Video games are becoming more and more popular among youngsters and that is very unlikely to stop in the future. However, the vast majority of the representatives of the older generations tend to view video games rather negatively and often blame them for many behavioral and societal problems.
Up until a few decades ago, video games were not part of our everyday lives so it is understandable why older people believe that they simply waste the precious time that could be spent on something productive.
However, is there another side to the story?
Because video games have become so widespread they piqued researchers' interest. So the main question is, can playing video games actually be beneficial for the human brain? Read on if you want to find out.
The Benefits of Playing Video Games
Contrary to what your parents and grandparents think, playing some video games can actually be beneficial for your brain.
In fact, it has been scientifically proven that gamers have experienced some positive cognitive effects from playing video games.
For example, they have better problem-solving skills as well as better memory compared to the non-gamers.
Let’s have a look at the problem-solving skills a bit more closely. People who play the so-called RPG (a role-playing game) genre use their cognitive activities to solve a number of complex problems.
In order to achieve success in these types of games, players need to create a comprehensive strategy to overcome their opponents.
This resembles a game of chess in a way; each player not only has to plan their own actions but also has to take into consideration the actions of their opponent in order to win. However, the advantage of the RPG compared to chess is that one round of a role-playing game typically takes around 10 minutes. It’s like a problem-solving crash course that can be repeated several times a day.
In 2013 the American Psychological Association conducted a study that showed that children who play games that involve strategic planning tend to have better academic grades thanks to their developed problem-solving skills.
Another benefit of playing video games is the improved spatial visualization. Improving this skill requires playing the so-called FPS games (first-person shooter).
These are the types of games that parents and grandparents dislike the most because they tend to be violent and show a lot of blood and gore. However, it isn’t all just pointless shooting.
FPS games require players to use various maps and they have been linked to improvement in spatial visualization as well as navigation skills.
In addition, not only do players need to read maps, they need to combine this knowledge with strategic thinking to succeed in these games.
The third skill that is developed with the help of video games is decision-making. Action games tend to be fast-paced and the player has to be constantly focused and make decisions in a split of a second.
A study conducted by the University of Rochester in 2010 demonstrated that the gamers who favor fast-paced action games are capable of making fast and yet rather accurate decisions.
This experiment involved a number of 18 to 25-year-olds who were divided into two groups. One group was tasked with playing fast-paced action games whereas the other group was playing strategy games at a far slower pace.
Both groups played for a total of 50 hours and in the end, they were asked to make a series of quick decisions under the watchful eyes of the researchers.
According to the researchers' conclusion, the first group was making the correct decisions approximately 25% faster.
And last but not least let’s speak about how video games benefit our memory.
The vast majority of games available on the market now involve decision-making, strategy, spatial awareness, as well as focus.
These different actions exercise your hippocampus (the brain structure that plays a vital role in the way we learn and memorize things).
According to the research conducted by the University of California in 2015, the gamers who played 3D games on a regular basis have a much better memory and tend to perform better in memory tests compared to those gamers who only play 2D games.
It is a known fact that as we get older we tend to lose our memory power so playing 3D games can be one of the ways to remain sharp at an advanced age.
It is even claimed that 3D video games can lower your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
So perhaps the next time your grandmother walks into the room while you’re playing a 3D video game you should ask her to join in.
Beware of the gaming addiction!
Although playing video games for a moderate number of hours per week can benefit our brain development, if we overdo it we may develop a gaming addiction.
Video games provide a way to escape the reality of this world so needless to say a continuous exposure to this fictional universe will come at a cost.
So what should we do to either prevent ourselves or our children from becoming victims of video game addiction?
First and foremost, set a daily time limit.
Even if you have nothing to do all day and your schedule is completely free you shouldn’t spend your entire day just playing video games.
Limit your daily exposure to a couple of hours and allow yourself to play as a reward after you have completed other more important tasks.
If you are a parent, make sure that your children have done all of their homework and all the major chores they need to do before they can play video games.
Also, remember that there are other pleasurable things in life besides video games. Try to spend more time with your family and friends, get yourself some other hobbies such as arts and crafts, sports, etc. Video games should not become your only source of relaxation and enjoyment.
In conclusion, playing video games for a couple of hours will not do you harm, on the contrary, it will develop your various cognitive abilities.
However prolonged exposure to this fictitious world should be avoided.