The negative effects of prolonged video game usage is consistently popularized by a fair amount of psychologists and mainstream figureheads. The addicting tendencies of gaming as well as its link to aggression and mental health issues causes parents to lean towards hysteria in regards to technology and entertainment. While this research is important, it does not provide a balanced view about the biological effects of playing video games.
A rich body of research called “The Benefits of Playing Video Games” from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands is a curation of several references that aim to provide the bigger picture to the discussion of video games and brain behavior in growing children and adolescents. The studies found in the research paper help to reveal positive trends in neuropsychological development pertaining to cognition, motivation, emotional health, and social life.
Your average shooter game, to the shock of any parents reading this, may provide cognitive skills important for success in higher education. Multiple meta-analyses found that gamers who played shooter games exhibited better attention allocation and higher spatial skills compared to players of non-shooter games. This kind of visual processing, which gets exercised when playing Halo, Call of Duty, and Fortnite, is attributed to success in several STEM fields.
Strategy games such as Starcraft and Civilization require and teach skills related to problem-solving. Educators and employers recognize problem-solving skills as a major key to success in the classroom and in the workplace. It shows a range of competencies which include logic, lateral thinking, and creativity. It should be no surprise that people with high self-reported problem solving skills achieved better academic grades.
Video games provide instant feedback for whenever an in-game goal is successfully completed. Whether it’s reaching the end of a level in Super Mario Bros. or surviving a game of Among Us, children develop beliefs of their own potential abilities and intelligence through that type of positive feedback. This generates motivation which can be translated to accomplishing goals in real life.
Tetris, Candy Crush, and Portal are all puzzle games which act as mental exercises for improving memory and overall IQ. Studies show that these types of games also help to improve mood and increase positive emotion. Playing puzzle games can also be seen as a meditative activity which helps to decrease stress and anxiety. They not only benefit children, but are also effective for the elderly, decreasing the chances of dementia and general cognitive decline.
The archetype of the gamer is commonly thought of as an anti-social loner who refuses to go outside since they are allergic to the sun. The truth is that 70% of gamers happen to play with their friends online. Playing team games online allows gamers to rapidly learn social skills through team discussion, trust-building, and practiced leadership skills. Video games are effective in team-building, teaching young adults how to fit in with a group to achieve a common goal. Similar to motivation from positive reinforcement, social skills acquired from video games can translate to the real world.
This collection of research should help to serve as a reminder of the many benefits which come with playing video games. However, it shouldn’t serve as a way to dilute the problems associated with gaming: addiction, aggression, and toxicity in the community, among others. The conversation should become broader with these things in mind.