Yep, you heard it right. Time to get your game on!
No doubt you’ve copped flack for playing video games because they’re either one of the following or an amalgamation of all of them:
A. Video games are violent.
B. Video games are for kids.
C. Video games are bad for your brain.
D. Video games affect your productivity
E. Video games are a waste of time.
In small, yet certain ways whoever complained to you about the above is somewhat telling the truth. Some video games ARE violent but this shouldn’t speak for the gaming industry in general. A panacea in excess can infact become poisonous, but guess what? So can drinking too much coffee.
But if someone were to ask me, “Is playing video games really that beneficial?”, my unequivocal answer is undoubtedly “YES!”
I love video games and they bring me great joy.
Well, it’s slightly complicated but definitely worth explaining from a psych perspective.
Theres a myriad of genres out there when it comes to video games.
There are tons of different types of games:adventure, horror, real time strategy (RTS), puzzle, massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), role playing, driving, dance, first person shooter (FPS)…You get the gist right?! Different games for different tastes.
Now im not trying to advocate for “moderation” here, but like anything else we ‘consume’, video games in their various forms CAN infact be abused. The majority of gamers (25-35yr age group) play simply to have fun, although what a lot of gamers don’t know is, there’s something significantly worthy buried deep inside these games that extend beyond the enjoyment and fun originally intended by the developers.
For genres such as MMO’s or FPS (Which is my game of choice) which are played online, there’s an overwhelming sense of community, of belonging because of the team work required to achieve a common goal. You have to team up, chat, and work together to be successful in winning a game. If some noob is camping with a sniper rifle in your fav spot. You hola out to your mates with his position and they’ll willingly take him out for you. Or, you can if you want, you can tell him how his mum likes your roast beef if you know what I mean. Whatever option floats your boat.
NOTE: Don’t bully people. And be age appropriate.
The main point here being that people who play video games are not reclusive nerds. Online communities and clans have boomed and you’ll find masses of the general public at events such as the EB Games expo here in AUS, E3 in the states and GAMESCON in Europe.
That’s the short end of the benefits when it comes to gaming, so let’s get into the nitty gritty courtesy of ONNIT ACADEMY.
Knowledge bombs inbound…
Source: ONNIT ACADEMY
When thrown into a kill-or-be-killed atmosphere, all the bullshit gets shoved aside. It’s just you (sometimes, literally just you) versus an entire game-universe of baddies that, in addition to wanting to take over the world, want nothing more than to make bloody bits out of your character. So the villains pop up, you shoot them, they die. Simple. Some games use civilians to make you think before you shoot and give you penalties for shooting them. You’ve got a split second to decide between friend or foe and you better pick correctly.
Surprisingly (or maybe not), these quick off-the-cuff decision-making abilities transfer into the real world. Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester in New York tested action video-gamers vs non-gamers and found the decision-making skills of the gamers to be markedly better than their non-gamer counterparts. Plus, they were able to make the decisions quicker without sacrificing accuracy.
Stress and Depression
You’re not crazy. After a day full of stress, plopping down on your couch with a controller may be the perfect way to unwind.
For many games, there are quick, easy goals to accomplish that will get you on the track to feeling better. And if you love the simple pleasure of rolling everything in the world up in a ball, then Katamari Damacy is the way to go. For me, something mindless like grinding levels works well. Some people, however, prefer Bejeweled and other drop games. Believe it or not, there was an actual study done using Bejeweled that showed that people playing the game had positive effects on their mood. The idea is that games like Bejeweled can keep your attention while still providing something of a mental challenge. You get a sense of self-satisfaction from completing levels or getting a new high score.
Besides that, video games are just fun to play. You can get caught up in an imaginary world and submit to it completely. While you’re playing, your own troubles vanish and you concentrate wholly on the story or game in front of you.
Problem Solving Skills
Problem solving skills, or brain training, is an aspect of almost all games. Some games handle brain training really well and others don’t. Games like the Arkham Trilogy (with maybe the exception of the 3rd one) actively teach you how to play in their world without you really noticing it. There’s a certain tool that does a certain thing or you’ve got to jump over guys with a shield before you punch them. And you’ve got a limited amount of time to do it (most of the time). So, not only is the game lowering your reaction time, it’s also attempting to teach you the quickest and most effective ways to beat the villains. That’s the more advanced version.
The basic version of how video games help you solve problems is…well, more basic than that. In each game, there are an established set of rules. Whether it’s how far you can jump, the ability to pick something up, being able to get two-dimensional in a 3-D world, or a million other things, these rules are created to make you work with them to reach your goal. You’ve got to get creative and work within the confines of the game. These skills transfer directly to math, science, and everyday life.
Video games can not get rid of your glasses, but they can help you see patterns more quickly than other people and help with spatial navigation. Spatial navigation is simply the ability to ability to recognize the relationship of one object to another in three-dimensional space. First-person shooters are known to help the most with this, according to a meta analysis – even more so than puzzle games. Remarkably, gaining the ability to perceive objects and think of them in three dimensions is on the same level as academic courses. So yes, video games can be a valid way of teaching kids how to perceive objects in a 3D environment – albeit a violent one.
In the realm of drop games, you learn to look for groups of colors to clear the most gems or candy at the same time. Some drop games have a timer, so the quicker you can pick out the gems you need to clear, the better you’ll do.
The brain is an amazing thing. It really is. Even though something like playing video games isn’t directly related to what you’re trying to accomplish, your brain is able to transfer the skills to something you can actually use. Among the benefits not mentioned above, video games help increase your memory, attention, and inductive reasoning. Much of that is attributed to action type games that require you to move quickly, keep a lot of information in your head, and make decisions quickly.
Several studies were done using novice surgeons. One tracked surgeons that played video games had a lower error rate and quicker completion rate than those that didn’t. Another study used Half Life (a first-person shooter) and Chessmaster to see if the surgeons who played those games would perform laparoscopic surgeries better than those who didn’t. Again, video games proved to be helpful. Though, the surgeons that played Half Life did better than the ones that played Chessmaster.
Playing video games can help you on your way to optimization. If you’re looking to develop your skills, the best games to play are first-person shooters. They simply outclass everything else. Action games are next in line. But never forget what video games were originally designed for. They’re made for you to have fun. While it’s nice to get all the other benefits, sometimes it’s nice to just grab a controller, relax, and enjoy the game.
Here is a shameless plug of my Clan, Clan Seagull and some distant memories of some Halo Series gameplay.
Hell, I might even rally the troops and play some online games tonight!
Enlighten. Empower. Evolve.
Some smooth tunes courtesy of Ta-Ku for your weekend.