Gaming is often associated with wasting your time and most of the kids get scolded by their parents for playing video games. Video games are often considered over-thrilling and are thought to have a negative impact on an individual’s health. But research over the years made scientists believe that video games might be having a positive impact on your body. There are still a lot of things researchers are trying to make sense of but for now, they have sufficient evidence to show the beneficial effects of video gaming and online gaming. Although you might keep hearing about violence because of gaming, some research studies are trying to change the way you perceive online games. An optimistic side of the gaming world is being shown that can help individuals in various ways including better eyesight, quick learning, enhanced mental focus, increased awareness, being empathetic, and multitasking. According to the studies, gamers are becoming more helpful, thoughtful, and feel free to share their emotions with their virtual gaming friends. So it becomes essentially important to look beyond our fixed mindset to make our gaming experience worthwhile. Daphne Bavelier is a neuroscientist who quoted the mindset about video gaming as “We know there are good sugars and bad sugars, and we don’t discuss whether food in general is good or bad for us” and “We need to be far more nuanced when we talk about the effects of video games.” Everything has a good and a bad side to it but all of us are looking only at the bad side of gaming. We need to expand our thinking beyond criticizing the negative aspects of playing online games. Let us look at some of the bright sides of gaming through this article.
Fast information processing
Games of different genres have different kinds of impacts on human behavior, it might be the reason we have been looking through the same lens towards all of the games for so long that people did not change their outlook towards gaming with changing times and technology. A racing game has a different impact on a person’s brain while a puzzling game might create another kind of neural impact. It majorly depends on a game how we are going to feel. Hindsight into gaming led scientists to understand how little they know about the impacts of video games.
While gamers are playing fast-paced games such as racing, shooting, or fighting games, they are required to react quickly and hence develop neural networks that help process information faster and improve over time. A study by Bavelier and Green hypothesized that such types of games help players with multi-tasking, predicting, and processing as gamers keep getting constant feedback through scores while playing. According to another study, researchers demonstrated that gamers who played action games at least 4 days a week for one hour, performed better at solving complex information than non-gamers. They were able to process complex information, switch between tasks easily, and be capable of focusing better and quicker.
Enhanced mental focus and Quick reaction time
A research team asked non-gamers to play Medal of Honor (first-person shooting game) for at least one hour a day for 10 days and another group to play Tetris (puzzle game). This study revealed that the gamer’s focus on environmental cues was enhanced with a significant improvement than those who played the classic puzzle game. This happened because of the type of game they were playing, as shooting games require much more focus and enhance your concentration skills over time. Other studies also developed similar results and found that gamers are capable of identifying distractions and responding quickly in order to focus on their main task. Researchers wanted to find the reason behind the enhanced focus and thus performed electroencephalography (EEG) on gamers as well as non-gamers while conducting a test on them. They were asked to look at a screen that showed three rapid sequences of letters one by one. They had to focus on one of the three letters and press a button when numbers appeared without getting distracted. EEG headsets allowed researchers to monitor gamers’ neural activity while they were focusing or getting distracted. Both gamers and non-gamers were able to avoid distractions but gamers were able to do it faster than non-gamers. And specifically, action gamers were much better at ignoring irrelevant information and distractions.
One of the most common things our parents say when we play games is “Don’t hurt your eyes.” But scientists have something else to say. They believe that video gaming might actually be improving your eyesight as gamers are found to have a stronger vision. Studies have revealed that gamers are better at distinguishing between different shades of colors. This ability is known as contrast sensitivity. This ability comes in handy when you’re driving at night or in weather with poor visibility. Gamers are also found to have a sharp vision that helps in looking at distant objects.
Scientists also believe that gaming could actually improve the vision of non-gamers too. They asked two groups of non-gamers to play action games and slower games such as COD 2 and The Sims respectively over a significant period of time. Their study concluded that the contrast sensitivity of non-gamers actually improved; those who played COD got better results than The Sims’ players. And the impact lasted for almost five months. Hence, it is proved that action games can assist in improving the vision of a gamer.
Improved mental visualization
It is very famous and old research that says, men tend to perform better than women when asked to rotate 2D and 3D objects in their heads. They have an exceptional ability to visualize objects. But Jing Feng, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, was shocked to see the results of a study he performed. He asked non-gamers to play either Medal of Honor or the Ballance (3D puzzle game) for 10 hours over various sessions. Game training helped both men and women enhance their gaming skills. Moreover, the results showed that females performed better at gaming sessions and scored more than men. And the effects of this training were seen for over 5 months. This study helped break gender barriers in gaming. It is an example of nothing but a gender gap in society that is close to being eliminated by studies such as the one conducted by Jing Feng on gaming.
When gaming can have such huge physical and psychological effects on us, does it also affect the way we think and behave emotionally? Yes, it does! But it also depends on the type of game you play; some games are social and some are violent. Online gaming platforms present themselves as a safe space to stay connected and develop friendships. Multiplayer games allow teenagers as well as adults to connect socially. Multiplayer games are all about playing together in a team and hence developing a sense of belonging together. Many social communities such as female players, black people, and people retired from the army are coming out on gaming platforms that are oppressed or ignored in the real world. Most gamers play with players of their age group and hence feel comfortable sharing their happiness and insecurities with fellow team players. Studies also suggest that gamers who played multiplayer games that involved planning, cooperating, and helping were able to help people in real life. In a similar study, when gamers were told that their partner would get $10 gift vouchers if they could complete a puzzle, social gamers chose easier puzzles as compared to those who played violent games. Now we have enough evidence to understand that the type of game we play affects the way we think. Hence, it’s up to us what we want ourselves to become.
Our brains get shaped by the decisions we make and the path we choose for ourselves. Playing games changes the way we think and behave, so we must make a decision wisely and should not indulge in violent games. No matter how much games impact us positively, we should never play beyond our limits.