HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — Playing video games is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world, but it still comes with its fair share of criticism.

What You Need To Know

  • Over 212 million Americans play video games

  • Just as many adults over age 45 play games as kids under 18

  • An ESA survey showed 96% of adults can see the benefits of gaming

  • Stefano Pecile, a captain on NKU's varsity Esports team, says video games have changed his life for the better

One gamer tells Spectrum News 1 he thinks all the old arguments are outdated, and that he’s a living example of how video games can change lives for the better.

Growing up in Panama, just being able to play video games was a challenge for Stefano Pecile. But that certainly didn’t stop him.

“My dad was never too big of a fan of gaming. So I never had a PC or a console to play on. I just played on my school laptop,” Pecile said. “I would always stay up till like 2:00 in the morning on weekends just playing, having fun.”

Pecile heard it all. Video games were a waste of time, bad for his brain and he should go outside and make some friends. He’d even hear violent video games lead to violence in people.

Pecile thinks he’s proven all of those wrong.

“All of my friends say I’m probably the calmest person. They’ve never seen me angry, so I think it’s definitely a misconception,” he said. “I was actually able to meet a lot of people through the Esports club. When I first got here, the people that actually showed me around were my teammates. I think it’s a great place to make friends, make connections. And then it’s also like a pastime.”

Pecile is now the captain of the League of Legends team for Northern Kentucky University varsity Esports. Even his dad has somewhat come around on gaming.

“Eventually, once I got into the varsity program, and then he heard you could get scholarships for playing, he was pretty happy about that, getting paid to play video games. He did not think that was a possibility,” Pecile said.

It’s one of the many possibilities now available through gaming, which also includes streaming. Freshman Nick Heck is a stream producer for NKU Esports.

“We’re slowly transitioning to where people do see it more as a viable career, and a way they can progress through life,” Heck said. “The shift is good, it’s there, it’s happening.”

Aubrey Quinn is the Senior Vice President for the Entertainment Software Association. It’s her job to discuss the creativity, innovation and fun being developed by the gaming industry, an industry she says still has some lingering outdated stereotypes.

“The scientific and academic research shows that violent video games do not cause real life violent behavior,” Quinn said.

She spoke about the benefits video games offer to players.

“They teach skills like resiliency, communication and problem solving. They provide all of these emotional, mental and social benefits,” she said.

Quinn said over 212 million Americans play video games, and just as many adults over age 45 play games as kids under 18. She said an ESA survey showed 96% of adults can see the benefits of gaming.

Pecile has certainly seen them in his own life.

“It’s all about communication, leadership and coordination. Those are the skills you’re going to be using always in life. Also meeting new people, networking,” he said.

Potentially, being able to make a career out of it is a nice bonus, too.

Another ESA survey shows kids have video games at the top of their holiday gift list this year, coming in first ahead of other popular items like money, gift cards, clothes and other tech items.

For parents concerned about safety, the ESRB gives every game an age rating, which includes content descriptors. Quinn said parents should check the rating before buying a game for their kids.

“Virtually every device on which games can be played have parental controls. And parental controls allow parents to block or limit games by age rating,” she said.

Parents can also block or limit games by age rating, limit amount of time kids play or even the time of day. They can also prevent spending and control communication with other players online.