Complex, challenging, and ambitious, video games have come a long way since the simple arcade titles of the 1970s—and evidence is mounting that the benefits of play go well beyond entertainment and improved hand-eye coordination. Here are 15 ways games are programming better people.
1. THEY’RE PRODUCING BETTER SURGEONS.
While you may think you want your surgeon reading up on the latest medical research instead of playing games, you might want to reconsider: a study of laparoscopic (small incision) specialists found that those who played for more than three hours per week made 32 percent fewer errors during practice procedures compared to their non-gaming counterparts.
2. THEY MAY HELP PEOPLE OVERCOME DYSLEXIA.
Some research points to attention difficulties as being a key component of dyslexia. One study has shown dyslexics improved their reading comprehension following sessions of games heavy on action. The reason, researchers believe, is that the games have constantly changing environments that require intense focus.
3. THEY COULD IMPROVE YOUR VISION.
“Don’t sit too close to the television” used to be a common parental refrain without a lot of science to back it up. Instead, scientists are discovering games in moderation may actually improve—not strain—your vision. In one study, 10 weeks of play was associated with a greater ability to discern between different shades of grey. Another had participants try to play games using only their “lazy” eye, with the “good” one obscured. Those players showed significant, sometimes normalized improvement in the affected eye.
4. YOU MIGHT GET A CAREER BOOST.
Because certain genres of games reward and encourage leadership traits—providing for “communities,” securing their safety, etc.—researchers have noted that players can display a correlating motivation in their real-world career goals. Improvising in a game can also translate into being faster on your feet when an office crisis crops up.
5. PLAYERS CAN BECOME FASCINATED WITH HISTORY.
Many games use actual historical events to drive their stories. Those characters and places can then spark a child’s interest in discovering more about the culture they’re immersed in, according to researchers. Parents who have obtained books, maps, and other resources connected to games have reported their children are more engaged with learning, which can lead to a lifetime appreciation for history.
6. THEY MAKE KIDS PHYSICAL.
While some games promote a whole-body level of interaction, even those requiring a simple handheld controller can lead to physical activity. Sports games that involve basketball, tennis, or even skateboarding can lead to children practicing those same skills outdoors.
7. THEY MAY SLOW THE AGING PROCESS.
So-called “brain games” involving problem-solving, memory, and puzzle components have been shown to have a positive benefit on older players. In one study, just 10 hours of play led to increased cognitive functioning in participants 50 and older—improvement that lasted for several years.
8. THEY HELP EASE PAIN.
It’s common to try to distract ourselves from pain by paying attention to something else or focusing on other body mechanisms, but that’s not the only reason why games are a good post-injury prescription. Playing can actually produce an analgesic (pain-killing) response in our higher cortical systems. The more immersive, the better—which is why pending virtual reality systems may one day be as prevalent in hospitals as hand sanitizer.
9. YOU’LL MAKE NEW SOCIAL CONNECTIONS.
Gamers are sometimes stigmatized as being too insulated, but the opposite is actually true. The rise of multi-player experiences online has given way to a new form of socializing in which players work together to solve problems. But studies have shown games can also be the catalyst for friends to gather in person: roughly 70 percent of all players play with friends at least some of the time.
10. THEY MAY IMPROVE BALANCE IN MS SUFFERERS.
Since it is a disorder affecting multiple nerves, multiple sclerosis patients often have problems with their balance—and no medications have been conclusively proven to help. However, one study showed that MS patients who played games requiring physical interaction while standing on a balance board displayed improvement afterward.
11. YOU’LL MAKE FASTER DECISIONS.
We all know someone who seems to have a faster CPU than the rest of us, able to retrieve information or react in a split second. For some, that ability might be strengthened through gaming. Because new information is constantly being displayed during play, players are forced to adapt quickly. In one study, players who were immersed in fast-paced games were 25 percent faster in reacting to questions about an image they had just seen compared to non-players.
12. THEY MIGHT CURB CRAVINGS.
Players preoccupied with indulging in overeating, smoking, or drinking might be best served by reaching for a controller instead. A university study revealed a 24 percent reduction in desire for their vice of choice after playing a puzzle game.
13. THEY’LL REDUCE STRESS.
While some games are thought to induce stress—especially when you see your character struck down for the umpteenth time—the opposite can be true. A major study that tracked players over six months and measured heart rate found that certain titles reduced the adrenaline response by over 50 percent.
14. GAMERS MIGHT BE LESS LIKELY TO BULLY.
Though the stance is controversial, some researchers have asserted that action games may reduce a bully’s motivation to—well, bully. One study that had players assume the role of both the hero and villain showed that those controlling the bad guy’s behaviors displayed a greater sense of remorse over their actions.
15. THEY CAN HELP ADDRESS AUTISM.
Gamers using systems that incorporate the entire body to control onscreen movement have been shown to be more engaged in celebrating victories with their peers, which runs counter to the lack of communication people with autism sometimes present. A study also showed that sharing space with multiple players can also lead to increased social interaction for those with the disorder.
7 health benefits of playing video games
Gaming might actually reduce stress and depression. ThinkStock/Wavebreak Media
March 10, 2013
Your parents may have tried to kick you off your Super Nintendo just about every time you sat down in front of it because they were concerned about how it might affect your long-term health. Plenty of studies have shown that games that don't require a lot of physical movement can have an adverse effect on children as they grow older. But perhaps counter-intuitively, there have also been several studies touting the health benefits of gaming.
1. Video games are therapeutic for children with chronic illnesses
The University of Utah released a study last year that examined the effects of regular gaming on children diagnosed with illnesses like autism, depression, and Parkinson's disease. Kids who played certain games, including one designed just for the study, showed signs of improvement in "resilience, empowerment, and a 'fighting spirit.'" Researchers believe the games' ability to act on "neuronal mechanisms that activate positive emotions and the reward system" helped improve kids' demeanors as they faced the daily challenges of their illnesses.
2. Video games improve preschoolers' motor skills
Letting a 4-year-old sit in front of a TV with a game controller might not seem like the most productive use of her time. But researchers from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, would disagree. Their study examined the development of 53 preschool-aged children, and found that those who played "interactive games" had better "object control motor skills" than those who didn't. It's not clear, though, whether children with better-than-average motor skills tend to gravitate toward video games in the first place.
3. Video games reduce stress and depression
2009's Annual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine included a study that found that gamers who suffered from mental health issues such as stress and depression were able to vent their frustration and aggression by playing video games — and showed a noted improvement. The study hypothesized that games gave certain "Type A" personalities time to relax in "a state of relative mindlessness" that allowed them to avoid reaching "a certain level of stressful arousal" as they tried to relax.
4. Video games provide pain relief
Video games don't just provide relief from emotional pain. They can also help those who are suffering from physical pain. Psychologists at the University of Washington developed a game that helps hospital patients suffering from immense physical pain by using an age-old mental trick: distraction. The virtual reality game "Snow World" put patients in an arctic wonderland in which they throw an endless arsenal of snowballs at a series of targets, such as penguins and snowmen. Military hospitals found the experience helped soldiers recovering from their battlefield wounds. The soldiers who played "Snow World" required less pain medicine during their recuperation.
5. Video games can improve your vision
Mom may have warned you that sitting in front of the TV wasn't good for your eyes. But one developmental psychologist found it could actually be beneficial to your vision. Dr. Daphen Maurer of the Visual Development Lab of Ontario's McMaster University made a surprising discovery: People suffering from cataracts can improve their vision by playing first-person shooter games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. She believes these games are so fast-paced that they require an extreme amount of attention, training the visually impaired to view things more sharply. They can also produce higher levels of dopamine and adrenaline that "potentially may make the brain more plastic," she said.
6. Video games improve your decision-making skills
Most video games require fast reactions and split-second decisions that can mean the difference between virtual life and virtual death. Cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Rochester in New York found these games give players' brains plenty of practice for making decisions in the real world. Researchers suggest that action-oriented games act as a simulator for the decision-making process by giving players several chances to infer information from their surroundings and forcing them to react accordingly.
7. Video games keep you happy in old age Researchers from North Carolina State University looked closely at our aging population to see if there was a link between playing video games and mental well-being — i.e. "happiness." They found that senior citizens who said they played video games — even occasionally — reported "higher levels of happiness, or well-being," says Rick Nauert at PsychCentral.
" By American Psychological Association and Brown University December 2, 2013
Angry Birds, shooter games have pluses
Study Hall presents the results of scientific studies as described by the researchers and their institutions. This report is from the American Psychological Association :
Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play to be published by the American Psychological Association.
While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.
Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013.
Children’s creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cellphone, other research revealed. Simple games that can be played quickly, such as Angry Birds, can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said.
Brains of babies with Alzheimer’s gene develop differently
This report is from Brown University:
The brains of infants who carry a gene associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease develop differently than those of babies who don’t have the gene.
While this discovery is neither diagnostic nor predictive of Alzheimer’s, it could be a step toward understanding how the gene variant APOE E4 confers risk much later in life.
Researchers imaged the brains of 162 healthy babies between the ages of 2 months and 25 months. All of the infants had DNA tests to see which variant of the APOE gene they carried. Sixty of them had the E4 variant that has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Using a special MRI technique designed to study sleeping infants, they compared the brains of E4 carriers with non-carriers. They found that children who carry the APOE E4 gene tended to have increased brain growth in areas in the frontal lobe and decreased growth in areas in several areas in the middle and rear of the brain. The decreased growth was found in areas that tend to be affected in elderly patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers emphasized the findings, published in JAMA Neurology, do not mean that any of the children in the study are destined to develop Alzheimer’s or that the brain changes detected are the first clinical signs of the disease.
Those who did not play video games reported more negative emotions" and were more likely to be depressed. It's unclear what exactly is behind this link — or if the relationship is even causal.
Ways Video Games Can Actually Be Good For You
The Huffington Post | By Drew Guarini
Your mother was wrong. Video games aren't bad for you. They're actually making your life betterDespite hand-wringing over a supposed connection between violence and video games (hint: there isn't any), numerous academic studies indicate that playing video games has many psychological and even physical benefits.Taken together, it turns out video games actually make you a better human being
1. 'Mario' Is Like Steroids For Your Brain
To better understand how video games affect the brain, German researchers conducted a study, which was released this week. They asked 23 adults with a median age of 25 to play "Super Mario 64" for 30 minutes a day over a period of two months. A separate control group did not play video games at all.
Examining the brains of the two groups using an MRI machine, they found that the gaming group had a rise in gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum -- areas of the brain responsible for spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills in the hands.
"While previous studies have shown differences in brain structure of video gamers, the present study can demonstrate the direct causal link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase," study leader Simone Kühn said. "This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games."
Kühn and her colleagues concluded that video games could potentially be used as a therapy for patients with mental disorders that cause brain regions to shrink or be altered. Such diseases include schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's.
2. 'Starcraft' May Make You Smarter
In August, British researchers found that certain video games, particularly strategic games such as "Starcraft," can increase a player's "brain flexibility," which the scientists described as "a cornerstone of human intelligence."
The study, conducted at Queen Mary University of London and University College London, is based on psychological tests conducted before and after 72 volunteers played "Starcraft" or the life-simulation game "The Sims" for 40 hours over six to eight weeks. They found that participants assigned to play "Starcraft" experienced gains in their performance on psychological tests, completing cognitive flexibility tasks with greater speed and accuracy.
"We need to understand now what exactly about these games is leading to these changes, and whether these cognitive boosts are permanent or if they dwindle over time," study researcher Brian Glass said in August. "Once we have that understanding, it could become possible to develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries, for example."
3. Video Games May Slow The Aging Process
Playing brain-teasing game for just two hours a week may help slow the degree of mental decay associated with the natural aging process, according to a study this year from the University of Iowa.
A study of 681 healthy individuals ages 50 and older revealed that playing 10 hours of a specially designed video game was able to stall the natural decline of different cognitive skills by up to seven years, in some cases.
Over five to eight weeks, one group of seniors was given computerized crossword puzzles while three other groups played a computer game called "Road Tour." The game involves matching pictures of vehicles while remembering the location of a particular road sign as more and more "distractors" appear as the player advanced. The experience is meant to mirror the difficulty older drivers have when they have to process information from multiple points of view at an intersection.
"Whether it's a specially manufactured game or something like 'World of Warcraft,' games are cognitively complex and require mental energy and abilities to play them," said Jason Allaire, an associate professor in the department of psychology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who was not involved with the study. "Whenever you do anything that requires mental energy, you're exercising your abilities -- it's just like if you exercise your muscles, you get stronger."
A study from the University of Padua throws cold water on the idea that video games are bad for the brains of young children. In February, the Italian researchers presented evidence that playing fast-paced video games can improve the reading skills of children with dyslexia.
The team separated children age 7 to 13 into two groups, one of which played an action game called "Rayman Raving Rabids" while the other played a lower tempo game. When the reading skills of the children were tested afterwards, those who played the action game were capable of reading faster and more accurately. The authors of the study hypothesized that the action games helps kids increase their attention spans, a skill considered crucial to reading.
5. Teen Gamers End Up Better At Virtual Surgery Than Real Medical Residents
In November 2012, scientists at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston conducted an experiment in which high school gamers, college gamers and medical residents competed to see who could perform better virtual surgery. The players completed a series of tasks on a device that replicated real surgeries and measured skills in 32 different categories, such as hand-eye coordination, pressure on the controls and timing.
The high school sophomores, who played video games two hours a day, dramatically outperformed both the college gamers (who played four hours of video games daily) and the medical residents (who had only sporadic gaming experience). Trying to be a real surgeon must have gotten in the way.
Still, Sami Kilic, a University of Texas professor who helped design the experiment, reasonably insisted that students interested in a career in medicine should still focus on academics, not virtual surgery. However, a separate study found that surgeons who played video games for at least 3 hours a week saw 37 percent fewer mistakes during laparoscopic surgery.
6. Video Games Can Be A Pain Reliever
In 2010, researchers presented evidence at the American Pain Society's annual scientific meeting that video games, specifically ones with an emphasis on virtual reality, have proven effective in reducing anxiety or pain caused by medical procedures or chronic illness. The study found that when people undergoing chemotherapy or other serious treatments were immersed in a virtual gaming world, they reported significantly less stress and fear. In addition, those being treated for burn wounds found a decline in their pain ratings by rates of 30 to 50 percent.
Referencing the motion sensor technology of the Xbox Kinect or the Wii, Charles Friedman of the Pain Relief Centers said that gaming allows the brain to stay busy using other senses instead of focusing on pain. Gaming also releases endorphins in the brain, a chemical that is generally associated with happiness and capable of numbing discomfort.
7. 'Call Of Duty' Can Improve Your Eyesight
According to a University of Rochester study, shooting bad guys in video games can unexpectedly give you better vision.
In the 2009 study, expert action gamers played first-person shooting games like "Unreal Tournament 2004" and "Call of Duty" while non-experienced action gamers played "The Sims 2." Those playing the shoot-'em-up games saw a boost in their "contrast sensitivity function," or the ability to discern subtle changes in the brightness of an image. Considered one of first of the visual aptitudes to diminish over time, the ability to pick out bright patches is key to tasks like driving at night.
The study's authors believe that the process of locating and aiming at enemies exercised gamers' eyes. And with bad guys unpredictably popping up, the shooting games also helped players learn to analyze optical data on the fly. The researchers believe their study shows the potential of video games -- particularly action games -- to serve as an aid in the way we correct bad eyesight.
8. Video Games Can Be As Effective As One-On-One Counseling
While video games are often blamed as a cause of mental illness, studies have shown that they can also be a cure.
In 2012, researchers in New Zealand created a novel way to treat depressed teenagers with "SPARX," a video game designed to give therapy to kids in a way that was more fun and active than traditional counseling. The acronym stands for “smart, positive, active, realistic and x-factor thoughts,” strategies that have been commonly used to battle depression.
The study included 168 teens with an average age of 15 that had previously sought help or struggled with depression. Half of the group was randomly assigned to "treatment as usual,” which was usually one-on-one counseling over five sessions. The other half played SPARX, a fantasy game where the subjects created avatars in order to squash “gloomy negative automatic thoughts,” and restore order in the virtual world. Each level taught players basic facts about depression, strategies for dealing with intense negative emotions and relaxation techniques.
The results for the SPARX group were extremely encouraging. About 44 percent of SPARX players recovered completely from depression while only 26 percent of the control group were no longer depressed.
For stroke victims, recovery can be a long or even impossible process. Seeking a more affordable and effective approach to restoring speech and movement after a stroke, Debbie Rand of Tel Aviv University turned to video games.
Individuals who had a stroke one to seven years before the study were assigned to one of two groups. The first did traditional rehabilitation exercises while the other played video games on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.
For an occupational therapist like Rand, the advantages of using video games for rehabilitation were clear in several ways. While both groups showed improvement in things like grip, only the video game group continued to show improvement in hand strength after the treatment. The video gamers not only performed double the number of arm movements during each session, their movements were "goal-directed" and not merely repetitive exercises.
“When individuals plan their movements and move deliberately in order to accomplish a specific goal, it is likely to have a positive impact on brain plasticity,” Rand said, noting that because video games are fun and enjoyable, subjects are more likely to commit fully to the rehab.