Are Video Games Good for Your Health?

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The debate about playing video games and their effects on your mental and physical health have raged on for more than three decades now. Ever since the release of the first truly popular video game consoles such as the Nintendo NES in 1983 and the Sega Genesis in 1988, there has been a faction of people which have claimed that video gaming has a negative impact on the way our brains work. However, this article is designed to demonstrate the many ways in which video gaming can be just as useful for your health as reading a book.

Gaming can curb those mental cravings

For those who smoke or tend to eat unhealthy foods, it can be a mental torture trying to fight the cravings. One scientifically proven solution to curbing those bad habits is to play a video game, according to a 2014 study carried out by Brown University, Stony Brook University and the American Cancer Society that was published on PLOS. They discovered that chain smokers starved of nicotine could keep a lid on their cravings by getting involved in two-player video games or puzzle games such as Street Fighter or Tekken beat ’em up games and strategy titles including Civilization. Engaging in exciting activities such as video games activates the mesolimbic dopamine pathway, a reward pathway in the brain which is activated with the effects of nicotine. The researchers claim the excitement of video gaming and achieving in-game goals is a legitimate reward substitute for nicotine. So, the next time you feel the urge to light up that cigarette, try and fight the cravings by firing up that games console first!

Doing illegal things in video games can improve your moral compass

Another academic report into cyberpsychology, behaviors and social networking published in July 2014, suggests that divulging in morally dubious activities in a video game that might be illegal in real life can improve an individual’s sense of morality. Within this particular study, participant gamers played a character whose illegal activities quickly violated many of their moral codes. The report’s authors claim that the participants reflected significantly on their in-game behavior, leading to gamers becoming more responsible and morally sensitive in real-life situations.

 

Brain growth is stimulated by regular video gaming

In a post from Polygon – in 2013, the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charite University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus discovered that consistent playing of video games was stimulating brain growth in areas responsible for spatial orientation, memory and strategizing. A group of 23 adults of an average age of 24 were asked to play Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 for 30 minutes a day during a two-month period. The control group did not engage in any video game activity. The study’s authors not only commented on a distinct increase in gray matter among the regular video gamers, they also suggested video gaming could help people with minimized gray matter, such those suffering from PTSD and schizophrenia. Video gaming spans everything from console games such as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – which are played with controllers and other devices such as steering wheels for sports games such as racing sims or even motion-controlled and head-tracking technology on VR titles – to brands like Betway Casino offering live classic casino games which are available on web browsers, smartphones and tablet devices and are available as classic slot games with one, three or four paylines or contemporary video slots, which incorporate high-definition audio and visuals and have up to 100 paylines.

Engaging video games can improve your memory

Another positive way that video gaming can engage your mental health is through your memory. According to Super Carers By engaging in challenging puzzle games like Lemmings and Bejeweled which test your ability to remember aspects you can better control short and long-term memories and past trauma. Oxford University spent some considerable time looking at the concept of puzzle games and their effect on the memory. During their studies, participants were shown a string of nasty, graphic images before being split into two camps – one camp played Tetris for ten minutes, while the other camp sat quietly. The results showed that those who played Tetris reported half as many flashbacks of the graphic images as the group of participants that didn’t play. Games such as Tetris and more recently Candy Crush are based on pattern-matching which requires the visual processing elements of the brain to work in overdrive; minimizing the number of visual flashbacks the brain can achieve.

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Video gaming can increase your resilience to overcome challenges

As most video gamers will attest, facing the haunting “game over” message on a TV screen is one of the most frustrating aspects of being a gamer. All those minutes and hours spent trying to overcome a particular challenge and falling at the last hurdle, but sometimes failing once can help you succeed more easily at the second time of asking. The second time around, gamers are equipped with more knowledge and experience about the task ahead and use that to their advantage. A group of scientists across North America and Central Europe discovered that video gamers who play a minimum of 9 hours a week experience increased gray matter in the reward-processing section of the brain, as their paper on the US National Library of Medicine website describes. This gives them renewed drive, motivation and resilience to overcome failures and use different strategies to solve problems. Problem-solving video games train the brain to accept challenges and be less concerned about potential setbacks.

Video gaming demands significant engagement of our brains. The most exciting aspect of this cognitive functionality is that when our brains are 100% engaged, there are no limits to what the brain can achieve!

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