Why Video Games Are Not All That Bad

Sadakshi Kalyan Ramun
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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Video Games and benefits of video gaming</p></div>
Video Games and benefits of video gaming


I’m sure, as a parent watching their kids play video games, your go-to dialogue is: “Get up from the PC, you’ve been glued to the screen for hours!” The older generation has always viewed video games as toys or a mere entertainment medium and therefore seldom considers games an artistic craft or a viable career option. Well, some of them think video games are hindrances or roadblocks that do not allow those who actively game to study or do something “productive” in their lives. But what is astonishing is that playing video games has its own set of benefits. Right from helping the gamer improve their problem-solving techniques to actively indulging in community building and socialization, video games play a major part.

Some of the benefits of gaming include better and enhanced cognitive performance, multitasking, storytelling, and relationship-building. It also helps with relieving stress, and unwinding, and helps relax after a long and tiring day.

In this article, we shall look at some of the benefits of playing video games in detail.

Gaming Improves Cognitive Abilities

Telling that gaming improves cognitive performance might sound like a baseless counterargument you use against your parents when they tell you off for playing video games. However, a new study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) offers a fresh perspective on this popular pastime. The study, involving 2,000 children, suggests that extensive gaming could enhance certain cognitive skills—a notable contrast to the prevailing narrative that often links video games with negative behavioral and mental health outcomes.

NIDA's research indicates that children who play video games for three or more hours a day show improved performance in cognitive skills tests focusing on impulse control and working memory. This finding challenges the conventional wisdom that has typically painted video games in a negative light.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow noted in the study’s press release that the study adds a lot to the growing understanding of the associations between playing video games and brain development. She said, “Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behavior and mental health problems. This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation.

Some of the key findings of the research include the following: 

  • Children who reported playing video games for three or more hours per day were faster and more accurate on both cognitive tasks. 

  • According to functional MRI brain imaging, children who played video games showed higher brain activity in regions of the brain associated with attention and memory

  • Those children who played at least three hours of video games per day showed more brain activity in frontal brain regions, primarily associated with more cognitively demanding tasks and less brain activity in brain regions related to vision.  

Addressing a contentious issue, the study found no support for the association between video gaming and an uptick in violence or aggressive behavior. Although some children who played games extensively had higher scores on attention problems and depression symptoms, these did not reach a clinically significant level, suggesting that gaming does not inherently risk problem behaviors or clinical symptoms.

However, the researchers caution against inferring causality from these findings. It's possible, they suggest, that children with a natural affinity for cognitive tasks might be more drawn to video games, rather than gaming causing improved cognition.

Bader Chaarani, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and the lead author of the study, said, “Many parents today are concerned about the effects of video games on their children’s health and development, and as these games continue to proliferate among young people, it is crucial that we better understand both the positive and negative impact that such games may have.

Supplementing NIDA's research, another study titled “Video games and board games: Effects of playing practice on cognition” noted that video games seem to have a greater potential for overall cognitive enhancement because “they involve processing various types of information and adapting strategies dynamically and in real-time.” It also found that video games significantly predicted mental flexibility, planning, visual working memory, visuospatial processing, fluid intelligence, and verbal working memory performance.

Likewise, Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, in her findings, stated, “It turns out that action video games are far from mindless."

Her studies indicated that video gamers show improved skills in vision, attention, and certain aspects of cognition. It is important to note that these are not just gaming skills, but real-world ones. According to Bavelier, gamers, when compared to those who do not play video games, perform better on certain tests of attention, speed, accuracy, vision, and multitasking.

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Gaming Helps Regulate Emotions Better

The narrative that surrounds gamers is often one of isolation and escapism. Yet, what if the escapism provided by video games is not an issue but a solution—a therapeutic reprieve from the relentless pace of modern life? After hours spent in academic, professional, or personal pursuits, a growing number of people are turning to video games to decompress, de-stress, and find a moment of zen.

Games, with their structured environments and predictable rewards, offer a comforting rhythm. They also provide a medium through which players can swiftly regulate their mood and find a calming presence. The act of gaming is not merely a pastime but also a form of self-expression, where players navigate narratives as a means of exploring their own viewpoints, emotions, and identities.

According to a research paper titled “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” studies suggest that playing puzzle video games, those with minimal interfaces, short-term commitments, and a high degree of accessibility like Angry Birds or Bejeweled, can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation, and ward off anxiety.

Beyond the individual benefits, video gaming also fosters community. The stereotype of gamers being confined within the four walls, living in a filthy environment, with no friends or no social life is rapidly becoming outdated. Instead, the reality is that gaming often takes place in highly social contexts. Players hop on forums and social networking platforms like Discord, Facebook, and Twitter to talk about video games and make virtual friends that are as meaningful as any formed in the physical world.

According to Rachel Kowert, research director of the nonprofit Take This, findings revealed that massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) engagement correlated to a stronger sense of social identity, which then corresponded to higher self-esteem, more social competence, and lower levels of loneliness. In her study, Kowert studied more than 700 MMO players along with researchers from Edge Hill University and the University of York. Kowert said, “Online, game-rooted friendships are as real as any offline friendships, and they shouldn’t be discredited just because they’re mediated through technology.

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So, parents, the next time you worry that your child is wasting too much time on their gaming device, think about the new-age research that explains loud and clear the benefits of gaming. Video games may in fact boost your child’s confidence, improve their skillsets, and also help them interact better.  It is time to embrace the idea that video games, much like books, music, and film, have a valuable role to play in the landscape of leisure and social activity. They’re not only a source of entertainment but also a gateway to wellness and community for millions around the globe.

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Sadakshi has been a gamer throughout her life and has followed League of Legends since Season 3, immediately falling in love with the esports scene. Bringing in her print journalism experience, she focuses on content that is both informative and innovative. While her heart still remains with League, her love for competition has pushed her to explore other titles such as Valorant and Apex Legends.