The Health Benefits Of Playing Video-games

July 4, 2014

The negative effects of violent video games have been heavily studied.

Recently, however, there has been a greater interest in looking at the benefits gaming can have on a person’s emotional, social and psychological health.

Children who play video games, particularly shooter games, might have better memory, as well as visual-spatial and perceptive abilities, than those who don’t.

Role-playing games tend to boost problem-solving skills, and a 2013 study found that students who play these games show higher creativity and better grades in school.

Gaming also teaches us how to accept failure. All those blown missions, failed attempts and humiliating deaths teach us how to come up with better solutions and learn from our mistakes. These skills are readily translated to real-life situations.

The findings are encouraging for avid gamers, but we will have to wait until the study is released before we can say anything definitive. At this point, we can at least say there are some benefits associated with gaming.

Mark Baldwin is a psychology researcher at McGill University who studies the impacts of gaming. In research conducted with his graduate students, he is exploring the social effects that specially designed games can have. This research culminated in a company called Mindhabits Inc., which creates these unique games.

In one game, the user has to pick a smiling face out of a group of frowning faces. After doing this for long enough, Baldwin has found that it trains the mind to focus on the positive, instead of gravitating towards the negative, the latter of which is what most people tend to do.

By retraining the mind in this way, the game lowers social stress levels, and increases self-esteem.

In another game made by Baldwin and his team, the user sees their name paired with warm, smiling faces.

This creates a link that results in higher self-esteem and reduced aggressiveness with the patients in his studies.

The games made by Mindhabits Inc. are a long way from “Titanfall” or “GTA V,” but they indicate that games can be much more than distractions.

We are only now starting to see how video games are a powerful medium for training the mind to overcome obstacles and handle stress. But for the everyday gamer with a PS3 or an Xbox at home, what benefits do they see?

There are potentially many, and the increasing scope, complexity and realism of games today allows for a near-limitless range of possibilities.

So maybe all that time you spent playing “Super Mario Bros.” wasn’t rotting your brain like Mom said. It was actually building up your confidence and problem-solving skills.