For a long time video games were looked down upon, in a very similar way to television. Most child development experts and teachers thought they were bad, which led parents to criticise them and make their children feel lazy and unproductive. Luckily, however, times have changed.
Not only is there a massive body of research to show the benefits of regular video game play on all age groups, the video games available now are quite different to the offerings of the 1980’s and the 1990’s. Taken together, these factors are creating a world where the positive impact of video games is recognised, and playing them is encouraged.
Video Games and the Brain
Many activities are now widely understood, in neurological circles at least, to affect the structure of your brain when you engage in them. With the concentration you apply to certain activities, surges of dopamine and other rewarding neurotransmitters result, and the neural circuits in your brain are stimulated positively. These activities include playing an instrument, learning to read – and engaging with video games. This can have all kinds of positive effects on adult brains and have even more of a beneficial impact on the developing brains of children, as many studies have shown.
The power of play as a development and learning tool for humans of all ages is being increasingly recognised. Video games, in some ways, are simply a manifestation of this in a digital arena. The list of positive behavioural and cognitive effects of video games, which can probably all be traced back to the base fact that they change the structure of the brain’s neural pathways, is very long. What’s more, almost all of them can be backed up with studies.
Higher intelligence and functions such as sharing, planning, delayed gratification and even general socialisation are improved with strategy games, and these also help with memory. Many games have been found to alleviate pain, stress and trauma in patients that are suffering acutely, by distracting players and forcing their focus elsewhere.
Certain games have been found to improve fine motor skills and eyesight too, and now games are being specially designed with these and other specific skills in mind. The required quick thinking and attention to detail that first person shooter games demand has been shown to create better surgeons, and most aviation experts say this generation of pilots is better because of hours spent playing flight simulator.
The evidence goes on and on; these examples are literally just the tip of the iceberg. Video games have been found to help autistic and dyslexic children learn, and a new video game app has been launched to help research Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately identify those at risk way before they show any functional systems.
Moderation Remains the Key
Of course, it is still true that playing video games excessively isn’t good for you – after all, nothing is. The old criticisms of fostering antisocial behaviour and obesity can come true if you’re playing for hours and hours a day. To get maximum benefit from video games you should balance them with other activities, including those that take you offline. They should be seen as a fun activity, much like playing online casino games is, only with video games you can’t win a jackpot- unless of course you take them really seriously and enter into the world of professional eSports!
The other thing to bear in mind when it comes to the benefits of video games is that not all titles are created equal. Strategy games, for example, are best for improving memory and planning skills, while action games stimulate the limbic system, eliciting arousal and aiding in the management of mood disorders. The best way forward is to think of video games as a tool, and use them in the way that suits your need, and that benefits you.