Believe it not, scientific research confirms video games are good for you (video games are sports, after all). In fact, several studies (which we'll get to in a second) support the findings.
I know, it’s hard to wrap your head around such a fact after years of listening to “don’t sit too close to the TV, you’ll ruin your eyes,” or “stop wasting your time playing video games—go outside!”
But yes, real research from credible sources has shown that playing video games actually does have health benefits—both for the brain and the body.
Exercising Your Brain With Video Games
To start, recent studies completed by several noted research and scientific organizations have proven that playing video games could help improve the quality of life for the disabled and mentally ill.
In layman’s terms, playing video games directly affects and impacts regions of the brain responsible for memory, spatial orientation, information organizations, and fine motor skills.
How Different Parts of the Brain Are Impacted by Video Games?
To determine how video games affect the brain, scientists selected two groups of adults. The first group would play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, for two months. The second group did not play any video games at all. Scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the size of the brain of the groups before the start of the study, then again after the two-month period.
The results confirmed previous findings—that there were differences in the brain structure of video gamers, and that by playing video games, there was a “direct link between video gaming and a volumetric brain increase.”
How About Brain Games?
So if an action game like Super Mario 64 signals positive benefits for players, games built specifically to train, test, and challenge the brain must be beneficial too, right?
Well, since their introduction in the early 2000’s, logic games or brain games have had a love/hate relationship with the scientific community, mainly because of the claims video game publishers have made about these titles.
For instance, such claims tout that, for just a few minutes a day, you can train your brain using video games—and in some cases, that these games will make you smarter.Other brain game benefits include helping players get better with repeated tasks, and they also provide mental stimulation—something that doctors highly recommend, especially for older adults and the elderly.
Real (and Not So Real) World Problem Solving, Too
Games can also teach problem solving and strategy, making them valuable tools for kids and teens.In SimCity, players lay out and plan a city, and must think ahead to consider how something like the tax rate may help or hurt the growth of their city, or how street planning and certain zones may impact growth.
The game also teaches resource management and planning on a basic level, and it does a nice job of explaining these concepts to younger gamers. Learning and developing these types of strategies can be directly applicable to life as well.
Other Physical Benefits From Playing Video Games
From another physical perspective, video games can improve your eyesight. A study by the University of Rochester proved video games improve vision by making gamers more responsive to different shades of color. The same study, funded by the National Eye Institute and the Office of Naval Research, found that players of action games - like first-person shooters - had better perception of color contrast.
Great, So Play as Much as Possible?
So yes, video games are actually good for you on many levels. Of course, we must add, like anything, to maintain such benefits, games should be consumed in moderation. Staying up all night, every single night, to fight off zombies? Maybe not the best thing for your health.
Want one more beneficial aspect of video games?
Learning the skills needed to create your own game can give kids and teens a leg up when it comes to securing dream internships and lucrative jobs down the road.
At a summer program like iD Tech, students enter their sessions as pure video game players, and end their week with the knowledge and skills required to become video game creators.