Video games have inspired numerous debates among game manufacturers, gamers, parents, educators, and psychology experts. Many of those debates stem from the potentially damaging impact of video games on the adolescent psyche.

A new study flies in the face of those assertions, identifying connections between video game addiction and observational skills, cognitive efficiency, and task execution. People who play video games compulsively could derive benefits from the skills and behaviors they learn while playing.

Medical Research: Identifying the Impact of Video Game Addiction

According to IFL Science, the aforementioned study involved MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans of 78 adolescent boys with IGD (Internet gaming disorder) and 73 boys in the same age group who demonstrated no symptoms of IGD. Based on those scans, researchers determined that boys with IGD exhibit “increased connectivity between seven pairs of regions” in the brain. Researchers based at the University of Utah and at Chung-Ang University propose that these connections could account for the cognitive symptoms of IGD.

For instance, people with IGD might have difficulty concentrating and might even experience withdrawal symptoms when pulled away from a game. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), IGD symptoms mimic those of an alcoholic or drug addict.

Hyperconnectivity: Wiring Differences Between Gamers and Non-Gamers

However, it’s not all bad news. The research also found that boys with IGD exhibited behaviors that could prove beneficial in the non-gaming world. Increased observational skills allow gamers to identify important elements of a game, but they could also help students and professionals succeed in their careers and their personal lives.

Gamers can process many different cues in a stressful environment because of their experiences playing games. They are able to react quickly in situations that might seem overwhelming to others. From subtle visuals in the background to audio clues from video game voice over work, gamers are bombarded with copious amounts of information throughout the entire game.

Additionally, the University of Utah reports that this research could suggest a connection between Internet gaming disorder and an individual’s ability to process new information. Increased coordination, improved response speed to stimuli, and other beneficial consequences might also result from IGD.

This research suggests that the areas of the brain most impacted by IGD include the hearing and vision sectors.

Research Results: Hope for People Who Love Gaming

The results of this landmark study provide hope for teenagers and adults who have IGD. Many experts and laypeople alike have expressed their concern over the long-term impact of video games, especially since people with severe IGD can suffer serious withdrawal symptoms and give up other aspects of their lives in favor of their games.

However, despite the fear surrounding video games, this research demonstrates a clear link between video gaming and positive life skills. Adolescent boys who spend a considerable time playing games can actually develop skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Other Benefits: Exploring the Positive Impact of Video Games

While this research constitutes one of the first studies of its kind, psychologists and other experts have previously theorized about the potential benefits of video games. In 2014, for instance, Lisa Bowen of the American Psychological Association wrote about video games’ impacts on kids’ spatial, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

Additionally, Bowen points out that video games can serve as mood boosters for kids – particularly short, simple games, such as those found on smartphones and tablets. They put kids in good moods so they can tackle other tasks in the right frame of mind.

Violence in Gaming: Possible Benefits from First-Person Shooters and Other Action Games

In addition to Bowen, other experts have theorized that violent, action-packed video games can have demonstrable benefits for kids and adults. Writing for Psychology Today, Boston College research professor Peter Gray specifically mentions action-oriented games, stating, “Many of the abilities tapped by such games are precisely those that psychologists consider to be the basic building blocks of intelligence.”

Many adolescents prefer the most violent and action-packed games. However, this surprising research (and other studies before it) suggest that kids might derive more benefits than drawbacks from their favorite games.

Life Balance: Drawing Benefits From Video Games Without Consequence

Although video games offer numerous benefits to adolescents and adults, they can also create negative consequences when they’re abused. When an individual spends all of his or her time in front of the computer or console, other aspects of his or her life suffer.

For instance, it isn’t healthy for anyone, regardless of his or her age, to neglect work, school, family, and friends for the sake of a game. It’s essential to balance gaming time with other activities, such as physical exercise, reading, non-video games, and extracurricular activities.

Playing video games for a modest period of time each day can produce the benefits described above without allowing the games to take over the individual’s life. Video games will likely continue to cause discourse and debate among gamers and non-gamers. However, understanding the research helps every individual make healthy, informed decisions.

Featured photo credit: Benefits of Video Game Addiction via pixabay.com

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