Blog post: The Benefits of Playing Video Games
A good friend of mine asked me a while ago, how I “feel about all those negative side effects of gaming”. In Dutch we would say “Onbekend, maakt onbemind” (~ Unknown, unloved)… This inspired me to publish this post on the upsides and benefits of playing video games….
Gamers are often depicted in the popular media as antisocial misfits, playing their games in complete isolation, surrounded by nothing but bottles of soda and bags of salty chips. Actually, people who play many types of video game show significant improvement in brain function and social interaction, compared to non-gamers.
There have been numerous studies done, in many of the world’s foremost academic institutions, which show that participation in video games of many types improves hand-eye co-ordination, decision-making ability, reading ability, and even pain relief.
While it is probably true that gaming should not be a substitute for real life, studies have shown that many of the activities in gaming are directly transferable to life. Problem solving, cooperation with others, and multi-tasking are all positively affected by gaming.
The American Psychological Association, the University of Washington, the University of Rochester, Queen Mary University of London and University College London, the University of Iowa, the University of Padua, and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have all conducted studies showing positive health benefits for many different age groups, from young children to the elderly.
Almost any type of computer game can be found to have a positive effect. Studies have been done on role-playing games, first-person shooters, massive online games, such as World of Warcraft, and also very specialized games developed to target a specific need.
Here are just a few examples.
- In a study at the University of Rochester, gamers showed a 25% increase in decision-making speed over non-gamers.
- Older adults who played a driving game showed better multi-tasking skills and memory retention.
- Many games, such as Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Fit, actually promote exercise, rather than sedentary activity.
- Brain scans show an increase in gray matter among gamers.
Besides the physical and mental benefits, we find there are social benefits, too. Far from isolated, most people play with friends. And, with the rise of massive online gaming communities, people learn to work with others from many different cultures.
Perhaps it’s time to re-assess our image of computer and video games. Rather than social misfits, people who play these games as part of a balanced lifestyle may very well be among the healthiest among us. And, speaking of health, as mentioned, games are being developed to treat specific brain disorders. Dyslexia, dementia and PTSD have all shown to be treatable using specially designed computer games.
As technology advances, we must realize that computers are a tool to not only amuse us and ease our lives, but also to actually make us healthier, better people.