For years we’ve been told that video games are bad for us. The lie detector determined that is a lie! Ok, so there wasn’t a lie detector. Instead, we have scientific studies to prove that video games are beneficial to us! In honor of National Video Game Day, let’s debunk some of those age-old myths.
Myth: Video games fry your brain and ruin your eyes.
This one’s my favorite, because I’ve heard it more times than I can count! I personally enjoy all types of video games, from action games like the iconic Halo and Call of Duty franchises, to role-playing games like Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and don’t even let me get lost in the world of simulation games (Sims 4, anyone?). As different as the various genres can be, they all offer cognitive benefits.
“The Benefits of Video Games,” published by American Psychologist, and Dr. Daphne Bavalier, a cognitive neuroscientist, agree that those who play action games are able to focus and stay focused easier than non-gamers. Five to 15 hours of video games a week can improve your eyesight, as gamers tend to be better at seeing more detail in cluttered environments, “distinguishing between different levels of gray, like when driving in fog,” and can track up to six or seven items at once compared to the average person’s ability to track three.
Finally, I can’t leave out the study that proved microsurgeons playing video games up to and over three hours a week had improved hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills up to 47% over their non-gamer colleagues. And the game they played? It wasn’t a specialized game made just for them. No, it was Top Gun.
Add to these that video games also teach players a variety of problem-solving skills, memorization, analytical skills, and creativity, the cognitive benefits are far from causing brain rot.
Myth: Video games impairs the ability to handle emotions.
Puzzle games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush can improve your mood, relax your mind, and even ward off anxiety. I’m guilty of busting out a quick “brain game” on my phone when I’m feeling stressed or anxious to help refocus my mind. Games that provide a variety of characters with set skills, social behaviors, and weaknesses cause the player to assess proper reactions to produce the desired result.
Specialized games exist to help with a variety of school subjects, but also emotions as well. One honorable mention is SPARX - a free computer game created to help with mild to moderate depression, stress or anxiety through cognitive behavioral therapy provided in a video game form.
Myth: Video games impair social skills.
If I had a quarter for every time someone told me “you don’t look like a gamer,” well, I’d have a lot of quarters. That’s because the stereotype that your average gamers are socially awkward nerds that don’t know how to interact with others and never leave the tv is grossly misleading.
More than 70% of gamers play either cooperatively or competitively with their friends. In fact, several developers received severe backlash for not including split-screen cooperative play into their campaigns and/or online multiplayer modes.
Gamers that play action video games that contain a cooperative play aspect tend to show more cooperative, helpful behaviors on and offline than those that play nonviolent video games. Playing action video games in a social setting also reduces the feelings of hostility.
Moderation is key.
It should be said, all things moderation. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing – and video games are no exception. However, if you needed a reason to add a few hours of gaming into your weekly routine, I am happy I could assist! Go – enjoy National Video Game Day with your favorite game and your favorite people. Me? I think I’ll play a little Call of Duty with my husband.