The debate as to whether video games are good or bad for us has been going since the days of Pong and Space Invaders.
Unfortunately, most people have always assumed they were the cause of many mental and physical problems. Even if there was a lack of scientific evidence to prove it.
Some say it is in our human nature to find something to blame when there’s an issue, and video games have always been an easy target.
But things have changed and now more professional studies are being conducted to find out the truth.
Are video games good for you?
Or, do video games really hinder our ability to learn, make us more violent, or affect our physical health?
While there still isn’t enough evidence to offer a solid answer, the good news is that most researchers are discovering that games can be good for us.
This article will show you 10 reasons why video games are good for you.
Before you read on, remember that anything in excess can be harmful.
No benefit that comes from a video game will justify playing them for 10 hours a day.
It’s your responsibility to figure out how long you should play before putting the controller down and doing something else, as difficult as it may be.
10 Ways Video Games Are Good for You
1. Video Games May Slow Down Aging
Male, female, young adult, middle-aged person– all have one thing in common and that’s aging.
And while getting older and wiser has its perks, there are also a number of natural problems that come about as well.
There’s a reason why you see senior citizens driving at 25 MPH even though the speed limit is 45.
But just like maintaining a healthy exercise routine can help your body feel 50 when you’re 60, our brain can also be kept ‘in shape’.
In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa showed that playing games can do just that.
The study had 681 healthy people aged 50 and older play 10 hours of a certain video game for five to eight weeks, and this is what they found:
“We’ve shown that 10 hours is enough to slow the decline by several years. We saw a range across all our tests from a minimum of a year-and-a-half all the way up to about six-and-a-half years of recovery or improvement. From just 10 to 14 hours of training, that’s quite a lot of improvement”.
It seems performing any task that requires exercising your mind will help it stay sharper, and that includes video games. (Source)
If you have ever done a crossword or sudoku, then you already know the benefits of gaming. Video games can train your brain, open up new pathways of thought in your brain, and keep your mind a honed edge.
Although I’m an admitted crossword addict, being intellectually stimulated by the benefits of gaming started in 6th grade when I first played Shogun Total War. I was captivated by the setting of feudal Japan. I then dedicated a project towards it and started reading more and more about specific points in history.
It was addictive, learning about these different phases of history, and how well that video games serve them. These different niches serve to help us learn better and experience creative and enjoyable brain tools.
2. Better Decision Maker
C. Shawn Green from the University of Rochester wanted to see how games affect our ability to make decisions.
His goal was to test if games, which demand us to view and keep track of moving peripheral images, improve our ability to receive sensory data and thus help us make more precise decisions.
The study had a group of young adults with no gaming experience play an action game for 50 hours.
A second group of the same age played a slow-paced strategy game instead.
After the study, Green had nothing but good things to say:
“Action video games are fast-paced, and there are peripheral images and events popping up, and disappearing. These video games are teaching people to become better at taking sensory data in, and translating it into correct decisions.”
A colleague of his even went on to say that shooters can change the brain by dramatically enhancing many of our low-level perceptual functions. Definitely good news for all the Halo and Call of Duty fans out there. (Source)
3. Games Can Help (Not Hurt!) Your Eyesight
There are few gamer kids who grew up without ever hearing their parents say “you’re going to go blind watching that screen all day”.
For a while, it did seem like they had a point since we tend to blink much less frequently while playing a game.
This can cause serious problems like eyestrain and dry eye syndrome.
Another team of researchers from the University of Rochester sought to prove if games really worsen our vision.
The 2009 study involved having a group of experienced first-person shooter gamers plays Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament 2004 while more casual gamers played slow games like The Sims 2.
After testing, those who played the first-person shooters showed signs of having a better vision than the others.
Daphne Bavelier, the leader of the study, discovered that playing action games improves an ability called contrast sensitivity function.
This ability helps us discern between changes in shades of gray against a colored backdrop, which is very beneficial while driving at night. (Source)
4. Video Games Can Make You Less Anti-Social
One of the worst stereotypes associated with playing video games is that those who do are awkward social rejects.
Even if there are plenty of basement-dwelling gamers out there, that doesn’t mean all gamers have problems socializing in public and making friends.
Researchers from three different institutions in the UK and Canada recently did their own studies to find out how common antisocial behavior is among gamers.
What each one discovered is that gamers who partake in live social environments are actually the most communicative and friendly people there.
“Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes; they’re highly social people,” said one of the researchers who went to more than 20 events where gamers get together.
While observing gamers he even went on to admit that they formed stronger relationships than non-gamers due to their matching love of games. (Source)
When the second Splinter Cell game, Pandora Tomorrow came out, I was the only one of my friends with it. That means I was relegated to play spies vs. mercs alone with strangers. Luckily for me, I met a cool gamer, and we hit it off almost immediately.
After some time playing the game, we developed a little friendship. We would plan game times after school, and it was a ton of fun being able to collaborate with someone, especially with some of the more toxic users online.
We remained Xbox LIVE friends throughout the years, along with the other gamers that I have crossed paths with. Do video games have positive effects? Yes, they can form and strengthen friendships.
5. Games Can Enhance Your Ability To Learn
Contrary to popular belief that video games make you bad at school, researchers from the UK found that certain video games can actually enhance our brain flexibility.
The study was done at both the University College London and the Queen Mary University of London and had 72 volunteers play two different games for 40 hours over six to eight weeks.
The games were Starcraft, a fast real-time strategy game, and The Sims, a slower life-simulation game.
Here’s what they had to say:
“This result supports the notion that the within-StarCraft gaming manipulation led participants to manage more information sources during game play, thus leading to enhancements in cognitive flexibility.”
In other words, the people who played Starcraft boasted better cognitive flexibility since the game requires constant thinking and player input.
6. Help Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
There are many professions that require having better hand-eye coordination than the average person.
Of course, surgeons depend on theirs to not only perform a successful operation but also make sure they don’t nick an artery or vital organ.
That’s why a lot of aspiring surgeons are now required to perform virtual surgeries for training.
Curious to see who could perform better at these virtual surgeries, Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch brought together a group of high school kids, college students, and medical residents.
After testing the three groups to see who could outperform the others, the scientists were surprised to discover that the high school students did the best.
Simply put, the high school kids played video games at least two hours a day while the medical residents rarely had time to play.
While one of the researchers insist that the residents would still do better in actual surgery, the study is one of many proving that our favorite games can help improve our hand-eye coordination. (Source)
I credit getting my driver’s license to gaming. No, seriously! I didn’t get it right away when I was 16, which caused some loss of self-esteem. Yet, when I finally tried driving, I realized how similar it was to driving games and flight simulators.
Hours playing Grand Theft Auto paid off! Okay, maybe not the best ‘car’ example. How about Gran Turismo? Yeah, hours of playing Gran Turismo paid off!
So, when people ask, do video games have positive effects? Yes, they can help with hand-eye coordination, confidence, and reflexes. Not to mention helping someone pass their license test!
7. Improved Focus and Attention
One of the biggest worries among parents today is that their children sit in class thinking about Minecraft and Pokemon instead of listening to the teacher.
To see if games instead helped kids pay more attention by improving cognition and perception, a researcher named Vikranth Bejjanki performed a few experiments alongside several colleagues.
These tests first involved having two groups, experienced and inexperienced gamers, perform several perceptual tasks such as pattern discrimination.
The gamers ended up outperforming the other group who rarely, if ever, played games before the experiment.
The paper concludes with the following:
“The enhanced learning of the regularity and structure of environments may act as a core mechanism by which action video game play influences performance in perception, attention, and cognition.”
In other words, playing games improves several abilities, including paying attention. (Source)
8. Video Games May Help Treat Depression
A few years ago researchers in New Zealand sought to find out if video games can be used to treat mental disorders like depression.
This was done with SPARX, a game specifically designed to provide therapy to teenagers in a way that’s more active and enjoyable than regular counseling.
Over 168 teens with an average age of 15 participated, with all of them having shown previous signs of depression.
While half of the group received traditional counseling, the other group got to play SPARX.
The game involves creating avatars to rid the virtual world of enemies representing gloomy, negative thoughts.
Every stage also introduced general facts about depression, including ways to relax and deal with negative emotions.
Here’s their conclusion after discovering that SPARX players did better at recovering from depression than the other group:
“SPARX is a potential alternative to usual care for adolescents presenting with depressive symptoms in primary care settings and could be used to address some of the unmet demand for treatment.”
9. Video Games Can Help You Stay Stay Fit
Of all the benefits of video games on this list, this is the one that most people already know.
This is likely attributed to Nintendo’s Wii system that introduced motion control gaming to players all over the world.
Active games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit are to this day found in hospitals and retirement homes.
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center recently performed a test to see how much better active games are for kids compared to activities like watching TV and browsing the internet.
Tests involved measuring the heart rate, self-reported exertion, and energy expenditure of kids aged 10 to 13 while they performed three specific activities:
- playing active video games
- watching television
- walking on a treadmill
The team discovered that playing motion-control games was was just as beneficial as walking on a treadmill at a speed of 3.5mph.
Both exercises had the kids burning the same amount of calories, which was nearly three times more than the children just watching Netflix. (Source)
10. Video Games Can Help Couples
While there are plenty of ways for couples to have fun together and relax, psychologists from the University of Denver wanted to find out if playing video games was one of them.
This is an interesting study because research shows men care more about this part of a relationship than women do.
At the same time, most guys are known to either play games alone or with other male friends– not so much their girlfriend, wife, etc.
The study, which actually started in 1996, had 200 couples in their second year of marriage decide what aspect of their relationship was most important.
Their answers demonstrated a strong correlation between the importance of partaking in fun, exciting activities together and a good relationship.
Howard Markman, one of the psychologists involved in the study said this:
“The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time.”
So even though the experiment didn’t involve video games, it serves to prove that couples who game together tend to have happier, healthier relationships. (Source)
Okay, so I know that some couples experience what I deem ‘Call of Duty syndrome.’ In which the girlfriend is disinterestedly (can you blame her?), watching her boyfriend play video games, usually Call of Duty.
You can totally avoid this through the benefits of gaming with the right combo of game and gamer. With my girlfriend, we found a sweet gaming spot. One day I recommended Stardew Valley to her. Being a fan of Harvest Moon, she picked it up and immediately loved it.
Later on, Stardew Valley came out with a multiplayer update, allowing us to play together. It was so much fun, and I believe it really added important communication aspects to our relationship.
Recently, we beat Starbound together, and we are on the lookout for the next great multiplayer co-op game! When some people ask me what are the advantages of gaming? They can improve your relationship with a significant other! In that same vein, check out this fun list with The Greatest Video Game Couples.
Just like video games themselves, the field of studying how games help or hurt us is still very new.
There is still plenty of research to be done before we find out how the virtual characters, stories, and worlds we love really affect on a physical and mental level.
Even so, feel free to show your friends and family this list if they’re the kind of people who still assume games are to blame for obesity, school shootings, and antisocial behavior.
It will help them realize that instead of giving us problems, games may have actually been improving our lives in some ways.