First introduced to society as a set of virtual paddles and a ball, video games have come a long way since the seventies when Pong was unleashed on a generation. Nowadays, there are literally dozens of gaming systems out there with millions of titles to play. If that weren’t enough, video games have also conquered the internet and mobile phones at about the same time as each was introduced. With everything from a pack of cards to modern war being capable of reproduction via joystick, gamers and parents of gamers are left wondering how many hours played equal hours wasted or have even led to the worst.
Contrary to claims that video games turn teenagers and children into violent criminals, new research has shown that a bit of virtual blood and guts is actually good for brain. But don’t take our word for it. Below are twelve recent studies showing video game play can be an improvement. So set the controller down for a while, have a read, and see how video games can help everything from reaction time to social skills.
- 1. Why World of Warcraft is Good for You : In 2001, an Everquest player committed suicide . In the report, his mother claims that the game had something to do with it. However, the Economist recently weighed in with another angle. A new study from cognitive scientists at the University of Rochester suggests that video gamers make faster and more accurate decisions. The scientists concluded that gamers developed an enhanced sensitivity to what is going on around them, which may help with activities such as multitasking, driving, reading small print, and keeping track of friends or children in a crowd. The gamers who did the best were those who played fast-moving games such as Call of Duty or Unreal Tournament.
2. Video Games Lead to Faster Decisions : Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester have discovered that playing action video games trains people to make the right decisions faster and just as accurate. Science Daily reports that dozens of 18 to 25 year olds who did not play games were divided into two groups. One played the games such as Call of Duty and the others played a slower game, The Sims. Afterwards, they were asked to answer questions and make decisions on problems. The action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion. The researchers have more in this article.
3. How Video Games Trained a Generation of Athletes : Think all gamers are obese couch cruisers who have never played a sport? Read this from Wired and have your mind changed. They report that Brandon Stokely of the Denver Broncos actually mimicked a play he had done hundreds of times before on a video game. Titles such as Madden NFL actually allow players to get to know plays, defenses, calls, and all sorts of other technical aspects of football that only the field could bring. No longer just a tool to learn the basics, these sorts of games are actually allowing players and coaches to change the way it is being played.
4. Is Gaming Good for Kids? : As reported on from a local CBS affiliate, video games can be good for kids and teens. They report that 97 percent of them play video games and 65 percent play with others, making it a sociable experience. Although there is no shortage of violent and bloody games on the market, the same study found that the most popular games were racing, puzzles, and sports. Two experts and kids also weigh in.
5. Violent Gaming is Good for the Brain : A new study by the “Frontiers of Cognition” journal tells that video games, even violent ones, can be good for the brain. Dr. Lorenza Colzato of the study explains how video games can help the reflexes, switching between tasks, and improving response time. The doctor also believes the benefits of perpetuating fake violence can outweigh any negative social impact and could even help gamers land a job one day.
6. Video Games Help Seniors Combat Depression : Proving that video games aren’t just for kids, they can also help out seniors. According to research conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, video games that combine game play with exercise can improve the symptoms of subsyndromal depression in seniors. In the study, 19 seniors with this kind of depression played an exercise game for the Nintendo Wii for 35 minutes, three days a week. Over a third of the patients experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction of symptoms. Many even had a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and increased cognitive stimulation.
7. Gaming is Good for You : Can gaming actually help stop terrorists? While Professor Talmadge Wright and colleagues at Loyola University haven’t directly answered that question, but they do take particular notice of Counter-Strike, a game that pits players as terrorists or counter-terrorists in order to win the game. After interviewing and studying gamers, the study showed that players of this game actually displayed similar qualities to those of expert chess players. He also noted the importance of the social side of Counter-Strike was revealed in the constant banter, in-jokes, and insults that people exchanged during play.
8. The Social Benefits of Video Gaming : Clay Routledge is a doctor with a popular blog on Psychology Today. In this entry, he focuses on the positive side of gaming, which can include better social skills. He hypothesizes that if violent video games can lead to violence, why can’t social games lead to better social skills? He discusses research in which players of social games are tested to see how they respond to a situation that requires their help. Those who played the social game were more likely to positively intervene when a participant was harassed by a boyfriend as part of the study.
9. Does Brain Training Work? : Many gamers and advocate use brain training games as a benefit of playing games. In this web series, Scientific American examines if these brain training games actually work. Thousands of people participated in this study published by “Nature” aged from teens to seniors. Three groups were divided into one that did internet basics, reasoning games, and non-reasoning games. After playing for a significant amount of time, they were tested on cognitive abilities. Watch the video to get the results.
10. Gaming for a Cure : “Video Games Cures Cancer” just might be the headline one day according to Science Daily. In this report, a game called Foldit is featured. It turns one of the hardest problems in molecular biology into a game like Tetris. Players stack a protein, instead of blocks or other shapes in this game. This study showed that people were actually as good or better at stacking proteins than a super computer. This was especially true on problems that required radical moves, risks, and long-term vision. Over 50,000 people have played the game and learned a great deal more about the human body while doing so.
11. Violent Video Games Make You Smarter : This study by researchers in the Netherlands suggests that shoot-to-kill video games improve quick thinking and make players more able to cope with the demands of modern life. Because gamers often stop to check email, answer the phone, and others before resuming a game, it can lead to a faster ability to switch in between tasks.
12. Video Games and Their Link to Violence : If still unsure about the ability to improve yourself by playing games, you are not alone. As reported on by “USA Today,” a review of 130 studies “strongly suggests” that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and decreases empathy. Craig Anderson of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University in Ames reports that there are “known factors for the development of aggression and violence.” On the other side is Christopher Ferguson of Texas A& M who believes that the effects of violent video games are “generally very low.” Read the article here to decide for yourself.
Remember that video games can become an addiction, like practically anything else can. To get the most out of the benefits reported in the above twelve recent studies showing video game play can improve yourself, be sure to play with family and friends while maintaining a balanced life outside of the games.