Video Games and your Brain A tour within the mind
Welcome to the world of gaming! You've probably heard about gaming and how it's a large portion of today's society either from your friends, school, shopping, or (for the parents) from your kids. It's nearly impossible to go to stores such as Walmart without passing by the electronic section and seeing the rather large display of electronic entertainment. Whether we've heard it from media or society as a whole, we've all heard that video games are bad for you. How can something that you sit in front of for a few hours do any good for you, right? Well, video games are in fact quite healthy for your brain!
Gaming effects on the brain. Are they positive?
To many people, gaming seems like a waste of time. Gaming is viewed mainly as slowly wasting your thoughts away on a screen of moving images. But in reality, there are a fair amount of positive influences that the brain receives from playing video games. Studies have shown that video games can improve problem solving skills and learning abilities in small amounts depending on how much time you spend on certain games. This should all be taken in moderation with small doses of gaming per day.
What are the positive influences? Here are just a few of many!
- Multitasking - this skill is used for a multitude of getting through daily life. Sometimes life calls us to handle multiple things at once. You probably know the feeling in school or in the work force. There is simply a lot to juggle in one day. However, people who spend a few hours a day playing certain video games show an increase in being able to handle multiple tasks at once, either in game or in their days. Games such as Minecraft and The Last of Us are both completely different genres, but share the same thought provoking strategies. You need to keep up with your items and enemies around you in order to successfully survive and make it through the game.
- Memory Improvement - In order to advance from point A to point B in a video games, players need to keep in mind the plot of the game, items, areas, characters, directions, health, timing, etc. Players constantly think and rethink through in-game decisions and strategies to remove obstacles and defeat enemies. Memory improves as you constantly use it to remember directions, items, and strategies. As you improve and use these skills in-game, the positive effects are still improving as you walk away from the screen as well. This helps with remembering tasks, assignments, directions, and conversations in day to day activities.
- Improves reading and math skills - most adventure and action games require the player to read instructions, directions, and to follow character text so they know what to do in the game. Players can help improve upon their math skills with games that require a constant supply of resources to take into account.
- Concentration skills - games such as Dance Dance Revolution provide the brain with a constant pattern to keep track of to complete the song you are dancing to. This demands concentration on a specific task, which can help with learning in school and daily life.
- Management - this skill is essential for real life with managing time and assignments. Certain games such as Zoo Tycoon or Minecraft can help polish those skills by providing the player with limited resources to manage and make the most of. This skill goes with planning as well.
- Hand-eye coordination - some video games such as shooters require the player to keep track of the other players and how to take down the enemies at the same time. The player needs to use hand-eye coordination to complete the stages and defeat enemies while maintaining the environment around them.
Game genres that provide a positive influence
- Strategy games - these games teach the player how to manage fast analysis and improve on decision making skills. Players exercise their brains with being able to change thought process quickly as to maintain the game play. "When playing a strategy game, the player has to be flexible and should be quick to change tactics when something unexpected suddenly happens, just like in the real world" (23 Video Games That Could Make You Smarter). These games are usually planning games such as civilization building where you control an ere and build an empire of a nation through logic and organization. Another example is Pokemon where players need to form a strategy as to how they can train their Pokemon to defeat the other player effectively and skillfully.
- First person shooters - these games emphasize hand-eye coordination and fast thinking when it comes to keeping up with the other players and where to aim to shoot. "In almost every second of the game, a player keeps track of the position of the enemy, his speed, where the gun is aiming, and so on. The player simultaneously works these factors out in his head, and coordinates his brain’s interpretation and reaction with the movement in his hands and fingertips" (23 Video Games That Could Make You Smarter). An example would be Call of Duty or Destiny.
- Role playing games or RPGs - RPGs are the types of games where the player takes on a specific role in the game world. These types of games manage inductive reasoning skills, being able to think more scientifically. This genre can help with more deeper decision making than with first person shooter games. The player has more time to slow down and think through choices. These skills help even with school, "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" (Video Games Play May Provide Learning, Health, Social Benefits, Review Finds). An example would be Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
- Puzzle games - These are the games that deals with logic and solving skills. "In achieving goals in puzzle games, players work out their brains by figuring out patterns, logical thinking, or solving intricate problems under time pressure" (23 Video Games That Could Make You Smarter). Puzzle games include games like Portal and LittleBigPlanet where you need to use logical thinking to make solutions and advance to the next level.
Are video games and their effects just for kids? Nope!
When people think of gaming or video games, their first thought would probably be children sitting in front of the tv with a controller in their hands. What if I told you that gaming and what it teaches isn't just for kids, but for all ages? Adults can gain benefits from gaming as well as kids. There is no age limit on learning or even how you learn or improve your skills.
Studies on the brain with video games
Studies have shown that even elderly individuals improve brain functions through video games that they can use in the real world. Such improvement can range from memory improvement to being able to improve driving skills. One such study took adults ranging in age from 60-85 and had them play a specific video game that targeted multitasking strategy improvement. The research had each adult take the game home and play it up to three times a week for one month. This was titled "training" and when the participants came back to the lab, the researchers studied the brain waves linked to memory and attention. The study states, "After training, the older adults showed improvements in their multitasking skill, measured by how little their performance dropped when the driving task was added on top of the symbol task. In fact, they scored better than untrained 20-year-olds. They also maintained this skill for 6 months after the training, without further practice" (Videogame May Help Rejuvenate Elderly Brains). Learning and improving the mind doesn't need to stop when you're a kid. It doesn't matter what your age is to improve certain skills within your brain.
Are video games all just learning skills?
While you play video games, your brain naturally picks up on the benefits without you even realizing it at the time. This makes for a great form of entertainment that you don't need to "think" about as you do it. Just have fun and learn while you play! This is a great way to socialize; be it online chatting with multiplayer or playing with your best friend beside you. Since video games help all ages with brain improvement, why not have a family bonding night with a positive form of entertainment that can help everyone out? Video games are a great way to bring people together in a fun and beneficial way.
Here is a link to a video that focuses on how the brain improves from video games -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FktsFcooIG8 (credit goes to YouTube.com).
Quotes about video games and brain improvement studies
"There have been even studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Also, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games" (The Positive and Negative Effects of Video Games).
"The new work suggests that playing video games could someday become part of vision-correction treatments, which currently rely mainly on surgery or corrective lenses."Once you've had eye surgery or get corrective lenses, exposing yourself to these games should help the optical system to recover faster and better,"Bavelier said" (Handwerk, Brian).