It is not all bad news. Video games are not always violent, mindless, and addictive. Actually, there is lots of good news about the health benefits of playing video games, provided you do a few other things in between! There is a now a lot of research available which shows there are many benefits.
1. They teach you about social relationships
Some video games actually depend on social interaction. One of the best things about the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) is the way they encourage friendship and relationships worldwide. The more players engage in social interaction, the more enjoyable they become. These MMORPGs are extremely social games.
2. They can help relieve physical pain
Distraction is a great pain management technique. The University of Washington took this a step further and developed a virtual reality game to help patients suffering from agonizing pain. This game is called ‘Snow World’. In this video game, the patients throw tons of snowballs at snowmen and penguins. This serves to overwhelm the senses and divert the patient’s attention away from all those excruciating pain signals. The military found that this worked better than morphine in treating soldiers with mind-numbing pain. It also worked very well with those suffering from severe burns.
3. They may help with vision problems
Imagine telling a person with a cataract to play more video games! This is just what Daphne Maurer, a developmental psychologist, actually set out to prove in one experiment. She chose Medal of Honor and other first person shooter games to try this out. Her results showed that after 40 hours training, the patients were showing improvement in spatial contrast sensitivity, sharpness in vision, and also motion sensitivity. Obviously, more experiments will need to be done to establish whether this can be helpful across a range of eyesight defects.
4. They may help kids with chronic illnesses
Children suffering from autism and depression were able to gain some benefit from playing video games. This was the result of a study carried out at the University of Utah. Researchers are confident that video games can also be used for therapeutic purposes and not just for entertainment. Combining these two functions could be a great way to help patients with mental disorders, weight issues, cancer and other serious diseases.
5. They help motivation
By their very nature, video games are always up for rewarding points and prizes for effort and success. There is no doubt that these games can help increase motivation because they balance the difficulty of the challenge with success and rewards. Nothing better than that for increasing motivation, although real life tends to be slower and more tricky!
6. They can help with controlling emotions
A similar game to Space Invaders (RAGE Control – Regulate and Gain Emotional Control) was used by the Children’s Hospital in Boston to help kids control their anger. The patients were all in the unit which helps children who have anger issues. The game lets them play but when they become too emotional and angry, their ability to shoot is impaired and they start to lose points.
7. They may help you to be more socially aware
Being more socially aware makes you want to help others. Can video games really help here? Results from studies suggest that this is actually the case. One study done in Japan and the USA revealed that the non-violent games were more likely to instil feelings of helpful behavior towards the less fortunate members of society. It is a controversial issue as other studies show that children after video gaming become overly aggressive towards vulnerable citizens.
8. They can help you be a better parent
Now, what counts as quality time with your kids? Playing with your kids, of course. That can range from sports, watching movies or going out together. But it also includes playing video games with them. Here are some ideas to make the most of this quality time together.
Of course, you have your smartphone switched off, right? This is so important because your child will quickly realize whether this is really quality time and if you are actually playing the game with them, rather than being a bored observer.
Talking about the game as you play with them is really useful, too. Ask them to explain their strategy and why the enemy is so difficult to beat. It is a great way of getting kids to plan, try out something, and re-evaluate in the case of defeat.
9. They can help kids be creative
My favorite one here is Toontastic. Kids can simply animate their own cartoon characters by learning how to draw them, tell their stories and choose the right music to go with them. They can also share their stories with other children round the world so it is a great way of learning about other cultures. It also is one of the best games for encouraging children to be creative.
10. Video games help children develop
One study by Dr. Andrew Przybylski, in the Pediatrics journal, reports the results of a project which followed 5,000 youngsters between 10 and 15 years. The study showed that a maximum of one hour a day on video games helped children to be well-adjusted and happy with their lives. They were less hyperactive and more disposed to be socially interactive. Those children who were spending more than three hours on video gaming were less happy and dissatisfied with their lives.
11. Video games may help elderly citizens with memory
Fancy a game of NeuroRacer? All you have to do is swerve around cars while identifying road signs. Sounds pretty mindless. But guess what? A group of elderly adults between the ages of 60 to 85 were asked to play this game for about 3 hours a week. After six months, the older ones were doing better than before on memory tests, multitasking and attention span.
12. They may help surgeons perform better operations
Ask your surgeon before you fall asleep if s/he has played any Wii Tennis or the High Altitude Battle game recently! No, it is not one of those ridiculous questions before you drift off under the effects of the anaesthetic. If the surgeon nods yes, there is a good chance that her eye-hand coordination is in top form and you are in safe hands (no pun intended!).
As we have seen, video games can be really helpful when we choose the right ones and if we promise not to get addicted. Must dash as I have to play another game on Wii Tennis!
Featured photo credit: The Art of Video Games/ Ryan Quick via flickr.com