We always heard and saw negativity or criticism towards gaming as children. There are only a handful of children who grew up without there parents saying “You’ll be blind, if you stay like this in front of the screen” or “You’ll be a total failure when you grow up, if you keep on playing games like this without studying” ; Obviously except “Shroud”, who’s father encouraged his gaming talents and ultimately ended up being a professional gamer and a gaming legend of all time.
Gaming evolved very rapidly over the last decade and now it is a professional sport. It is not just something done for entertainment anymore, it has become something way more bigger.
I would not deny that there are no disadvantages in gaming, but this article is to emphasize the benefits that you did not know about previously and along the research based evidence to back it up. So let’s get into it!
First of all, how gaming affects the architecture of the brain. A study has been conducted on “Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: Gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game” to see how to brain structure is altered in a gamer.
It has proved that it has a direct link between gaming and a volumetric structural brain increase that has been evident in MRI scans of the brain.
Gaming had a significant impact on the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum.
Prefrontal cortex is about 10% of the volume of the brain and responsible for a wide variety of functions which I cannot summarized in this article. It is mainly responsible for….
- Executive functions
- Consist of higher cognitive processes like planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control, social behaviour, personality and acting with long-term goals in mind
- Attention and memory
- Speech Production and Language
Hippocampus is a part of the limbic system which regulates motivation, emotion, learning, and memory (Both short term and long term memory)
Cerebellum is responsible for maintaining balance, coordinate movements of muscle groups and eye and helps in fine tuning of motor activities.
This would not come as a wonder as fine movements and coordination are key elements of gaming.
These scientific have also stated that games of specific genre can be used to enhance the growth of that particular regions of the brain.
Luckily the researchers have not stopped from here. They has assessed each of these aspects separately. Now let’s proceed to discuss the benefits a bit broadly with the implementations in real life to see whether it’s truly beneficial.
1. Enhanced Hand Eye Coordination & Decreased Reaction Time
There is no doubt that there will be improvements in this section. These are basic elements of a gamer and this is tested on daily basis in real life. The perfect example is the research that I’ve mentioned below.
James C Rosser Jr and his colleagues had experimented on “The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century” and had obtained astonishing results.
The results are as follow “Past video game play in excess of 3 h/wk correlated with 37% fewer errors (P<.02) and 27% faster completion (P<.03). Overall Top Gun score (time and errors) was 33% better (P<.005) for video game players and 42% better (P<.01) if they played more than 3 h/wk. Current video game players made 32% fewer errors (P=.04), performed 24% faster (P<.04), and scored 26% better overall (time and errors) (P<.005) than their nonplaying colleagues. When comparing demonstrated video gaming skills, those in the top tertile made 47% fewer errors, performed 39% faster, and scored 41% better (P<.001 for all) on the overall Top Gun score.”
2. Enhanced Executive Function
Games are always created in a challenging manner where it becomes harder as you advance further. So to overcome these obstacles a gamer’s mind adopt leading to a volumetric increase in the prefrontal cortex.
Rapid & accurate decision making and enhanced problem solving ability
Many experiments have shown that the group who plays video games can make rapid and accurate decisions and have enhanced problem solving skills compared to non gamers.
Improved multi-tasking ability
I do not have to tell about the importance of multi-taking. Multi-taking saves time and time is money. Our lives are no longer simple like old days. It is getting harder to coop with every single day. A gamers mind is already set to handle high workload environments.
Fast paced action gaming is the best example for this. Here the gamer is at a stressful environment and there is one goal, that is to carry yourself or your team to victory. At moments like these a gamer multi attribute task, prioritize, communicate and execute the desired action.
This is clearly shown in this study done by Dan Chiappe and four other researchers on “Improving multi-tasking ability through action videogames”
3. Improved Spatial Attention
Visual spatial attention is the ability to selectively process visual information through prioritization of an area within the visual field. This could be done even without moving the eyeball.
A study conducted by C.S. Green and D. Bavelier on “Learning, attentional control and action video games” has shown that there is a significant improvement in this ability and gamers has the ability to quickly locate a target in a field of distractions and to anticipate the final outcome accurately.
In real life spatial attention is used in driving, where the driver focus on a area without the movement of the head or eyeball and anticipate a threat even before it happens.
4. Improved Processing Power Of Brain & Mental Flexibility
This is an advantage of fast paced gaming. Gamers have to make quick decisions to overcome the hurdles that they face in the game. Usually quick decisions leads to error. But in a game, an error may cost your virtual life.
Gaming has enable the players to induce a general speeding of perceptual reaction times without decreases in accuracy of performance.
Mental flexibility means that the gamer has the ability to switch between tasks rapidly without an errors or conflicts.
Matthew W.G. Dye and two other scientists had experimented on “Increasing Speed of Processing With Action Video Games” and had valid results
C.Shawn Green and his team tested “The effect of action video game experience on task-switching” and had confirmed mental flexibility.
5. Motivated & Don’t Give Up Easily
Gamers are assertive and fight till the end, there are no premature escapes. Because of this nature, even in real life they tend to go throw obstacles rather than giving up.
Matthew Ventura experimented on this hypothesis (“Video gameplay, personality and academic performance“) and had publish his results proving the above thesis correct.
6. Treatment Of Dyslexia
Dyslexia is simple a reading disability which occurs due to reading due to problems of identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words.
A research has been done by Sandro Franceschini and five other on “Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better” has shown that there is remarkable improvement over this neurodevelopmental disorder. The results has outweighed the conventionally used techniques that are specifically designed for dyslexia.
7. Improved vision
Gamers are frequent being exposed to colourful images and while playing the game they try to notice the slightest colour variations.
Because of this gamers eyes have adopted to be more sharper and has improved contrast sensitivity and colour perception.
This had been evaluated by Li Renjie and three other associates on “Enhancing the contrast sensitivity function through action video game playing” and had obtained results that confirming that gamers has the ability to distinguish between subtle changes in shades of gray, hence improved contrast sensitivity.
8. Treatment Of Amblyopia
Abnormal visual experience during a sensitive period of development disrupts neuronal circuitry in the visual cortex and results in abnormal spatial vision or amblyopia.
An experiment had been conducted by Roger W Li and his colleagues on “Video-game Play Induces Plasticity in the Visual System of Adults With Amblyopia“. His experiment prove that gaming could restore stereoscopic vision and visual attention in patients with amblyopia.
9. Improved Object Tracking
A study done by Lana M. Trick & Fern Jaspers-Fayer on “Multiple-object tracking in children: The “Catch the Spies” task” has shown that children who played games had a better accuracy of tracking moving objects in an environment of distractions than non players.
10. Pain Management
Eleanor Jameson and two of his colleagues had conducted an experiment on “Electronic gaming as pain distraction” where it relived that active distraction using video games were more effective in pain management.
11. Better Leadership Qualities
This is specially applied for MMORPG players (World of Warcraft). People who play games like Civilizations, they plan and organize cities from scratch and also gamers who plays the role as their team leader by building up strategies and executing orders for the team members to follow had demonstrated great leadership traits in real life.
Byron Reeves and his team conducted an experiment on “Leadership’s Online Labs” by using MMORPG players to prove the leadership qualities of MMORPG players.
12. Slows Down Aging
Chandramallika Basak and Paul Verhaeghen had experimented on “Aging and Switching the Focus of Attention in Working Memory: Age Differences in Item Availability But Not in Item Accessibility” and found that gaming can restore the mental decline that occurs along with age by improving attention, cognitive flexibility, memory and abstract reasoning and ultimately improving the quality of life.
13. Keep Active & Healthy
This is not for all gamers. But there are games that makes you to be physically active. Best example is Wii Sports.
Studies had prove that it is similarly effective as doing any other physical activity like brisk walks, running, etc.
A research had been conducted to see the “Potential Benefits of Nintendo Wii Fit Among People with Multiple Sclerosis“
14. Other less proven benefits
Treatment of autism
Treatment of multiple sclerosis
Better communication skills
Reduce stress levels
Better control of emotions (Fear, frustration, anger, loss)
To wrap up, I would like to mention that there are pros and cons to everything. Gaming comes with a lot of benefits, that most people does’t know of, but we have to know our limits, so that the cons don’t outweighs the pros.
I had been a gamer since the age of 6 years and I still am. Everything began with AMD 366 MHZ processor with 32 mb of ram and just see where we are now, even a mobile phones have better specifications.
Cheers to the gaming community all around the globe and I’m proud to be one of them.