For years, video gaming has carried a negative stigma. Whether in the imagery of solitary, sedentary youth idling their time away or in accepted assumptions regarding violence and other criminal activities, video games have often played the role of the scapegoat.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, however.

Though the largest demographic of video gamers are still represented by those under age 20, the fastest growing demographic are actually adults whose socioeconomic and relationship status generally fall into higher and more favorable areas. The dateless, hygienically-challenged video gamer cliche is more an exception than a rule, with the majority of frequent video gamers finding success in both relationships and career.

Even for those under 20, studies are showing that video games greatly enhance and develop certain cognitive skills, such as strategic thinking, multi-tasking and team coordination that have become paramount to success in both school and the workplace. On top of that, a survey given to the top 15% of high school and college graduates found that over 50% described themselves as heavy gamers, clearing debunking the myth of the consummate procrastinator or do-nothing.

One of the problems that still faces video games is avoiding the narrow definitions that has constricted it for so long. Though it is easy to associate all video games with the few, exceptional instances of violence or outlandish fantasy that many have extended to describe all video games, the fact remains that video games are far too broad a medium to ever inhabit a single derisive remark. In fact, they are too broad to even be located on a single console. Differences, in both console specifications and user needs, have made it possible for multiple consoles, both handheld and stationary, such as the Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii, PSP 3000 and Nintendo DS Lite to thrive despite very tight market competition.

Though video games largely function as a form of leisure and entertainment, they can also serve as the basis for specialized skills. Just as a generation of civil engineers, city planners and architects may have started out with video games like Sim City before graduating to the rigors of AutoCAD, so too are an entire generation of young video gamers gaining knowledge and forming a skill set that is likely to help direct or aid their career path. Also, just as a generation of artists found outlet and inspiration in film and video, so too are artists, both visual and otherwise, embracing video games as a viable medium to express themselves through.

There will always be violent games that challenge the ethical mores and standards of society, but, to throw the baby out with the bath water, to assume that all video games are as meritless or threatening as the few that make headlines is to limit the potential of a very important, widespread medium that could yet serve a greater educational and rehabilitative function. Like it or not, video games are here to stay. And if you want to know why, just ask the top students and performers of every class, they ll be happy to explain.

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