From gaming addictions to sedentary lifestyles, we have heard it all when it comes to the negatives effects of video games. With almost two decades into the 21st century, like never before, the video game industry has been received with much excitement. Yet, it is surrounded by plethora of skepticism due to the negative connotations surrounding them, becoming like what Desiderius Erasmus termed women as “can’t live with them, can’t live without them”.
With all this concerns, is video games just a surfeit of problems with no single benefit? And if there are benefits what are they? The answer is yes there are benefits and here are the top 5 benefits of video games to our health.
1. Cognitive Benefits
Video games in popular beliefs are seen as being intellectually stifling. However, according to a paper by Gramic et al, 2014, these games especially the shooter type games (games that involve shooting and some form of combat) such as Grand Theft Auto and many considered highly violent can be used to promote a wide range of cognitive skills. It can lead to better attention, high visual processing skills, in filtering irrelevant information more effectively and leads to high mental rotation abilities; which is the “rotational transformation of an object’s visual mental image”, simply put a process of imagining what an object would look like if it was rotated.
2. Video Games in Disease Management
A systematic review by Ern Ann, 2014, states that serious gamification can be used as a rehabilitation intervention for children with conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is used to further their communication abilities, a common feature in autism. Severe Developmental Brain Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder use gamification and off-the-shelf games as a management method. Also, in 1999, Brown S. came up with a now patented micro- processor based video game that can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological and emotional disorders.
In an era where obesity is on the rise and people continue to live a more sedentary lifestyle each year, exergames are becoming a fun way to exercise and engage in physical activities. Exergames can be defined as games that in order to play them, require some form of movement or exercise. This can not only be incorporated by children but also in adults alike. A study by Rosenberg et al (2009), showed an increased quality of life in senior citizens who engaged in exergames, leading to a noted decrease in subsyndromal depression.
4. A New Form of Literacy
In a controversial book by Gee James Paul: “What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy”, he states that video games diversify our definition of literacy from merely just the ability to read and write. literacy has become a more complex way of interpreting symbols, diagrams, artifacts and images and this is incorporated in the literacy that we already use. It can also be used to aid in different learning disabilities and complement the structures already put up for learning.
5. Gaming in Public Health Education and Promotion
Video games can be used in the promotion and education strategies of public health. A good example of this is in a celebrated story where a game called Re-mission was used in a study on children who were cancer patients. The game features a “nanobot who shoots cancer cells, overcomes bacterial infections, and manages signs of nausea and constipation”. The game was a key tool in teaching the kids on adherence to treatment. This showing that games can be used an educational tool.
Gaming is seen as a promising new sector in health. Although there may be benefits to playing video games, like all other things moderation is key. Addiction is real and may tamper with other areas of your life that also need your time and attention.
For further info on the topic discussed, be sure to check out the references below:
- Ern, A. (2014). The use of gamification and serious games within interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder. (systemic review). University of Twente.
- Gee, J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. Palgrave Macmillan. New York, United States of America.
- Gramic, I., Lobel, A., Rutger, C. & Engel E. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Physiological Association, volume 69, issue 1, page 66-78.
- Prot, S., Anderson, C. A., Gentile, D. A., Brown, S. C., & Swing, E. L. (2014). The positive and negative effects of video game play. In A. Jordan & D. Romer (Eds.). Media and the Well-Being of Children and Adolescents (109-128). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Takano, Y. Mental Rotation. University of Tokyo.