Video games and all of its subcultures have always been a hot topic of debate for people around the world. Many of the leading health and welfare focused organizations have conducted several studies into why gaming is as influential as it is and whether gaming actually helps us or not. While many would want to do away with gaming altogether, there is a significant portion of people who depend on gaming to live. Apart from having an impact on the global economy and being the livelihood of millions of people out there, is there any significant value to gaming?
While there have been many studies conducted on gaming and what it entails for younger generations, most have been stereotypical at most. A significant portion of such studies solely focuses on the violence aspect that some of the games portray. Violence in gaming is a hotly debated subjected but it is not exclusive to this medium. One should also keep in mind that there are other, more accessible forms of entertainment mediums out there which also showcase violence and all kinds of reprehensible actions in a much more free medium.
As such, today, we’re going to look at the brighter aspects of gaming and also shed light on how gaming can help the current world and future generations with the proper course of action. If we can curb a few false notions and stereotypes along the way, then all the better for everyone concerned.
First, let’s get a few things cleared up. Video games are an interactable Audio-visual medium of entertainment. They’re much like movies with none of the drawbacks and all of the fun with the added benefit of choosing what to do with certain parameters that can change the entire experience. This added sense of control and direct interaction is one of the primary reasons as to why gaming is so popular. Sure you can go to a movie and see a tank firing at another tank but what if you get to control a tank instead? Games let you do that and they’ve been pushing the boundaries of interactivity quite a lot over the years.
As a direct result, games have had an influence over the cognitive functions of you guessed it, anyone who has ever played games. And you don’t just have to believe our words, there are countless studies done by reputed researchers and scientists in the fields of social sciences, neuroscience, and so on, that confirm these findings. These peer-reviewed research articles and publishings are the basis of this article even taking place. As an ardent fan of games, it is imperative that the facts are also out in the open.
Peter Gray, a research professor of Psychology at Boston College, talks on his blog on “Psychology Today” about the “Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games”. As someone who has been working in the fields of child psychology and the importance of play in the development of children, he has focused his research on a wide scope of people. In his aforementioned article, he talks about how research is done and how the results are then compared, reviewed and extrapolated.
In an area of an experiment as broad as this, research is done in two methods, Comparative and Experimental. Comparative research pits two or more different demographics of people in a similar environment to see the differences in parameters whereas Experimental takes a group of people not familiar with the research subject and sees any changes after exposure to the said subject.
In this case, various studies over the years have yielded promising results.
- Improved visual contrast sensitivity: Fifty hours of game time spread over multiple weeks showed an improved perception towards subtle shades of gray. (Li et al., 2009)
- Successful treatment of Amblyopia or “Lazy Eye”: Amblyopia is a disorder that arises early in the childhood where one eye loses almost all of the functionality. Participants with this disorder, when exposed to a controlled gaming environment with their good eye covered, showed regaining of normal to near-normal functionality in their “lazy eye”. Some participants even showed complete 20/20 depth perception which other tests have failed to do.
- Improved spatial attention: Participants in the experiment conducted by Green and Bavalier in 2012 showed they tracked items through a field of distractions better than others. Action games, in particular, were proven to increase this perception in even more specialized conditions. (Li et al., 2011)
- Reduced impulsiveness: Action games reduced the impulsiveness to respond to specific stimuli depending on the situation. (Dye, Green, & Bavelier, 2009).
- Dyslexia, a common learning difficulty for children that can seep into adult life without proper guidance, is primarily caused by problems in visual attention. Studies conducted by Franceschini and team in 2013 showed that a mere 12 hours of game time improved the scores in Phonology and reading tests of dyslexic children. In fact, the improvement is as good and at times better than that of training methods tailor-made for treating dyslexia.
- Multitasking: Researchers Chiappi and co. found in 2013 that 50 hours of game time spent in an Action Game had a direct impact of subjects’ score on Multi-Attribute Task Battery. This test “involves using a joystick to keep a target centered on a screen, monitoring fuel levels, responding to lights on an instrument panel, and listening and responding to radio communication.” Higher scores represent the real-life scenario of a pilot operating an aircraft.
- Increased mental flexibility: Participants playing action video games showed an increased response to switch and solve problems that had conflicting results without error. (Anderson et al, 2010; Green et al, 2012; Colzato et al, 2014).
- Executive functioning in the old age: Experiments with older participants showed that Cognitive flexibility, attention, working memory, and abstract reasoning that degrade with age were not as significant in their case. In certain situations it even allowed older participants to improve on their quality of life and concept of self. (Basek et al., 2008, Torres et al., 2011)
- Improvement in the work environment: Research has shown that problems that require good hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, quick decision-making skills, attention, and working memory were improved by gaming.
Gamers were better were piloting and landing drones than non-gamers. And their skill level often matched those of skilled pilots themselves. (MKinley et al., 2011)
Doctors who were also gamers, performed better in surgeries than those who weren’t. (Rosser et al., 2007)
In a control group of Laparoscopic surgeons, inexperienced surgeons with gaming experience performed better than those who did not have said exposure to gaming. (Schlickum et al., 2009)
Now, these are all scientific research, done by scientists and researchers and professors who are experts in their fields. But we can observe all of this in our day to day lives as well. People who play games often portray these skills acquired through their time playing games but these are so common that we tend to overlook them. But these actual, tangible results shown in both research and application that work which are better than nothing.
Dr. Gray suggests that parents should listen to what these researches are proving and instead of believing the myths published by the media for sensationalization. There is absolute evidence that exposure to gaming helps to develop a child’s mind and brain functions better than other mediums of learning and training.
And it makes perfect sense as well. Most children have an inborn affinity towards games from an early age. The interactive AV medium is tailor-made for developing children. Research and development in this field could provide crucial medical and neurological advancements in the future. Gaming has also provided an ideal isolated environment to do a lot of independent research into Social science studies and other academic subjects as well.
Personally speaking, gaming has been one of the most influential aspects of my life. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, gaming has been the only aspect of my life that helped me. And I know many people who are also suffering from the same problems but are helped by playing games. Gaming also helps people with social anxiety and other social issues to socialize better as it takes the physical aspect away. And contrary to popular belief, two hours of playing casually after a stressful day will help relieve a lot of that pent up anger and stress, leading to a better quality of life in the long run.
In a time and age when WHO have stated that Gaming disorder is a legitimate issue and media are hellbent on portraying gaming as the violent medium that encourages and/or influences violent shootings and other heinous activities, the benefits of gaming are rarely talked about or completely overlooked. And we couldn’t have done so without Dr. Gray and countless other scientists and professors and scholars providing us with the data we needed. Hopefully as people who are invested into our “favorite past time”, we have been able to curb some of those misconceptions and maybe even made a “gamer” out of you in the process.
All of the previous works and their abstracts can be found in this article.
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