There are many stigmas still believed to be true when it comes to regular video game play, especially with children. Over the years, afflictions such as laziness, obesity, violent tendencies and social ineptitude have been proven fairly inaccurate. On the contrary of these myths are a myriad of studies proving video games are actually rich in cognitive (and even some health) benefits.
A large portion of games require players to think quickly, execute tasks rapidly and keep track of several items or pieces of information at once. These abilities are viewed as the basic building blocks of intelligence in the world of psychology. Nowadays, further advantages to regular game play have been discovered to be even more expansive.
Attention Span and Alertness
Because of the nature of how video games are designed and played, gamers are attracted to games where they need to succeed in performing a task that is fairly difficult initially. It wouldn’t necessarily be fun if you beat a level on your first try, so a diligent focus is essential. This time spent tending to a specific task can translate well into everyday duties and one’s overall attention span.
Many games feature a repetitive activity of locating an item in an area full of multiple distractions.
Studies have shown that due to executing this action regularly, players show heightened levels of spatial recognition. This has been found to be a good indicator of driving ability.
Some cases of dyslexia are known to be derived from a visual attention impairment. In one study, as little as 12 hours of video game play (over time) has proven to have the same or even better results for dyslexic children as training programs specifically designed to treat dyslexia.
Some largely promising results that researchers have found with exploring cognitive advantages of video games is in visual improvement. One study proved an advantage in visual contrast sensitivity (ability to differentiate subtleties between shades of gray) for those who played 50 hours of video games over a 12 week period.
Even more impressive is the proven success in treating Amblyopia, more commonly known as “lazy eye”. In the original study, a team of colleagues had some adults with the condition play video games with their good eye covered, while others performed other tasks like simply watching TV, also with only their impaired eye exposed. Overall, those that did not play video games saw little to no improvement. In many cases, those that did play had a complete reversal to normal functionality and 20/20 vision.
Even more impressive is the proven success in treating Amblyopia, more commonly known as “lazy eye”.
Problem Solving and Decision Making
Utilizing one’s mental resources to execute quick problem solving and decision making is also called “executive functioning”. Those who regularly play video games are typically capable of administering this at a higher level.
Several studies have shown that quickly switching from task to task without making a mistake comes more naturally to gamers. This is an increased level of mental flexibility, which in the everyday life of multitasking, can very much come in handy.
One specific study has shown that those with a heightened level of “executive functioning” due to video game play have scored higher than others in flight simulator navigation programs. These programs are designed to train people for real-life piloting.
It’s also well known that with age can come a decrease or impairment of cognitive abilities. It seems video games are also beneficial for those later in their years. One study with a group of elderly people has shown that not only cognitive abilities improved with gameplay, but also general quality of life.
Job Related Skills
All of the benefits previously noted can lead to advantages in the workforce, for pretty much any career.
For example, one correlation study compared experienced surgeons that were not well-versed with video games with younger, less experienced surgeons that were avid gamers. The younger gamers ended up outperforming the more experienced doctors in their field.
Quick thinking, excellent memory, attention to detail and advanced hand-eye coordination are all useful tools not only for any career of choice, but everyday life as well. Take driving a car for example; even though it comes naturally and can even seem mundane to some, many people struggle with the skill. The cognitive benefits of video games can produce that extra intuition to be a proficient driver.
Cognitive scientists have become fascinated with studying the effects of video games in the last few decades. This is mainly because of what was believed to be true; that the building blocks of one’s intelligence were simply from genes. It has become more apparent with studying cognitive effects of video games that the human brain is much more malleable than previously expected over the course of one’s life.
These studies have taken us a long way away from the “You’re gonna rot your brain” speeches some of us heard growing up. With the way technology has hit the fast forward button, it’s really no shock that many avid gamers have a bit of an upper hand for the future.