Streich plays Apex after school. He thinks everyone should have a relaxing activity accessible even if it’s not video games. Photo: Spencer Isberg
On about any given day, you can find senior Nathan Streich sitting in his basement with a headset on, or a guitar strap around his back, with the over head lights and stairwell lights on, playing either Guitar Hero on his Playstation 2 or Fortnite with friends on his Xbox 1. There’ll be music playing, either by him or in the background. Streich said that on the weekends he usually is in this position for about five to six hours a day, and on weeknights that aren’t busy he plays for three to four hours. He said that his competitiveness is what drives him to keep playing, and that the satisfaction of winning is what makes the frustration worth it.
“I’m a little vocal, I get a little intense,” Streich said. “That’s because I’m so competitive. If I lose in Fortnite, it’s never good. That’s why I invested in a punching bag.”
Even though he plays several hours a day, Streich negated the fact that video games have hurt his academic or social life. Although during his sophomore year, he said that his frustration with playing sports games, like FIFA, grew so intense that sometimes he would stay up at night thinking about the games. He said that as an effect, his mental health took a hard toll and that he wasn’t doing as well in school. Now that he has stopped playing sports games, he said that video games has enhanced his social life by being able to connect with the other people that he plays with, even if they aren’t together physically.
“I’m not really the most social person, and playing Fortnite with my friends is something I’m always at ease with and I always know that I’m in a safe place,” Streich said.
Although Streich says video games help his social life, Dipesh Navsaria, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said that screen time can have negative effects. He said that though long-term effects of screen time are currently unclear, some effects are certain, notably people’s ability to interact.
“We know that there are significant decreases in some measures of social well-being,” Navsaria said.
Streich said that even though his father doesn’t like the amount of time he spends playing video games, his mother, Beth Streich, seems okay with it. Beth said that at first she thought that video games would be something fun for Nathan and his younger brother to play together, but has now realized the calming effects it has on him. Overall she thinks they’re positive for him.
“He is very involved in sports and does a great job in school, so between all the homework, practices, and going to school, by the time he gets home I know he needs something to relieve his stress. For him and his brother, it is Xbox or PlayStation 2,” Beth said.
Although she is not as worried about the mental or social effects of video games, she does try to keep up to date about the possible physical effects, especially carpal tunnel from holding the controller. She said that she reminds Nathan and his brother to take breaks and move around while they play for long periods of time. Nathan said that he has thought about physical effects but has only noticed a change in his eyesight.
“I feel like my vision has gone a little bit,” Nathan said. “I’m not sure if that’s because I’m getting older, or because I’m constantly playing video games.”
If Beth wasn’t as supportive of Nathan, video games may have hurt him more than helped him. Navsaria said that a teen’s family life could change how screen time could affect them in the long-run.
“A teen who spends a lot of time on screen media who also reads a lot and has strong, supportive family relationships will do much better than one who doesn’t read or isn’t well-supported socially,” Navsaria said.
Beth said that she’s not like other parents in that she doesn’t put a time restriction on video games. She said that she understands the importance of video games to her sons, even though she may not like the violence in them or the time being taken away from face-to-face interaction.
“Maybe it is the video games that are preventing people from talking to each other, but I also think it’s Facebook, it’s Twitter, it’s the phones. It’s just part of what 2019 is,” Beth said.