Health, Science & Technology · Writing & Creative Hobbies

Benefits of Playing Video Games #2: Health & Social Benefits

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Here’s another picture of a game controller! Picture from PicJumbo

Welcome to the Benefits of Playing Video Games series, Part #2! Last week we looked at some cognitive benefits, so this week we’ll head into health, personality and social benefits. ๐Ÿ˜€


Health Benefits

Helps with Pain Relief

In 2010, scientists presented research at the American Pain Society’s conference, which found evidence that playing video games, especially virtual reality games, are effective at reducing anxiety or pain caused by chronic illness or medical procedures.
~From Science Alert: 6 Scientific Benefits of Playing Videogames

The quoted article above also mentions how it works! Though for me, it really depends on what kind of pain it is; if it’s a stomach ache, then it works in distracting me from the ache. But if it’s a headache, I’d really prefer not to look at moving screens too much. ๐Ÿ˜…

Reduces Anxiety

Researchers at the New Jersey Medical Schoolโ€™s anesthesiology department found that children who were allowed to play handheld video games before surgery felt virtually no anxiety.
~From Reader’s Digest: 8 Reasons Video Games Might Just Be Better for You Than Books

If I play video games when I’m feeling nervous, it really does calm my nerves because I’d concentrate on the game more than my nervousness. ๐Ÿ™‚

Fights Depression

After just 20 minutes of playing, gamers simultaneously showed an increased heart-rate variability (tied to reduced stress and higher resilience) and decreased left frontal alpha brain waves (tied to improved mood, which players corroborated on a written survey).
~From Reader’s Digest: 8 Reasons Video Games Might Just Be Better for You Than Books

Oh, so that’s why I wasn’t too badly affected by depression all those years ago. ๐Ÿ˜€

While I’m glad to say I don’t have depression anymore, once in a while I still get that feeling like I’m slipping back into it (which, thankfully, is just temporary). Whenever I feel like that, playing video games helps with keeping me from slipping down further, and it helps to pass the time too (which is the only remedy that works for me when I get there). ๐Ÿ™‚

Limits Trauma Flashbacks

The Tetris players had significantly less flashbacks to the traumatic traffic event than those that didn’t โ€“ about 62 percent less on average.
The research, published last month in Molecular Psychiatry, concludes that the “brief, science-driven intervention offers a low-intensity means that could substantially improve the mental health of those who have experienced psychological trauma.” ย 
~From Science Alert: 6 Scientific Benefits of Playing Videogames

Sad to say, I did have some experiences that I suppose should have affected me quite badly (that’s another story for another time ๐Ÿ™‚). I don’t remember having flashbacks of any sort but I do remember playing quite a bit of games after, so I guess that helped. ๐Ÿ˜€

Helps Treat Amblyopia or Lazy Eye

A pilot study by vision researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that playing video games can help improve the vision of adults with amblyopia, or lazy eye.
(…) The study is published in the August 2011 issue of the journal PLoS Biology and is freely available online.
~From Berkeley News: Playing Video Games Helps Adults with Lazy Eye

When I was around 9 years old (when I got my first pair of glasses), the optometrist said that I had a lazy eye and that I needed to look at distant sceneries more. But considering I usually stayed at home a lot, I always didn’t remember to do that. ๐Ÿ˜…

I don’t ever remember the lazy eye affecting me, and I only remembered about it a few years ago when I was replacing my glasses. I asked the optometrist about it, and do you know what the strange thing was? He said I didn’t have a lazy eye!

That could mean that my whole lot of gaming helped my lazy eye. Or it could just mean that I never had it! I don’t think I’ll ever find out which it is, but it’s nice to think that video game helped me with it. ๐Ÿ˜›

Improves Vision for Cataract

The developmental psychologist Daphne Maurer made headlines this year with research suggesting that people born with cataracts could improve their eyesight by playing Medal of Honor, the โ€œfirst-person shooterโ€ video game.
~From The New York Times: How Video Games Could Improve Our Vision

I can’t speak for myself as I don’t have cataract, but it’s great to know video games help with this too. ๐Ÿ˜€

Slows Mental Aging

In another study involving older adults aged 60 to 77, researchers looked at the effects of playing World of Warcraft (WoW), the worldโ€™s most popular game, on the aging mind. (…)
After the two-week gaming period, the group was tested again, and results showed those who initially scored the lowest on the pretest improved the most in scores of spatial ability and cognitive focus โ€” some even surpassed those who had scored well.
~From Medical Daily: Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease: Video Games May Help Seniors Retain Cognitive Function

Another good reason for me to keep playing video games. ๐Ÿ˜†

Helps with Stroke Recovery

Virtual reality and other video games can significantly improve motor function in stroke patients, according to research from St. Michael’s Hospital. Patients who played video games, such as Wii and Playstation, were up to five times more likely to show improvements in arm motor function compared to those who had standard therapy.
~From Science Daily: Video Games Effective Treatment for Stroke Patients

It’s great that this helps stroke victims too. ๐Ÿ˜€

Improves Reading Skills in Dyslexic Children

A 2013 study published in Cell investigated the effect that playing action games, like ‘Rayman Raving Rabbids’, could help dyslexic children aged 7 to 13 year read faster, with no loss in accuracy.
~From Science Alert: 6 Scientific Benefits of Playing Videogames

Wow, I didn’t know that! It’s great that video games can help dyslexic children too. ๐Ÿ˜€


Personality and Social Benefits

Improves Determination, Motivation and Optimism

A team of 25 scientists from Europe and North America recently reported that people who play nine or more hours of video games every week have higher gray matter volume in the reward-processing area of their brains. In other words, frequent gamers have more brain power to devote to determination, motivation, and optimism than non-gamers.
~From Reader’s Digest: 8 Reasons Video Games Might Just Be Better for You Than Books

I can’t help but to laugh upon reading this, because I remember playing an MMORPG more than 10 years ago where gaining a character level was such a chore… I had to play for an hour straight (with full concentration) in order to gain 10% of a character level. That meant 10 hours = 1 level, and I finally stopped playing that game when my character was level 84! So yeah, I’d say playing video games does give me tenacity. ๐Ÿ˜†

A way more recent example would be NaNoWriMo 2016, where participating writers need to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Last year’s was tough for me, because I was also having a month-long class (on data analytics, in case you’re interested ๐Ÿ˜›) on top of my usual office work, so my brain was always too fried to write when I got home.

After the exam, I was left with 5 days and 25,000 words to catch up… and I made it. I wrote 25,000 words in 5 days! I never knew I had such tenacity in me, though I was certainly burnt out for at least a couple of months after that. ๐Ÿ˜†

Inspire Interest in History and Culture

The content of certain video games can encourage kids to read and to research. Video games such as Age of Mythology, Civilization, and Age of Empires may spark a child’s interest in world history, geography, ancient cultures and international relations, especially if parents are alert to opportunities. To quote researchers David Shaffer and James Gee, “When children have parents who help turn Age of Mythology into an island of expertise, tying it to books, Internet sites, museums, and media about mythology, cultures and geography, the children pick up a wide range of complex language, content and connections that serve as preparation for future learning of a highly complex and deep sort.”
~From Parents.com: 8 Reasons Video Games Can Improve Your Child

Educational video games aside, we can learn from all kinds of video games too! There are games based on historical periods like the Assassin’s Creed series, which visits time periods ranging from Year 1191 during the Third Crusade to Year 1789 during the French Revolution,ย the Dynasty Warriors series based on the Three Kingdoms period in China, and Samurai Warriors based on the Sengoku period in Japan

There are games based on mythology like Age of Mythology that are based on Greek, Norse and Egyptian mythology, and Okami that is based on Japanese mythology. There are also tycoon games like Restaurant / Roller Coaster / Zoo / Railroad / [insert business here] Tycoon that make you balance resources with profit. I could go on and on. ๐Ÿ˜†

Helps Break Bad Habits

A 2014 study conducted jointly by Brown University, the American Cancer Society and Stony Brook University found that smokers deprived of nicotine could reduce their cravings simply by playing two-player games or solving puzzles with their romantic partners.
~From Reader’s Digest: 8 Reasons Video Games Might Just Be Better for You Than Books

I can’t attest to it because I don’t smoke, but that’s really cool! Now if only I could get my dad to stop smoking… the problem is, he smokes and plays games. ๐Ÿ˜…

Improves Motivation for Exercise

According to recent research from Stanford Universityโ€™s Virtual Human Interaction lab, study participants who watched virtual avatars of themselves running on a treadmill reported feeling remarkably higher confidence that they could get in shape, then went on to exercise for a full hour longer than participants who merely watched their digital twins stand around onscreen.
~From Reader’s Digest: 8 Reasons Video Games Might Just Be Better for You Than Books

Did I ever mention I hate exercise? Well, now you know.ย ๐Ÿ˜…

But I did have a couple of games that made me willing to move! One of it was Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), which was a dancing game played using 4 arrow keypads on the floor that I’d have to step on. This was what you’d see in a lot of arcades, though I had the home console version too! If you can’t imagine what it looks like, here’s a cartoon version of it:

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DDR bunny! Picture from unknown source (I got it from somewhere a few years ago)

Did I ever mention I’m clumsy with my feet like that bunny? Well, now you know. ๐Ÿ˜† Because of that, I prefer the other game at the arcade, which was Para Para Paradise! It was also a dancing game, though instead of arrow keypads on the floor, it had motion sensors so all I’d have to do was move according to the avatar on screen and I’d get points! I used to play for an hour every time I go to the arcade, until the game was so outdated that the arcade took them off. ๐Ÿ˜†

Improves Attitude Towards Multi-Cultural Diversity

A survey done in Ireland, Online Gaming and Youth Cultural Perceptions by Killian Forde and Catherine Kenny, suggests that kids who play multi-player games online are more likely to have a positive attitude toward people from another country: 62 percent of online gamers hold a favorable view of people from different cultures compared to 50 percent of non-gamers.
~From KQED: Benefits of Gaming: What Research Shows

Maybe it’s because I was raised in a multi-cultural environment, but I certainly have no problem interacting with people of a different culture! Over 10 years ago when I started playing online games, I interacted with people of different countries too. ๐Ÿ˜€

Increases Pro-Social Behaviours

Seventy percent of gamers play with their friends who are in the same room, and only 20 percent play alone. In many of these games, players work together in teams to achieve goals, compete against other players or both. Their teamwork abilities are put to the test, and they must hone their communication and interpersonal skills in order to progress. These pro-social behaviors are critical for healthy social development โ€” children with positive social skills are more likely to have high self-esteem, good peer relationships and achieve in school. They are also more likely to have successful marriages and careers.
~From Huffington Post: 7 Ways Video Games Will Help Your Kids in School

Nowadays loads of games have cooperative gameplay, especially in free-to-play online games where a lot of the more rewarding items are only available in multiplayer quests (that is, if you don’t spend money ๐Ÿ˜†). In fact, console games like Watch Dogs 2 even has seamless cooperative multiplayer events, where a random player running away from the cops in the next street will appear in your screen too, and you can join yet another player to catch the escaping player! I thought that was cool. ๐Ÿ˜€

Increases Cooperative Behaviours

The results of one article suggest playing cooperatively with others can eliminate the negative effects of violent video games on playersโ€™ aggressive behaviors in the real world. Another related study demonstrated playing cooperatively with a helpful teammate in a non-violent video game not only increases pro-social or helping behaviors toward teammates but opposing team members as well.
~From Texas Tech University: Professor Shows Cooperative Video Game Play Elicits Pro-Social Behavior

Think of the digital version of a paintball gameย โ€“ won’t you feel closer to your team mates and maybe even the opposing team members after a few rounds? While lately I’ve been a bit more of a hermit in online games (I must be getting old ๐Ÿ˜…), those days I’ve made a lot of online friends just by playing games together. Once in a while I still play video games with my brothers for the fun of it, and even now, I prefer a let’s-work-together office environment rather than a competitive one. ๐Ÿ˜€


Isn’t it incredible playing video games have so many benefits for us? And I’m still not done yet; I have one more benefits post for next week, so do stay tuned! ๐Ÿ˜†

~Nicolle โค

A Short Self-Compassionate Letter

Dear Self,

It’s really great to know that one of your favourite hobbies has so many benefits. ๐Ÿ˜€


More in the Benefits of Playing Video Games series:

#1: Cognitive Benefits and a Mini-Rant
#2: Health & Social Benefits โฌ… You are here!
#3: Creativity and a Disclaimer
#4: Game Genres and Skills You Can Develop
#5: More Game Genres and Skills You Can Develop

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22 thoughts on “Benefits of Playing Video Games #2: Health & Social Benefits

  1. I definitely think there’s something to be said for videogames as a historical tool. One of my favorite aspects of the Assassin’s Creed series is just wandering around the cities of medieval Europe. I’m sure there are some historical inaccuracies, but it’s still really interesting to experience medieval settings through the sortof first hand of wandering around them via my avatar.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too! I kindof miss the multiple locations of 2, but seeing the transitions to different types of setting within such a large space is interesting too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree! Though while I like seeing the scenery change in a large space, I tend to lose interest easier when there’s a lot of travelling involved, which was what happened me when I played the first game. ๐Ÿ˜…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh yeah, there is, isn’t it? It’s been a couple of years since I played so I don’t remember very well. ๐Ÿ˜…
        I’m playing Unity now, and I’m having squirrel syndrome every time I see a side quest icon on the map! My main quest line takes forever to finish. ๐Ÿ˜†

        Liked by 1 person

  2. How do I follow your blog via email?!!!!
    I can’t believe I missed this!!

    Oh boy. With this evidence, Mom’s going to lose the case for sure.
    *whispering now* Although the jury consists of deceptive adults. That is – adults in appearance but kids at heart who understand the joys of gaming.๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

    More!! More!! More!!
    Gamers rule!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, good luck in winning the games = good case! I hope you win. ๐Ÿ˜†

      As to following my blog via email, there should be a Follow button on the lower right (standard WordPress button) that you can click t follow! Otherwise I’ve added a sidebar widget to follow via email (though I find it’s harder to find on mobile devices). Hopefully those work for you and do let me know if you’re having issues. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Also, I’ve been meaning to ask; is there a way I can follow your blog via WordPress and have it go to my WordPress reader instead of emails? It’ll be fantastic if I could get that to work!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Followed.

        Errrr… According to my sources, my type of blog cannot be followed in the Reader. It’s a .com blog following the WordPress.org formatting. Not a .wordpress.com blog nor a .com blog following the WordPress.com formatting. But I’ll check again and see.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, I see, that explains why I couldn’t get it to work. ๐Ÿ˜… I’ll poke around again and see if I can find out more too. And thanks for checking! โค๏ธ

        Liked by 1 person

      3. EUREKA!!! ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ
        I managed to get your blog posts on my WordPress reader! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€

        All I had to do was to go to my reader, click on Followed Sites > Manage > Paste http://www.harmoniousjoy.com in the text box at the top (“Enter URL to follow”) and done!
        Here’s an illustrated guide (scroll down to Following a Blog Not on WordPress.com): https://en.support.wordpress.com/following/

        Now excuse me while I go on a binge post liking. ๐Ÿ˜›

        Liked by 1 person

      4. ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽˆ

        Like

    1. Haha, I would if I could find a scientific research on that! ๐Ÿ˜†
      I personally prefer younger heroes (must be all those JRPGs I played), though I really like Geralt’s character design. What I really love from that Witcher 3 was the monster designs, details and story. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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