Video Games often get a hard time in the press, with the negative effects of video games being blamed for everything from child obesity to gun massacres. However, countless studies have proven that playing video games has many beneficial effects on the gamer, and whether you’re gunning down robots, planning the infrastructure of a city, or exploring goblin-ridden caves, every video game has something to offer.
The image of the lonely gamer sitting at home playing video games by himself is a stereotype that is virtually unrecognizable from reality. Now gamers are part of a vibrant and diverse community, with people from all walks of life.
Games are no longer solitary. MMO’s put people together to work as a group to defeat puzzles or enemies, or maybe to compete against teams of other players. Even most single player games have a multiplayer function. People are no longer happy to play video games alone, when it can be so much more rewarding playing with others.
Games allow people to connect in quite a profound way. People have got married when they have only ever met during an online game. Outside of the games there are websites, blogs, gaming groups, conventions and other ways for gamers to communicate and get together.
2. Skill Training
Whenever you play a video-game your body and mind gains and develops the skills that are needed to succeed in that game. Depending on the video game you’re playing, these skills can either by mental or physical.
For example, first person shooter games such as Call of Duty or Halo, have been proven to substantially improve perception and visual acuity on moving objects; City building games such as Simcity, and Age of Empire increases the players resource management and logistical awareness; and most games will encourage the player to develop problem solving skills, hand coordination, and responses.
These effects have proven to be long term as well. The benefits of playing shooter games such as Call of Duty have been found to be active eleven months later.
Up until a few years ago, video-games had little to no active health benefits. You sat down, turned on the video game and apart from hand movements, you were stationary. That all changed with the introduction of motion controlled consoles such as the Nintendo Wii. Now you can control your video games by moving your whole body.
Motion-Control rocketed the Nintendo Wii to be the most bought console of 2006, and whole families began to start to playing video games together. Games such as Wii Sports were not only a favourite amongst families, but they quickly became popular with those not able to participate in regular exercise. These motion controlled video games began to be used in homes for the elderly or the infirm, and allowed them to exercise at a rate that suited them while still being fun.
Every video game forces you to use your imagination whether you want to or not. Whether you’re controlling a sword-swinging warrior trying to rescue a fair maiden, storming a terrorist filled embassy as the SAS or planning a major railroad, your imagination is being exercised.
We sometimes forget that using your imagination is not a skill only children should use, as the positive effects are just as real no matter your age. When you use your imagination you think of alternative situations, people, events, or solutions. Your mind empathises with make-believe characters, it solves problems that don’t exist and all this develops your mind. Using your imagination improves your memory and your ability to empathise.
Despite the average mind performing millions of calculations per second, it can also be rather short sighted and a little ignorant. When playing video-games your brain cannot always tell the difference between what is actually happening and what is happening in a video game.
So if you’re playing a survival horror game and you’re walking down a creepy and abandoned hallway expecting something to jump out, your mind thinks that’s where you actually are, and prepares you accordingly. Your heart rate will increase, adrenaline will flood your system, and you will ready yourself for being attacked.
The sense of achievement when you complete a hard level of a video game, or finally defeat that enemy that you’ve been trying to take out for so long is also just as real. Dopamine, the neuro-transmitter that gives you that sense of achievement, floods your system as if you had been in the fight yourself.
Violent video games have also been proven to release stress. By performing the violent actions through a video game, the release of tension and aggression allows the body to calm down.
There are also some long term benefits you can gain from gaming. Your confidence may increase as you become better and better at certain games, and talking online and not face-to-face can help social anxiety sufferers to communicate more easily.
Of course, few things exist without there being some negative effects and you will always need to moderate how much video gaming you do. Twelve hours of straight gaming is always going to be more detrimental to you than beneficial, but isn’t that the same with anything?
As long as you have a healthy attitude to video gaming it will repay you in kind with a myriad of benefits.