This question is a very valid one, especially when so many uninformed parents, media and civic organizations blindly make claims to denounce them. There is NOTHING inherently wrong with Game playing. The dangers come from not maintaining a healthy balance with your quality of life. A couple of common mis-conceptions are:
"Video Games make people lazy & anti-social" - FALSE. Modration is key. Like ANY activity in life, it is important to make sure that you are regulating the amount of time you spend with them. If you allow yourself to spend too much time playing games, that time is taken away from other improtant activities suach as reading, outdoor activities, listening to music and sharing time with friends and loved ones. This can be a danger with ANY activity, whether you are spending too much time playing games, watching tv, doing a hobby, or even studying. In life you need a healthy balance of learning, personal alone time, social interaction with others, and play. some of those can be combinations, but you still need them all. Studies have proven in fact that MODERATE game playing also stimulates brain activity, while excessive game playing can shut down brain activity. Studies have shown that people whoe occaisionally play video games for approximately 6-8 hours a week see a mile increase in Beta Wave activity in the brain over people who don't play games. Beta waves are present when the creative and motors sectors of the brain are working. Video Game play in moderation has also been linked to development in children. A study of kids aged 3-16 and young adults aged 17-26 who played Video Games 8-11 Hours a week showed: Improved Hand-Eye Coordination, Improved Problem solving Skills, Improved responses and reflexes, and increased Beta Wave producion. Of course, this was all in MODERATION. Test subjects also had periods of outdoor activities, reading & learning, social interaction and sleep. The same exact study also showed that subjects who played Video Games for 16+ hours a week showed a slight DROP in Beta Wave activity, and showed OBVIOUS signs of Anti-Social behavior such as irritability, being easily angered, aggression, inability to concentrate and trouble socializing. Again, proving that not balancing this activity out can be detrimental.
Another common argument used is "Degraded Morality"
This RIDICULOUS argument can be summed up easily. If you are a parent, READ THE LABELS BEFORE YOU BUY. BE INVOLVED. Play with your kid. See what they are being exposed to. If you live by a certain set of moral or religeous values, you are very aware of what you consider acceptable and not. So be selective. If you blindly puchase porn and violent Rated R movies with strong language for your children at their request, the MOVIE STUDIOS are NOT AT FAULT. YOU ARE. They put warning labels on their products to help you to be discerning. The point is, look at your own personal beliefs and feelings, and be selective abut te games you buy. Read the backs, look at the ESRB labels. Make good buying decsions about what you find acceptable in your home. There are HUNDREDS of websites devoted to helping you pick wholesome games that you can enjoy with the whole family. If you do not live to those sort of moral or religeous convictions, and you regularly watch tv or movies where drugs, sex, violence and foul language are common themes, a Rated "M" Video Game is not going to "Degrade" your moral compass. It is simply another format for the entertainment you are used to.
In short: Be a discerning buyer, but games that fit your personality and convictions. Make sure you get outside, go out with friends, spend time with family, study, read, and take time for yourself to just NOT DO ANYTHING. Balance you life out, and video games are just another form of entertainment there for your enjoyment, when you have the time....