Five reasons why playing video games are good for your brain
Are video games that bad or are they actually helping us learn and improving the way our brains function? Does it make us more violent and does it impact our physical and mental health?
There isn’t a solid yes / no answer but there have been a number of studies where they are discovering that playing games can actually be good for you
In this article I’ll be covering why you should play video games, at least once in a while.
You won’t see any benefits playing several hours everyday as that is overkill, its your responsibility to figure out how long to play before putting the controller down or mouse
1. Better Decision-Making Skills
A study in the University of Rochester found that people who played action video games helped train people make the right decisions faster.
The study was conducted on 18 to 25-year olds which would not normally play games.
Group one played 50 hours of the action game “Call of Duty 2” and “Unreal Tournament”, the other group played a slow-paced simulator/strategy game “The Sims 2”
The action game players beat the strategy gamers by 25% at coming to a conclusion when they were being tested at the end of the study
The people who play these action games developed a heightened sensitivity of what is occurring around them.
This will help them improve a range of skills that help with everyday tasks like being more aware whilst driving, keeping track of friends in a crowd, multitasking and finding your way around town
It is commonly thought that people that play action games are trigger happy and not very accurate but it seems that the players of these games are more correct against the unit of time. This is great if you need to make split second decisions such as on a real battlefield as a medic
2. Games can make you less Anti social
Another common trait is that people assume gamers as being secluded and antisocial.
In most cases this is untrue as studies from several institutions around the world have done studies on how common antisocial behavior is among gamers. This being due to the violence associated with games.
One of the studies had found that people who play games like “World of Warcraft” or any social MMO game, found that loners are the outliers and it is not the norm.
A group of researchers had traveled to multiple gaming events and observed thousands of gamers during which they had conducted surveys with about 400 of them
They found that gamers that participate in social environments are the most outgoing and sociable people.
They observed that the people surveyed in these events weren’t just gaming they went beyond and were talking, drinking and chatting online as well
This can also be taken with a grain of salt as not all people play social MMO games
3. Hand eye coordination
I’ve always heard people and friends say that playing games can increase your hand eye coordination. Very much like playing a game of tennis for example
Like stated previously playing a quick action themed game has been known to increase the ability to learn and create new motor skills. This is what research has shown.
By playing these types of games they are able to develop a skill called “sensorimotor skill” this is used when learning to ride a bike or typing. This is in relation to a new pattern of vision and motor movement
By the end of the study participants had performed much better as they learned a complex pattern and were significantly more accurate than non gamers
In the study they had used “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” and “Assassins Creed: Liberation” and claimed that both had boosted brain power. However the game that had little effect on brainpower was “The Sims”
4. Increase your ability to learn
This is another quality that can be gained by playing action games according to a study. In the study they explain that the brain has a tendency to predict what will happen. This could be when conversing or when driving.
In order to sharpen these prediction skills the brain is constantly building these “models” or “templates” of the world, the better the template the better the performance of the brain.
They have found that playing action games improves these “templates”
During the study they had given these action gamers a perceptual learning task, they found that these people were able to perform quicker than the non gamers, and did so on the fly as they did the task
By playing video games they found a boost in the ability to develop “templates” faster. The ability to create templates faster is linked to being a better learner. Thus showing an accelerated learning curve for these action gamers
Researchers had found that this had a lasting effect as when they were tested again up to a year later they found that they still outperformed the non gamers. Retaining the ability to develop a better “template” in the brain
5. Improved focus and attention
A study conducted in China had people play 1 hour of the game “League of Legends”, they were tested before and after for visual selective attention. This is the ability to focus on relevant visual information while suppressing the less relevant information.
For example, listening to the wife while watching sports on TV. I’ll let you decided which is more important…
The initial assessment showed that the expert gamers had more brain activity associated with attention than the non-expert gamer.
After the one hour gaming session both groups had improved attention and both received similar scores post game test
This could have something to do with being in the zone/in the now as many gamers that are competitive much like sports get into an alpha brain state
So, what exactly is happening in the brain?
In another study they performed EEG’s and found that several parts of the brain were affected. These were the
Prefrontal Cortex – Responsible for decision making, Social Behavior, Personality and cognitive Planning
Right hippocampus – Processing and consolidating information, short term and long-term memory
Cerebellum – Controls fine motor skills / muscular activity
Individuals were told to play 30 min of Super Mario 64 for two months
During the study they had seen growth in all three of these areas of the brain.
The game required the subjects to plan ahead and figure out how to use and interact with the objects in the virtual world, this helped improve the Prefrontal Cortex.
Memorizing certain parts of the game if they had died helped short term and long term of the Hippocampus
And using a controller to control the character helped with the fine motor skills which is involved in the Cerebellum
The results were much more pronounced in those wanting to beat the game as they were more involved and had a desire to figure out the difficulties of certain levels
So, play several hours a day to boost your brain, right?
Well, no. Playing video games every once in a while, is a great thing to do after you finish a busy day of work.
Like everything it should be consumed in moderation. Chances are staying up all night playing video games you are more likely to see the opposite happen and might fry your brain.
But there are some really good benefits of playing games if you are totally against it or against your child playing them
What are your thoughts? How often do you play? Leave a comment and share