While you could easily find statistics showing the negative effects video gaming can have on young people, it is important to balance that information with the positive effects. Recently, the scientific community has begun to explore the numerous positive benefits that playing video games can provide for kids. In part, due to the tearing down of stigmas related to gaming (e.g., “games make you lazy” or “games make you violent”) and a deeper understanding of what addiction actually means, psychologists and researchers have identified a trove of beneficial features associated with healthy gaming that many in the gaming community have experienced firsthand for decades. If you are worried about the amount of time your child spends playing video games, these positive benefits should help assuage some of your concerns.
Positive Effects of Video Gaming
Improved Cognitive Abilities
Video games can improve some of your cognitive abilities – especially your visuospatial skills and concentration. Visuospatial ability is your ability to recognize and remember objects and the relations between those objects. This skill can be essential for everyday tasks such as driving, finding your way in a city, or making sense of a map or objects around you. Spatial ability is also important in several fields of study, including mathematics, natural sciences, engineering, meteorology, and architecture. This is one of the key positive effects of video games that might be beneficial for students and professionals, but will also serve gamers well in everyday life.
Enhanced Problem Solving and Logic
Gaming improves problem-solving skills and logic. Researchers have performed fMRI scans on 27 professional gamers and found they had more grey matter and “heightened connectivity between certain subregions in the insular cortex”. In practice, this translates to enhanced cognitive abilities, which include improved problem-solving skills and logic. Many gamers play games that require a great deal of planning, strategic thinking and using logic to achieve goals within the game, so it makes sense that they will have enhanced development in areas of the brain dedicated to problem-solving and logic.
Increased Hand-to-Eye Coordination
Another positive effect of gaming is increased hand-to-eye coordination. People who play games regularly have better sensorimotor skills than those who don’t play video games. These skills are key for faster learning and adoption of tasks that require hand-to-eye coordination, such as bike riding, typing, or other tasks that require you to coordinate the movement of your hands with the movement of your eyes. Games allow you to develop an ability to learn sensorimotor patterns and movements faster and more efficiently, which may help you with tasks in the physical world.
Greater Multi-Tasking Ability
Gaming has been shown to improve your multitasking ability. This is one of the most notable benefits of gaming because it provides you with the ability to perform your daily tasks better and more efficiently, and also complete many tasks at the same time. Many games force players to perform several tasks at the same time – especially action games. For example, you have to look at the enemy on the screen, keep track of your health, ammo, and other stats, as well as move your character. You might also be speaking on a microphone with your teammates and friends. With all of the fast-paced action and hyper-stimulation that modern games provide, gamers may drastically improve their multi-tasking ability.
Faster and More Accurate Decision-Making
Video games can help you make decisions faster and more accurately, which can translate into better decision-making ability in real life. Action games, in particular, are more likely to lead to gamers making faster and more accurate decisions over non-gamers, and even over players that play slow-paced games. This skill can be valuable in areas of work where fast decision-making is crucial such as on the battlefield, or in a hospital, and gamers are primed to make these decisions faster and more accurately than non-gamers.
Enhanced Prosocial Behaviors
Even though it is true that excessive gaming can make you antisocial, there are many games out there that promote the social aspect of gaming. Some games involve cooperating with other players and talking with them through text or voice chat, which can improve your ability to work with other people and have better social interactions, even when playing games. The social aspect of gaming has also grown beyond just playing prosocial games. For example, gaming may be a popular conversation topic amongst students at school. There are also scholastic esports teams and clubs being formed, along with a convergence between gaming and social media platforms such as Twitch and Discord. Although gaming is increasingly social, it is important to maintain a balance of face-to-face interactions and physical world friendships.
More Physical Activity
Playing games that promote you to stay active might improve physical health, especially when compared to games where you remain sedentary the whole time. Take VR games as an example. The vast majority of these games will have you moving around or at least standing up, which is already better for your health than playing games where you remain seated. Gamers also find VR gaming more immersive and satisfactory than traditional gaming, so it’s only a matter of time before VR games become the norm in the next few years.
Some Additional Benefits
In addition to all the positive effects of video gaming listed above, there are also some other effects that many gamers report, including:
- Non-native English speakers are able to learn English faster using video games
- Games require you to persevere with your task to complete the goal of the game, which means they build up your perseverance
- Video game players are also able to concentrate better and for longer periods than non-gamers
- Other benefits include better pattern recognition, strategic thinking, risk-taking abilities, and management
The Bottom Line
Gaming can be a positive and beneficial experience when played in moderation. To experience the positive effects of video games, it can be helpful to identify your motivation to play. If you play games in moderation, for fun and recreation, you may experience many benefits. However, if you play games excessively to escape real-life problems, then you may begin to experience problems from your play, and in extreme cases, develop a gaming disorder. Playing games can have both negative and positive implications on your quality of life so it’s important to be aware of your play and keep it in balance.