Why Video Games Are Good for Youthe series where we look at the science behind some of the most important questions in life. And today we’re talking about can video games be good for you? Not gonna lie for the last few years, I’ve kinda believed that video games are a total waste of time because they’re unproductive and not particularly meaningful.
But I recently bought a PS4 to start streaming on Twitch. Follow me, please. And I’ve already wasted about 118 days of my life playing World of Warcraft.
And I’m thinking of getting back into it when the new expansion part comes out. And so the reason behind the research for this video was because I want to feel better about all the time that I’ve wasted and will continue to waste on video games.
And I want to look at the evidence to see whether there are actually any benefits of playing video games. Now there’s all sorts of nuanced bits that I’m not really gonna focus on. So there’s evidence about addiction and aggression and depression.
I’m not really gonna focus on the negative aspect of video games. This video is purely to illustrate the positive aspect of video games and the various ways in which they can make our lives happier, healthier, and more productive. So let’s dive into it.
Video games improve our memory
Firstly, we’ve got evidence that video games improve our memory and our visual navigational skills. This 2015 study from the University of California compared gamers versus non-gamers.
And they found that people who played 3D games performed better at memory tasks than people who played 2D games like Angry Birds and people who didn’t play any games at all.
They also took a group of non-gamers and split them up into three groups. The first group played Super Mario 64 a 3D game.
The second group played Angry birds 2D game, and the third group didn’t play any games at all. And they found that in those who practiced the 3D game for half an hour a day they had improved performance on certain memory tasks. Second thing we’ve got decent evidence that video games help improve our problem-solving ability.
This 2013 longitudinal study found that people who played more strategic video games actually had better problem-solving skills and also correlated with improved grades at school. And thirdly, we’ve got evidence from the University of Rochester that people who play video games tend to do better at allocating their attention.
Researcher, Dr. Daphne Beverly AL ran a functional MRI study into the mechanisms that control attentional allocation and she found the three areas of the brain associated with attention IE the parietal lobe, the frontal lobe, and the anterior cingulate cortex.
Brains were better at collecting visual
Those all had more efficient performance in people who play video games and people who didn’t. They also did some neural simulations and they found that people.
who played video games, their brains were better at collecting visual and auditory stimulus to be able to make decisions more effectively and efficiently than people who didn’t play video games.
Video games can help reduce cognitive decline
So all that kinda makes sense, but we know that video games require some level of cognitive performance and therefore it makes sense that if you’re playing lots of video games, you’d be better at performing those sorts of tasks in real life as well. But really interestingly, there’s also some evidence that video games can help reduce cognitive decline that happens naturally as we age.
This study from the University of Montreal is very interesting. They split up adults between the ages of 55 and 75 into three groups. One group was trained on video games IE Super Mario 64. The second group had piano lessons and the third group didn’t have anything at all.
The study found that an increase in gray matter within the hippocampus was significant only in the gaming group whereas the control group displayed significant gray matter loss. This is interesting because the gray matter in the hippocampus act as a marker for some neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and if it deteriorates over time, you’re more likely to develop these neurological disorders.
So that was on the anti-aging front, but there is also some evidence that video games might be able to help conditions like anxiety and depression. For example, this study from New Zealand used a specially designed game called Sparks to help teenagers who are dealing with depression.
And they found that remission rates were significantly higher in the Sparks arm, 43.7% than in the treatment as usual arm, 26.7%. So what they found was that the teenagers who had the video game were significantly more likely to have their depression cured or in remission than the people who just had therapy as usual. Now, obviously this was a specific video game designed to treat depression but, you know, it gives us some kinda evidence that maybe there’s some scope for video games to actually help reduce depression and anxiety and stuff like that. Finally, let’s talk about the social aspect of gaming.
Now there’s obviously this stereotype that video gamers have no social skills and just sit at home all day. And yeah, obviously sort of playing video games excessively and just playing video games and doing nothing else is probably bad for your social life. But to be honest, everything and access is kinda bad. And there’s some evidence that video gaming and moderation actually improves your social life.
This 2017 study from the UK for example, took a sample of 708 people who played massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft and Fortnite and they found various psychosocial benefits of playing these sorts of games. They said that their findings revealed positive relationship between MMO engagement measured by a multidimensional measure, gamer identity, and online social capital, additionally gamer identity related positively to self-esteem and social competence and negatively with loneliness.
So that is some evidence that maybe there are social aspects to gaming. And to be honest, one of the main reasons why I really enjoyed World of Warcraft was for the social aspect of it. I ended up making kind of internet friends with lots of people from all around the world.
And actually the reason me and my brother bought the PS4 was during lockdown, was to hang out with the boys in war zone because having a zoom call with someone or with a group of friends, it’s just a bit awkward. Whereas if you’re all in the same gaming session, then it’s like the conversation flows naturally.
It doesn’t feel forced and stilted like it does if you’re like specifically having a zoom call just to have a chat. So to be honest, after all this, my plan is that when the new World of Warcraft expansion pack Shadowlands comes out in November, I’m gonna be playing it. I’m gonna be streaming it on Twitch and maybe occasionally on YouTube. So you should definitely follow me on Twitch.
And over on Twitch I also stream myself studying for my exams and also designing and coding my website and sometimes like writing for videos and stuff. So it’s a nice place to hang out. Please follow my link in the video description. And if you like this video, you might like to check out the other videos in the series over here and that talks about whether reading fiction is good for you and whether drinking coffee is good for you.