Let’s face it, video games have gotten a bad rap over the years.
OK, some of those sneering side-eyes at games and their button-crunching minions are justified. I mean, certain games can be a major time-suck if you’re not careful. And many can be nasty and immerse young players in less-than-healthy environments.
But that’s not every game and every situation. In fact, studies are piling up on the positive, beneficial side of gaming’s ledger.
It just so happens that there are some surprising ways in which players (young and old) can benefit from a little gameplay when it comes to schoolwork and office work. Yep, even those working the old 9-to-5 grind can receive a boost or two from picking up a game controller.
Like what? Read on.
We all must make tons of decisions in our lives. And recent studies—tying together game play, brain imaging and decision-making tasks—have demonstrated that students and adults who play video games generally make faster, more accurate decisions than their non-gaming peers.
A new study from the Georgia State University Neuroscience Institute pointed to the fact that gaming—with its built-in demands that you react quickly and efficiently to overcome problems—actually sparks strong and positive activity in unexpected parts of a gamer’s brain.
You might give a huge eye-roll when someone suggests team-building exercises at work or school, but another study, this time of Brigham Young University students, found that playing video games together with others, for just 45 minutes a day, can increase productivity in teams by a whopping 20%. OK, you may not see your boss or teacher sending you off to take a 45-minute game break, but you can jump into a little handheld Switch play or some online virtual gaming with friends after class or work and get your teamwork percolating better.
Oh, and you know that mid-afternoon stretch when you feel much more like reaching for a pillow than reaching for your to-do list or assignment sheet? The experts say that a short casual gaming break—you know, with a bit of Tetris or Candy Crush—can refresh your mind and pick you back up for a little more brain-focused grunt work.
Stress Relief Plusses
While we’re on the subject of casual games, did you know that there have been some studies conducted on how casual gameplay can help reduce the mental stress of patients with severe disease? Doctors have even used games to help manage and improve health-related outcomes.
And a big part of that has to do with how games can not only be engaging and enjoyable, but encourage the release dopamine into our brains and help those daily tensions roll off our shoulders.
Games can also boost a player’s memory and impulse control. A study recently published in the journal JAMA Network Open stated that there were connections between gaming and increased oxygen levels in a player’s brain, leading to improved memory.
Communication Kick Starts
While I’m heaping praise on these digital amusements, let me also note that yet another study/survey by a group called the National Literacy Trust suggested that playing video games could well improve players general literacy, communication skills and overall mental well-being. The Trust interviewed 4,626 people between the ages of 11 and 16, and the interviewees expressed their belief that games made them better readers and helped them develop communication skills.
Oh, and here’s an interesting little tidbit: The survey found that three-in-four kid gamers talk to their friends about video games, compared to only three-in-10 who take time to discuss books.
So, am I saying that video games are the solutions to all your problems, and you can stop worrying about any of those red flags you may have read about games in the past? Nah. Neither am I saying that when you get a new gaming console you’ll be on the fast track to an A in school or a promotion at work.
But I am saying that there are some plusses to plugging in and playing responsibly: boosts to your mental and emotional health that you may not expect. And the fact is that when family gamers play together … things only get better.
Here are a couple of fun family games that might be just the ticket if you want to pursue some of those surprising boosts.
We’ve actually used Minecraft for homeschool projects. We’re studying ancient Egypt right now and I challenged my 9 year old to build a pyramid based on the diagrams in our textbook. He didn’t disappoint. It’s got a treasure gallery, a burial chamber, and even some hidden rooms and secret traps.
I also ended up having an almost year-long theological conversation with a friend of mine as we played through Persona 5 Royal together. It’s definitely NOT a game for children, but we spent a lot of time discussing themes in the game like justice vs vengeance, the importance of absolute truth, the problem and promise of suffering, safe slavery vs dangerous liberty, and the power of repentance and redemption. We were only able to play on weekends because of our schedules, which is why it took a year to finish, but those were some of the deepest and most productive discussions we’ve ever had.
-I think you are missing a big thing that most gamers can not play casually and it lights up the same part of the brain as other addictive substances such as Cocaine and Pornography. Casual gaming may have these benefits but most of my gamer friends are actually quite slow at decision making and so was I when playing heavily. Many gamers become so addicted they have no room for anything else in their lives. This is not something that most kids in particular can just do casually.
Video games and screen use in general has been shown to slow brain development in kids. I would think you would be aware of that at the very least.
The small potential benefit do not outweigh the very large negative effects. I say all this as someone who not only likes gaming but has experienced withdraws from not being able to game for only a week.
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