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Not as Bad as You Think: The Many Positive Effects of Video Games

Positive Effects of Video Games
It is not true that video games only encourage anti-social elements and violence. There are educational games that help develop mathematical skills, reading abilities, and more. There are simulation games that expose the players to real-life situations. Most games require quick decisions and prompt responses, which helps increase alertness. This WellnessKeen article tells you about the many positive effects of video games.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Surprising!
Dr. James Rosser and his associates, in their study in 2007, showed that medical students playing specific video games fared better at working with simulators providing training of laparoscopy.
Video games are most commonly associated with violence and aggression. They are notorious for promoting anti-social behavior in children. This could be true with violent games, but does not apply to all video games for sure. Playing video games is mistakenly equated with watching television, due to which they are thought to cause lethargy, laziness, and obesity. True, they are not outdoor games, but they are interactive. The players have to be actively involved with the game, make quick moves, and take decisions, unlike what happens when watching TV where one passively receives what is bombarded on him. A study showed that teenagers playing video games showed greater involvement in activities at school and at home, they were closer to their families, and were found to be in a healthier state of mind.
There's so much variety in the game environments and the themes these games are based on, that almost every game has something to learn from. There are simulation games that help simulate real-life events, there are games dedicated to specifically math, science, or language that help build those particular skills in the players. While some video games can appeal to adults and kids alike, thus giving them a chance to play together, there are others meant for a certain age group that help build skills specific to that age. There are games with content that encourages good behavior and includes the importance of sharing and caring. Playing such games has shown to improve children's behavior. Here is more on the positive effects of video games.
Problem-solving
Puzzle games focus on problem-solving skills. They require the player to think logically, match or recognize patterns, complete sequences, or solve puzzles based on science, math, or language. Games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope have shown to be of help in increasing problem-solving skills. Video games based on word or number puzzles have a similar effect. A recent discovery in biology is a good example of how problem-solving skills in video gamers helped solve a real-world problem.
In 2008, researchers in the University of Washington created a game called Foldit, which let the players model a genetic makeup of proteins. The phase estimates made by high-scoring players helped in the identification of the crystal structure for a monkey virus related to AIDS. This breakthrough can be largely attributed to the problem-solving skills exercised during the gameplay.
Video games help develop multitasking
Planning and Decision-making
Video games require the players to plan their moves and take strategic decisions, which involves planning right and taking the necessary actions at the right time. Playing video games is thus beneficial in improving planning and decision-making skills. In role-playing games, a player controls the actions of the game's characters. Apart from puzzles and tactics, these games involve planning and decision-making on behalf of the characters. Games involving battles or action, or those simulating real-life situations require the player to take decisions with accuracy. Management simulation games for example, exercise a player's skill to plan and allocate resources, manage their use, and take management decisions.
According to a study from the University of Rochester, those who play action video and computer games made decisions 25% faster than the others.
Multitasking
Adam Gazzaley from the University of California tried to demonstrate how video games improve multitasking skills. His experiments showed that playing a 3-D racing game could improve one's ability to multitask. Working memory capacity and attention span were also seen to improve. His studies were published in Nature. Shooting games are said to improve one's ability to focus. Memory, attention, and the ability to multitask diminish with advancing age. Video games can help improve these abilities to a certain extent. Video games, like other pieces of technology, have multiple input sources and combine different forms of media. These factors, in themselves, exercise one's multitasking skills. It has been found that expert gamers can pay attention to six different things at the same time as opposed to others who can attend to only four things at a time.
Vision and Hand-eye Coordination
A positive effect of video games seen in children, is the improvement in their hand-eye coordination. A player has to look at the screen while simultaneously operating the joystick of the device. Plus, his actions have to be quick. This helps improve hand-eye coordination. Video games are said to improve the sensitivity of vision. A study showed that video game players had better color sensitivity and visual processing abilities.
Simulation video games help develop life skills
Real-world Skills
Some video games help develop skills that are directly relevant to certain professions. Flight simulation games for example, can be used for training pilots. Playing these games gives knowledge about real-world flying. Video games can help develop surgical skills, in the sense that many image-guided medical procedures require surgeons to work with an interface, similar to that in video games. From the results of Dr. Rosser's experiment in 2007, it was astonishing to know that surgeons who played video games were faster in action and made lesser mistakes. Business simulation games help develop real business skills. A game like Zoo Tycoon gives the players an experience of managing a zoo. Games like America's Army, which reproduce a real wartime experience, have been used to train the US army soldiers. A video game like Capitalism is about becoming the most successful businessman, which requires the player to fight competition, manage resources effectively, and save the business from bankruptcy. It exposes the player to economics. Black Gold involves experiences of strategizing and marketing. As simulation games model real-life scenarios, most of them are helpful in teaching real-world skills. With the rising popularity of video games, careers like video game design and testing are also becoming popular. An exposure to gaming surely helps increase one's knowledge of the video gaming domain at large.
Interactivity
Playing video games involves interacting with the characters of the game. Though they are not real people, they do give the players a glimpse of real-world interactions. Furthermore, many games require two or more people to play together. This can foster teamwork and cooperation. It can also help induce leadership in children. Games that are played online, may involve people from different parts of the world playing together or as opponents, thus leading to the building of new friendships. Video games give children a platform to exhibit their gaming skills and share their expertise with the elders. Parents get to assess their child's gaming abilities while the child enjoys having an opportunity to 'teach' something to his parents.
Video games help with learning disabilities
Emotional Development
Similar to sports, even video games lead to the emotional development of kids. Negative feelings like anger, hatred, and frustration can be vented by means of these games. Thus, emotions are channelized in a positive way. Kids with low confidence levels or those with an inferiority complex are known to benefit from playing video games. By playing these games, children feel participative; winning the game or crossing a level gives them a feeling of achievement, thus boosting their confidence. Also, playing video games keeps the children engaged, thus helping them get rid of boredom or loneliness. These games are a good distraction from worries, thus providing some relief from mental stress. Handling scenarios in the games helps prepare the children for real life.
In Therapy
Nottingham Trent University professor Mark Griffiths says that video games can prove to be a distraction for those undergoing painful cancer treatments. Video games are sometimes made a part of therapy for children with psychological problems. They can help children with dyslexia read faster. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas, have devised a program that makes use of video games to help children with developmental disorders and people with anxiety. Under this program meant for people who are developing their frontal lobe reasoning, 10 hours of gameplay over a few weeks is given as a part of therapy. According to Tandra Allen, M.S., head of virtual reality training programs at this center, video games make it easier to tailor situations for specific patients and increase the scope of treatment PlayMancer was developed as a part of the European research project. It is designed to help individuals with impulse-related disorders. This video game uses biofeedback to help the patients relax and achieve self-control.
In Education
With the use of video games, learning becomes fun. Word games, puzzle games, and simulation games can be used to enhance and also test the related skills in children. Moreover, the games have reward systems; a player scores points, graduates to a new level, or gets a new treasure, weapon, or any other kind of incentive for every achievement in the game. Video games that help cognitive development or those that boost creativity, can be made a part of teaching. Concepts in subjects like geography, physics, astronomy, and others can be made easier to understand by using video games as a tool to explain them.
We always talk of the negative effects of video games because we lack an unbiased view of looking at them. We seldom pay attention to the positive effects they can have. What makes all the difference is the choice of video games and the time for which they are played. If there is no restriction on the time for which children are allowed to play these games, they are bound to have a negative effect on them. If game-playing lacks parental supervision, children might make the wrong choices and engage in violent games, or games not meant for their age. Thus, the effects of video games depend largely on which games you choose to play, and how much time you spend on them.