If you play video games, you have probably been chided by someone at one time or another, for playing so much, wasting your time, and ruining your eyes, or something like that. People have been enthralled with the video game challenge ever since ‘Pong’ came out in the 1970’s. The advancement of computers and ram memory has only enhanced the realism in the games, making them much more lifelike, so it is easy to become immersed in the game, the storyline and the character or characters that you are portraying.
Advantages of Video Games
Aside from the fact that there is probably some truth to the fact that too much time in front of the gaming console can take time away from other things, like study, work, relationships and many other “normal” activities that humans do. However, on the other hand there are some distinct items that fall into the advantages of video games column.
Eye Hand Coordination
For one thing, I think that everybody would agree that when you play video games, your hand-eye coordination will improve. That probably falls into the category of the more we do something, the better we get at it, but studies have shown that trait to be true. Fighter pilots in the military who have played video games as a youth, seem to adapt more quickly to the controls of the plane, because it is so similar to some of the video games they have played. In fact, they may have played a video game that is very close in realism to the plane that the end up flying in real life.
Special Needs, Special Situations
There have been studies that have shown that children who are diagnosed with autism, depression and Parkinson’s disease, showed signs if improvement in resilience, empowerment and a ‘fighting spirit.’ The research seemed to add to the children’s ability to enhance neural mechanisms that will activate emotions that are positive and enhance a work/reward kind of emotion that helped the kid’s demeanor over the course of the study.
Another study that was done with wounded soldiers returning from the battlefield who played “SnowWorld” required less pain medication than otherwise would have been needed. The game put the player in a wonderland in the artic, where they were able to throw endless amounts of snowballs at various targets such as snowmen and penguins.
Development of Skills
Another trait that would serve as a point in the favor of the advantages of video games is the development in skill of planning and decision-making. Many of the games can now offer mini-sagas of civilization building where the player assumes a role of a soldier, a farmer, a magician, or a knight, for example, and he heads out into his “world” to build a kingdom. Along the way he or she will be confronted with various challenges where their actions determine a certain result. The player will have to learn how to plan ahead and make the decisions that will affect his or her fate for the rest of the game.
Effort, Reward and Responses
Another trait that is developed by playing video games is that of effort and reward. The player will learn pretty quickly what will provide a reward in the game, and just what will send him or her to the scrap heap in a hurry too. The nice thing that about all of that is that it is just a game of course, but a lesson is learned that there are consequences to actions, and if that point is missed or ignored, you end up losing the game.
Many shooter games require very fast reactions and quick responses, which in turn can help to develop the eyes and the brain’s ability to make quick decisions. In a recent study it was found that people who suffered from cataracts could have their vision improved by playing first shooter games such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. These games are so fast-paced that they require a supreme focus and attention and require people who are impaired visually to see things more vividly. The came to the conclusion as will that more adrenaline and dopamine are produced, making the brain more supple.
Happiness and Health for All
Another study done with senior citizens discovered that seniors who played video games, even if only occasionally, were happier than those who didn’t. It can be assumed that people would be happier if they played more video games.
Another point for the advantages of video games is the increase of knowledge. If a player plays a game about the Battle of The Bulge in World War II, there is a large body of knowledge there that will be picked up, just by playing the game. There are video games that cover just about any subject and any age group. A video game that is geared for younger children can help to improve confidence, hand-eye coordination, and a sense of cause and effect that the game provides.
Another recent study from the Education Development Center and the US Congressional supported Ready To Learn Initiative found that video games can really help to improve literacy skills when supervised and coordinated with strong teacher and parental involvement. Students in the 4 and 5 year old range showed improved cognitive abilities, better recognition of letters and word, and had a better understanding of stories and how the related to them individually.
Benefit of Role Playing
Role playing video games have an impact on adults, as well, as college age students are put into life-like roles to give them an idea of what “it will be like out there.” Career simulations in different jobs give the player different decisions to make, and he or she will learn what tends to work and what doesn’t, which can initiate them to reality at the workplace.
Video games are fun, for the most part, and yet they can be a force for teaching positive things to our kids and our adults. We all could learn better if topics were set before us in a fun and engaging manner. Things tend to stick with us when we enjoy how we learn, and that is just what video games have the opportunity to do – make learning fun.
Essential Facts About The Computer And Video Game Industry (pdf)