Video Games: More Than Just 'PH'-phat?

There once was a time when video games could only house two controllers at a time, when the only way to fix a game was to blow into the cartridge, and you were either in the Sega camp or the Nintendo camp. This was the 90's. I spend the best ten years of my life in that decade and couldn't wait to see what the new millennium had in store when it came to video games. My virtual babysitter could keep me occupied for hours upon hours. But could those ten years of mindless button mashing be the foundation to a lifestyle of hot dogs and turkey legs? Is it possible that by sitting Indian-style on the carpet in front of a 14 inch bubble screen, I have kicked off some health risks that only got worse with time? The ultimate question is...did (and do) video games cause obesity?

Winner of the 'Ultimate Gamer Award' in 2009

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has about 18% of our nation's teens at the level of obesity.  Although diet and exercise are crucial to stay healthy, many believe video games and television to be the root of the epidemic.  To research this idea of video games acting like red mushrooms from Mario, a Danish and Canadian research team tested how a person eats while in the middle of their playing time.  In short, they took participants to fast overnight and then be fed three square meals the next day.  One half of the young folks played video games during the day, the other half did not.  The results were that the kids playing the video games ended up eating without realizing it during the playing (in between meals).  Piling in food without a change in hunger ended up hitting the kids harder than that hammer you can get in Super Smash Brothers.  Their glucose levels were elevated and they ate near 80 kilojoules more calories than normal.  They were on the road to becoming Sumo wrestlers and the video games were to blame.

One of the 8 year old test subjects...


Of course, for every study to make video games look bad, there must be one to make them out to be saints.  Thanks to Michigan State, we have that study.  After tracking over 480 twelve year olds for three years, they discovered that video games did not have an impact on obesity or weight gain.  The parents of the children did a number of surveys over the three year period and tracked everything from weight to test scores to find correlations.  This is how they concluded that video games were not the culprit to big boned children, rather, it was the children's race and socioeconomic status that determined how they're BMI was affected.  This is huge progress for video game enthusiasts because now more time can be devoted to the face melting pastime.

The happiest of them all.

Will we ever know all the effects of video games on our body?  Doubt it.  The research is still too subjective to have any findings that will be published in the next Journal of Science.  Judging by my personal experiences of playing 60 hours straight to finish Final Fantasy VII and still weighing a little more than a buck forty, I am leaning on the idea of it not making the youth comparable to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  With the Wii and Kinect encouraging movement, it is only a matter of time to see how these video games help crack down on the overweight pandemic in the country.  When I pick up the sticks to play NBA Jamz, I do it because the last thing I want to do is sweat, though.  That is my deterrence to the Wii and Kinect.  If I wanted to land a Tomahawk Jam and need a Gatorade afterwards, I would just go outside...because the real world is the wildest game of them all...

Keeping to stereotypes...

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