They’ve been called time wasters and the bane of parents who want to see their kids finish their homework, but there’s evidence that playing video games can be beneficial to our physical and mental health. How?
1. They can improve your vision
A 2009 study by the University of Rochester showed that participants who played action games for ten weeks improved their ability to discern different shades of grey, while a 2011 study done by the University of Berkeley had a group of players with Amblyopia – more commonly known as lazy eye – play action games with their good eye covered. When the study was complete, the gamers had their eye function improve by up to 40%, and, in some cases, even be restored to normal levels.
2. They can help surgeons perform better
A study conducted by the Beth Israel Medical Center in 2007 noted that inexperienced surgeons who played video games did 42% better on laparoscopic surgery, were 27% faster, and made 37% fewer errors than surgeons who didn’t play video games.
3. They can help improve our ability to learn
Because gamers have to interpret vast amounts of data while playing, video games can potentially strengthen and improve the brains ability in analyzing information and decision making; a 2014 study by the University of Rochester had non-gamers play action-focused games for nine weeks, leading to improved scores on pattern-recognition tests, suggesting that playing improved their cognitive abilities.
4. They can help us manage stress
A 2010 study at Texas A&M University in which teens and young adults were chosen to complete frustrating tasks found that those who played action-focused video games showed less frustration and a better ability to manage stress than other groups, a finding also suggested by a 2014 study at the University College in London that found that the more hours people spent playing action games, the less stressed they were from the pressures of everyday life.
5. They can help improve cognitive abilities in the elderly
Perhaps the most exciting benefit of playing video games is that they could possibly help the elderly combat age-related decline in the brain. A 2013 study by the University of California San Francisco had participants ranging from 60 to 85 participate in a video game where they had to drive a car while performing other tasks. After one month, tests showed improvements in multi-tasking, memory, and sustained attention, to the point where the participants could outperform 20 year-olds trying the game for the first time.
Another study, done by the University of Illinois in 2008, had people in their late 60’s play real-time strategy games over an 8 week period, after which they showed notable improvements in switching between tasks, the ability to plan and schedule, and reasoning abilities.
While there’s still much research to be done before any conclusions can be drawn, science has shown that video games, when used in moderation, might offer more benefits than a few hours of fun and enjoyment.