Video games often get an unfairly negative reputation as being bad for us. Think of the stereotypical gamer: an unhealthy and antisocial loner with zero people skills, no job, and still living in their mom’s basement! However, this cliche image couldn’t be further from the truth in reality. A number of different studies from around the globe have found that video games can offer players a multitude of benefits, from improving their mental abilities and wellbeing to boosting their cognitive skills. The following are just a small selection of the positive effects of playing video games. So what are you waiting for? Grab that controller and dive in!
Video games can reduce stress
If you speak to gamers, many of them will tell you that they play games to let off steam and reduce their stress levels after a busy day at school or work. This can be because games provide an escape from the real world, because they enable us to express our creativity, or because we feel satisfied when we accomplish in-game goals. Of course, the type of game that you play can make a big difference here – playing a high paced first-person shooter, or a nerve-wracking horror RPG may have the opposite effect for some people!
To get the most stress relief from a gaming session, opt for a casual and light-hearted game such as Animal Crossing or a cooperative game that encourages socializing and teamwork. What’s interesting is that there are even some games specifically designed to reduce stress in players and help them relax, such as Journey and Abzu. Click here for more information on stress induced by video games and how to get more comfortable playing.
Video games can strengthen a range of cognitive functions
Numerous research studies have shown that playing video games can strengthen a huge range of our cognitive functions. For example, it’s been demonstrated that they can boost spatial attention and awareness, the ability to work on lots of different tasks at the same time, hand-eye coordination, and even help people to overcome conditions such as dyslexia. Other benefits you might see as a result of playing video games include improvements to your vision, such as better visual contrast sensitivity and reducing the symptoms of amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’.
Sometimes gaming might also spark an interest in learning about a particular time period or location a game is set in or the real-life events it was based on, leading us to broaden our general knowledge. Finally, studies have also indicated that time spent on video games can enhance brain flexibility, meaning you can learn more quickly. Plus, it’s been suggested that they also help boost focus and attention. All of this helps to protect your brain from the cognitive decline associated with aging, making gaming a fantastic hobby for older people too.
Video games can improve your decision making and problem-solving
Two abilities playing video games can improve that can have a real impact on our lives are decision making and problem-solving. When it comes to decision making, this is especially true if you play fast-paced games because, in the game environment, you often have to react instantly to new information displayed on the screen or make split-second choices in response to developments in the game. This skill can then spill over into the real world, enabling you to respond more quickly to real-life events too, and adapt accordingly.
The improvements here are most commonly seen in problem-solving if you play strategy games, puzzle games, or RPGs (role-playing games). Some have suggested this is because gaming involves failing many times and making yourself try again until you succeed, thus learning from your mistakes. It can also teach you to be creative when it comes to thinking of solutions to a tricky situation. Again, all of this translates smoothly into coping with real-life problems as well as virtual ones.
Video game can be a way of making social connections
Although often stigmatized as an isolated and antisocial hobby, for many players, video gaming is the complete opposite. As a result of the surge in popularity of online multiplayer games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Fortnite, players have the chance to work together as part of a team to solve problems and complete missions. The cooperative social skills, leadership traits, and teamwork this develops are equally relevant in the physical world as in the digital one.
In addition to helping players to strengthen their social skills, gaming also provides opportunities for people to make friends. This can be true in games where players are competing against one another rather than cooperating too and even in games involving violence. The gaming community is a close one, and many gamers consider themselves genuine friends with the people they play online with. Plus, thanks to the multitude of gaming events and conventions, an interest in video games can also broaden your real world social life too.
Video game can be fun
Perhaps one of the most obvious, but no less important, benefits of playing video games is simply that they’re fun! They provide an easy and affordable way to enjoy ourselves, which is particularly important at the moment with so much negative news around and the COVID-19 pandemic confining many of us to our homes. In fact, some studies have shown that gaming can have a positive impact on our mental health, make us happier, and even help to treat people with depression and anxiety.
All of this will come as no surprise to video game fans! Of course, there are exceptions to this in cases where people become addicted to gaming. Still, they provide a welcome and healthy dose of fun and escapism for the vast majority of players – just like listening to music, watching TV, or reading a novel. So maybe it’s time to challenge the traditional view of video games as having a negative influence on players and instead start to see them as the positive, interesting, and engaging activity that they truly are.