense of mastery, it allows them to connect with others in a social way that they may be more comfortable with.


Ah, that makes sense. So children look to video games to give them a sense of control and belonging?

"It also gives them a sense of escape," Heath added. "(Youths) tell us they'll forget about the fights they're having with their parents or their friends. It gives them a way of escaping the negative feelings they're having and stresses they're having."


So children turn to gaming when running away from their parents, seeking a replacement for an absent authority figure or friends, hiding from a harsh reality, or — and this is not my scientific opinion — just having fun.

And then they hate their parents, more so than other children. Why?

Heath describes it as the sort of loop effect. Kids turn to gaming for whatever reason, parent objects for whatever reason, tempers flare, kids lose themselves deeper into gaming, the parent objects harder — it's a perpetual negative opinion machine.


It's a vicious cycle that a little understanding and patience could break. I know those are hard to find these days, but surely there's enough to make a kid not bad mouth his or her parents in a scientific survey.

Of course this doesn't mean every "hardcore gamer" hates his or her parents. Some of them are particularly understanding orphans. The rest of them would sell you their parents for five dollars and some gum.


Hardcore gamer kids think less of their parents [The Vancouver Sun]


laser beams

that loop effect theory kind of strikes a chord. very interesting. i was a miserable kid when i was in middle school. sometimes i'm amazed i ever made it through. i didn't get along with my parents at all during those few years and i definitely think that a combination of wild hormone shifts within myself and a general lack of empathy on the part of my parents made things far worse than they needed to be. they tried to force me to care about school when i was unhappy there, they tried to force me to keep my room clean, etc. normal stuff for an 11-14 year old. this led to screaming matches, holes punched through doors and perpetual groundings for about 3 years solid. they put me in therapy and the doctor basically explained that i was under immense stress. no amount of punishment or yelling at me would make me give a shit about anything they wanted from me, so the best thing they could do was probably to just leave me alone- i'd outgrow it eventually. sure enough, i did. i stopped ignoring schoolwork, i became more social (this was in the years before online gaming of course) and was eventually more responsive to requests, praise and criticisms from my parents. maybe it was the parents that really needed the therapy- but they've given me a lot of space ever since then, and it's probably helped more than anything else they ever did for me. also- we're talking about middle schoolers, here. i can't speak for everyone else, but that is a really tough time for kids. maybe it's a little harsh to blame all these problems on video games or bad parenting. hell- i still had problems with anger and aggression even when i'd gone months without video games due to punishment (my parents would take away video games- it didn't make any difference).