Why You Should Play Video Games
By Thiyashi Koththigoda
Video games seem to have a negative image attached to them. Most people, especially parents, believe that gaming is detrimental to the mental, physical and emotional health of a person. As of recently, researchers and scientists have started to test the effects of video games. As such, they’ve found benefits of gaming and surprising applications for video games in different fields. Here are some scientifically-backed reasons to start gaming.
Increases your brain’s grey matter
Researchers have found that gaming can increase the grey matter in your brain. But what exactly is grey matter? This is a part of the brain that contains neuronal cell bodies, responsible for functions like sensory perception which includes seeing and hearing memory function, and decision making. One German study found that participants had an increase in grey matter after just 30 minutes of daily gaming for 2 months. They also noted development in the connectivity between sub-regions of the brain that are associated with gray matter functions. This sort of development was observed to be similar to what repetitive skill-based activities like sports and painting can achieve. Another meta-analysis of studies by scientists disputed people’s perception of one particular genre of video games: shooter games.
This analysis found that players who specifically played shooter games had increased spatial navigation and perception. Playing had actually improved their ability to visualise objects in a 3D space.
Improves executive functioning
A person’s executive functioning is their ability to prioritise their brain’s resources in order to rapidly solve problems and make decisions. These mental resources are things like attention, memory, and perception. Researchers have found that gaming can have positive effects on a person’s executive functioning. The action video game has been attributed to improved performance in multitasking. This increased mental flexibility in gamers allowed them to switch rapidly between different tasks with little to no errors. Preservation and increase in executive functioning in elders have also been observed. Attention, working memory and abstract reasoning are all affected by ageing. This mental decline in elders can actually be slowed down by gaming as studies have shown significant cognitive improvements.
Boosts manual dexterity
What if surgeons were required to play video games? Many studies have found that controller-based games were good for increasing manual dexterity, a crucial skill for surgeons. A study based around laparoscopic surgeons had positive results. It found that surgeons who played video games for 3 hours a week could perform 32% faster with fewer mistakes than surgeons who didn’t play any video games. Another study with over 300 surgeons as participants had similar results. Surgeons who gamed performed significantly better in trials and drill tests. Researchers suggested that advanced gaming skills could be a predictor for suturing capabilities. This is because video games require spatial skills and increased dexterity. Video game therapy is already being used to rehabilitate stroke victims and help them move their affected limbs.
Improves problem-solving skills
A lot of video games require problem-solving in order to progress throughout the game. Games with open worlds, missions, and extensive levels will require the ability to solve complex puzzles in fast-paced settings. A long-term study in 2013 found that children who played strategic video games showed significant improvements in their cognitive performance. Not only were their problem-solving skills faster and more efficient in the evaluations, it actually translated into real life. Kids who gamed had overall better performance in their grades at school in their next semester.
Develops social skills
In addition to challenging the negative stereotypes associated with shooter games, scientific studies have also negated the idea of the ‘socially isolated gamer’. Children who play video games are more likely to have good social skills and are better able to interact with their peers. This was linked to the social and collaborative nature of the video games played. One study by Columbia University found that children between the age of 6 and 11 who played video games had markedly better social skills than children who didn’t play. Overall, multiplayer games like World of Warcraft are known to foster virtual communities that involve socialising to solve problems in a collaborative environment. Gaming has also been found to be an activity that can strengthen friendships, with a study finding that over 70% of players played with a friend.
The typical complaint against video games is that it can ruin your eyesight. This may not be true as moderate gaming can improve your eyesight. One study at the University of Rochester had college students who never gamed before play for 30 hours overtime. The students were later able to see objects in cluttered spaces a lot more easily. This is an improvement in spatial resolution, which is the ability to see small and tightly packed objects. Another study found that participants had a greater ability to discern between shades of gray after 10 weeks of gaming. These significant findings can be utilised for the treatment of vision problems. One example is amblyopia or a lazy eye. A study showed that gaming showed a large improvement in the lazy eye and overall vision registered by both eyes.
Promotes mental stability
Those who play video games will tell you that gaming is a stress reliever. Studies have long shown the mental health benefits gaming can have. Even simple and easily accessible mobile games have been shown to improve mood and soothe anxiety. Research has shown that moderate video gameplay can contribute to mental and emotional stability. Video games have also been shown to provide a safe release for negative feelings like guilt, anger, and frustration. Lower depressive moods were also linked to moderate play. Mental resilience and persistence are also noted benefits. This is especially true with multi-level games that require patience and resolve. Working towards long term goals are reinforced in your brain through the dopamine reward system. This is particularly beneficial to children in learning how to work towards long-term rewards.
From better eyesight to stress relief, there are no better reasons to advocate for the benefits of video games. Despite more traditional mindsets about gaming, there are exciting ventures on the horizon for this particular field. So this is all the more reason to pick up a controller and press start.