“It’s a waste of time!” “Do something actually good for you!” “Get off the couch and do something productive for once!”
Do these motherly calls sound familiar? Especially if you’re a gamer?
Well I have news for your mom and everyone over the age of 30 who thinks video games are a waste of time: they’re not.
The following academic studies were conducted recently and indicate that video games have physical and psychological benefits, overall making you a better human being.
In November 2013, German researchers released a study they had conducted for two months. They asked 23 adults with a median age of 25 to play the popular game “Super Mario 64” for 30 minutes a day over a two-month period. A separate control group did not play any games at all.
Using MRI technology, the researchers found that the gaming group had a huge increase in activity in three major areas of the brain: the right hippocampus, the right prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum. In other words, the gaming group had better spatial navigation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills in the hands.
In the same year, the University of Iowa released a study in which its researchers found that video games help slow down the aging process. Six hundred eighty one healthy senior citizens were given various computer games to play, and in some cases playing video games stalled the natural decline of different cognitive skills by up to seven years.
Why? The answer is actually quite simple. As Jason Allaire, a psychology professor at the North Carolina State University, puts it, “Games are cognitively complex and require mental energy and abilities to play them. Whenever you do anything that requires mental energy, you’re exercising your abilities -it’s just like if you exercise your muscles, you get stronger.”
The next study is truly amazing. In 2012, New Zealand researchers experimented with the idea that video gaming could be the cure for mental illnesses, rather than the cause (as they have been prematurely labeled). Their hypothesis was confirmed. The researchers created a game called “SPARX.” The name stands for “Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic and X-factor thoughts,” which are common strategies in fighting against depression. In the game, the user would create an avatar to fight the “bad guys” (which represented the negative, automatic thoughts), much like popular video games Skyrim and Saints Row.
The researchers split a group of 168 teenagers struggling with depression in half; one would go through regular treatment, meaning five sessions of one-on-one counseling, and one would play the new SPARX game. The results? Forty four percent of those who played the SPARX game fully recovered from depression, while 26% of the control group fully recovered.
So despite supposed connections between video games and killing your brain, these academic stories prove that, yes, your mom is wrong, and you are right. Video games are actually good for you.