Welcome to my new mini-series. If you’ve read enough of my previous posts, I bet you’ve seen this coming from a mile away! Otherwise, well, news flash: playing video games is on my list of various hobbies, so this isn’t surprising. 😆
Are you an introvert who likes to play video games? Were you ever called a nerd or geek or having played video games? If yes, then no worries, because there are loads of benefits that come from playing video games, backed up by scientific research!
In this post series, I’ll be listing a few benefits we get as gamers, divided into categories. And in the final post, I’ll even throw in a few video game recommendations for you (or your kids) to get started on. 😀
Before we get started, though, there’s something I want to emphasise.
Video Games =/= Violence!
(=/= means “not equal to”, for those not familiar with internet lingo. 🙂)
I know some people think of video games as violence inducing. For more than 10 years, I’ve seen news of people advocating to ban video games because apparently video games lead to violence. It’s hard not to think otherwise when there are games like Grand Theft Auto series (where the protagonists try to rise up the ranks in the criminal underworld… yeah, that means you get to perform various crimes in the game), or read a news article about mass shooting where the shooter is an avid player of first-person shooter games.
Still, I’d like to reiterate what I believe in; video games =/= violence!
After all, if video games lead to violence, why not popular action movies like The Avengers and X-men? And you don’t see me promoting violence now, do you?
Okay, so I may have a lesser risk of going violently wild because I prefer games that are less gruesome (and have a good story), but I’ve played my share of first- (and third-) person shooters with various degrees of graphical gore. I’ve even played arcade shooter games that come with a physical gun (with digital bullets), where it turns out I’m a digital sharpshooter. And I still balk at the idea of holding an actual gun in a setting where everyone isn’t behind a protective barrier!
Also, to further emphasise on the point, here’s a science-backed article on violent video games not affecting empathy:
The psychological questionnaire revealed no differences in measures of aggression and empathy between gamers and non-gamers. This finding was backed up by the fMRI data, which demonstrated that both gamers and non-gamers had similar neural responses to the emotionally provocative images.
~From Science Daily: Violent Video Games Found Not to Affect Empathy
Now that we have my mini-rant out of the way, let’s start with the benefits of playing video games. 😀
Increases Memory Capacity
The people who played Mario ended up doing better on follow-up memory tasks, while the others showed no improvement pre- and post-gaming.
“Video gamers who specifically favour complex 3D video games performed better,” the researchers concluded.
~From Science Alert: 6 Scientific Benefits of Playing Videogames
Here, the study tests on participants’ short term memory, and I can say I do have pretty strong short term memory!
There was once my cousin wrote his phone number on a piece of paper; my dad wanted to key it into his phone, so he asked me to read it out to him. I took a glance at the phone number and I could repeat it to my dad however many times he needed for the next 10 minutes, without looking at the paper! My cousin even commented I have a pretty good memory. 😀
The problem? It is short term memory after all, so once I decided it wasn’t important anymore, the phone number was flushed out of my mind after that 10 minutes. 😅
Increases Hand-Eye Coordination
Video games help zero-in impressive levels of hand-eye coordination. In fact, they help so much that games are actually being used to help train surgeons, as they work on making precision movements and performing tasks in very limited space.
~From Cheat Sheet: 5 Health Benefits of Playing Video Games
I’m not fantastic, but I think I’m quite all right! Although I grew up on console games and controllers, I picked up the computer keyboard pretty quickly at age 10, and according to this typing speed test, I scored 429 characters/minute and 86 words/minute, which beats / equals 95.52% of everyone else who took the test! Oh, and I play the piano too. 🎹🎼
A 2009 study performed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) revealed that playing video games could increase the ability to focus in children with ADHD.
~From Qustodio: Can Video Games Increase Your Child’s Grades?
You could say I have a pretty good concentration; in fact, it’s so good that if there’s anything distracting me, I’d concentrate on the distraction and forget what I was doing before! 🤣
If I can minimise distraction, though, I can really focus on whatever I was doing for hours. There was once I had to pull an all-nighter to finish a college assignment and all I needed to stay awake with is some music! It also helps that I used to stay up late to play video games. Ah, those were the days. 😆
Speeds Up Reaction Time
Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester report in the journal Current Biology that video games could provide a potent training regimen for speeding up reactions in many types of real-life situations.
~From Futurity: Video Games Speed Up Reaction Time
Yep, I think my reaction is pretty fast! There were couple of times while driving that my quick reaction prevented accidents, like abruptly braking when some joker cuts really close into my lane. I’m really thankful for those times. 😀
Improves Spatial Skills
In a study done using Super Mario 64, individuals who played the game 30 minutes a day for 2 months showed changes in parts of their brain associated with spatial navigation, strategic planning, working memory and motor performance.
This is one big reason why the military uses video games to train pilots and soldiers, and many professional racers use video games to improve their driving skills.
~From The Emotion Machine: 5 Scientifically Proven Benefits from Playing Video Games
Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not exactly great with space estimation; any games that require shooting projectiles that move in a curved arc (I’m looking at you, Angry Birds…) will result in not-exactly-great scores. But hey, I can stick to my own lane while driving, and I can reverse park a car in 2 – 3 tries without touching anything! That should account for something, right? 😆
Also, like many women, I can’t read a map. If I were to drive to a place, I need to drive there around 10 times to remember the way! But if I drive using a GPS app like Waze, I can remember the way in just 3 drives. 😀
Improves Multi-Tasking Skills
In a study published Wednesday (September 4) in Nature, Gazzaley and his colleagues demonstrated that a handful of training sessions behind the wheel in a 3-D racing game could improve multitasking performance, and that such improvements lasted up to six months.
~From The Scientist: Video Game Boosts Multitasking Skills
Imagine you’re playing a video game. On your screen, you have your character running around in the wilderness, and a monster attacks! What do you do?
- Decide what to do – attack or run? Defend or dodge? Use magic or sword? Arrow or bombs?
- Keep an eye on your health and drink potions if needed – if it reaches 0 it’s game over!
- Keep an eye on your resources and drink potions / reload if needed – or you’d get that awkward moment when you have just one more hit to go, but you ran out of [insert something].
- Keep an eye on your surroundings – what if more monsters attack you? Or worse, accidentally hit a passing soldier and he calls his entire squadron to retaliate?
- Listen to the sound effects and the soundtrack playing in the background – hey, it’s pretty good!
(I’m not kidding about the three characters thing, it’s from an MMORPG called Granado Espada; the every key on the whole keyboard does something. First you’ll have to remember what key does what, then when to use what. And then throw in the panic of fighting a gigantic, powerful monster… 😅)
And that’s it for Part #1! Do stay tuned for Part #2. 😀
A Short Self-Compassionate Letter
I’m glad that you found out something about yourself that you thought wasn’t desirable in yourself but turns out to be really beneficial! 😀
More in the Benefits of Playing Video Games series:
#1: Cognitive Benefits and a Mini-Rant ⬅ You are here!
#2: Health & Social Benefits
#3: Creativity and a Disclaimer
#4: Game Genres and Skills You Can Develop
#5: More Game Genres and Skills You Can Develop