Firstly, on the area of content. Games such as Mortal Combat and Doom have been slated for containing gore and encouraging violence. Inevitably as games have become increasingly realistic the games industry caved in and accepted the need for age ratings to give an indication of content. However, little evidence actually exists that proves the games do indeed make people more violent.
Secondly, video games have been criticised for putting people off reading and lacking in educational value. However, more recent studies carried out suggest that computer games can actually provide for academic simulation. As this BBC article explains:
Simulator games like Theme Park and SimCity can indeed develop strategic planning skills along with other elements such as problem solving. For example it is easy to see how games such as Theme Park, which is close to being a business simulator, can develop business skills. Firstly, you have to decide what to spend money on and the best ways to make your park profitable. Secondly, then decide on best park layout etc. Added to this the need to make other strategic decisions such as stock ordering, staff negotiations etc and you can see how the game can develop skills.
Another thing not mentioned is the fact that some video games are text based, especially RPG's (Role Playing Games). That is, they contain a large amount of text within them that the player has to read to follow the plot. Good examples are the Final Fantasy series whereby there is a significant amount of text based character interaction. It is in many ways, just like reading an interactive story. So the suggestion that video games stop people from reading seems somewhat untrue.
Other studies have shed light on how video games can improve sight skills. Again an article from the BBC:
"Although video game playing may seem to be rather mindless, it is capable of radically altering visual attentional processing."
Action games therefore, such as Half-Life which require more running around and avoiding the badies also have more value than originally believed. In light of such evidence it would seem that the general public might need to review its perception of video games created largely by the poor publicity surrounding some more violent games. Certainly other activities are desirable, but the playing of video games is not nearly so terrible.