Like Most Things, Gaming in Moderation is Beneficial

Asking “Do violent video games cause violent behavior?” will leave you with as many answers as there are people. For example, studies have been released deducing that these mature-themed games both do and do not negatively affect a youth’s ability to behave civilly. Similarly, the debate over “How much is too much?” as it relates to video games is up in the air. Most studies have asserted that roughly one to two hours a day is ideal, but more or less than that can potentially lead to cognitive or social issues.

But if studies are saying to play at least one hour a day, does that imply there are benefits to gaming? Yes, actually. Playing video games in moderation has a plethora of positive social, cognitive, and educational benefits.

Increase in Sensorimotor Learning

A 2014 study released in “Human Movement Science” set out to test whether or not gamers had better sensorimotor skills than their non-gaming counterparts. As mentioned in the report’s introduction, “…[past] studies have confirmed that [Video Game Players] benefit from enhanced visual attention, whether in space, time, or to objects.” This, however, tested the correlation between gaming aptitude and sensorimotor abilities using an uncommon approach: having the participate in a tracking exercise where the user must follow a line using a mouse. Ultimately, evidence was not able to prove that gamers or non-gamers had better sensorimotor skills; however, the study was able to conclude that gamers have the ability to learn new sensorimotor patterns quicker than their non-gaming companions.

This, alongside studies such as the one conducted by the Visual Development Lab of Ontario’s McMaster University suggesting that people with cataracts can restore some visual perception by playing fast-paced shooting games, highly suggests there are a wide array of physical benefits for spending your time playing games.

Help for those suffering emotionally

On top of strengthening physical abilities, games are starting to showcase their potential to strengthen emotional and cognitive abilities as well. According to a 2009 study funded by PopCap Games, forcing players to maintain a specific heart rate can allow those who might be struggling from depression or other forms of mentally-induced stress to better manage their emotional states, helping them combat their problems internally. Games are starting to crop up with this notion in mind, such as the successfully crowdfunded Champions of the Shengha that allows for cards to be more powerful if you enter specific emotional states on command.

Likewise, a 2012 report by the University of Utah showed that health patients suffering from chronic diseases were utilizing video games to bolster their mental and emotional fortitude. Summarizing, one of the researchers noted video games can act as “nonpharmacological interventions [that] may enhance patients’ resilience toward various chronic disorders via neuronal mechanisms that activate positive emotions and the reward system.” As we see designers focus on utilizing games in all aspects of our lives, the ability to help others tune into their bodies and positively affect their well-being is something video games can accel at above most other forms of entertainment.

On the whole, games have historically been seen as a problem. It has been hypothesized that video games cause obesity, social anxiety, and other debilitating problems children experience today. However, as more focused statistical research is being brought forth showcasing the opposite being true, games that target a healthy individual mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically are being created, opening a brand new world of experiences for the masses to enjoy. As technology grows, new platforms are created, and more research is completed, one can only imagine the benefits games will bring in the coming years.