Video Games: Can They Help Brain Health?
Today I am discussing the topic of video games: can they help brain health? Can they, in fact, have a positive benefit on brain health and life in general?
Video games are often demonized as being a waste of time or a way to avoid the responsibilities of everyday life. At best people will admit that they may be ok at relieving stress or helping you unwind at the end of the day, at worst people blame video games for terrible things such as increased school shootings. In the US, some lawmakers have attempted to make laws based on video game violence, including the video game rating system that went into effect in 1994.
A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. A study conducted by Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson of Texas A&M University shows how video games can actually help people deal with stress. According to Dr. Ferguson, “In this study, 103 young adults were given a frustration task and then randomized to play no game, a non-violent game, a violent game with good versus evil theme, or a violent game in which they played ‘the bad guy.’ The results suggest that violent games reduce depression and hostile feelings in players through mood management [.]” So gamers who play Halo and other shooter games, have no fear, you are helping your brain cope with stress.
When game designer Jane McGonigal was recovering from a concussion and feeling suicidal, she had an idea about making a game to help her heal, an app and computer game she named SuperBetter. This is not the first time a game has improved brain and overall mental health as many studies (such as this one by the University of Toronto) have shown that playing games increases dexterity and hand/eye coordination, especially the often demonized shooter and action games!
Children (and adults) learn to build in games ranging in difficulty from Tetris to Minecraft, and use their brains to solve intricate puzzles in games such as Little Big World, SpaceChem and Braid. Games such as World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online (when played cooperatively and fairly, without being a bully), can help people who are less outgoing or extroverted to learn cooperative socially and even make lifelong friends and feel a sense of teamwork.
Obviously, the interactive games that people play Wii Fit and Microsoft Xbox Kinect games also get to physically get up and move around, as well as play their games. This is great as it helps you get up and move around, and breaks the ‘video games make you lazy’ myth!
Even though gaming is very good for your brain, and can help you stay mentally sharp, it is important to remember to get outside and get some fresh air too. As fun as gaming is, it is important to have a balance between gaming and other hobbies such as art, music, crafts, do it yourself projects, gardening, camping, hiking, or cooking to name a few! Still, if you want to get in some game time, don’t feel guilty for doing so and be sure to tell your family and friends about how different video game help the brain.
Author Alyssa, Living Lean and In the Green