When people hear the word “gamer”, they usually assume this person is a nerd who sits in front of a screen all day, surrounded by junk food and with no social life whatsoever.
Thanks to the media, video games are the most misunderstood type of entertainment and have been subject to loads of misconceptions. In this article, I will try to preset from a different point of view, this image of us, the gamers, (as I’m one of these nerds), and alter the perception of the public by separating facts from myths based on what the researchers have shown about video games and how they can improve cognitive and everyday skills.
Video games can improve vision
“You’re gonna go blind by sitting this close to the screen all day” – this might be the most common threat children have heard from their parents. Well, researches have shown quite the opposite and games actually improve your visual contrast sensitivity which means a gamer can distinguish the shades of grey in a colored background. This is very useful while driving at night, for example. Other researches have shown that video games can help in the treatment of a condition called “lazy eye” which is a disorder that starts in the early years of childhood when one of the eyes becomes mostly nonfunctional. In this research, the scientists covered the functional eye and made the participant play with the lazy eye, the result was surprising – the eye showed a great improvement almost to normal functioning within a short time and the participants demonstrated their ability to coordinate the input from both eyes had been restored to normal.
Better decision-making skills
Gamers don’t need a study to confirm this statement, because when you’re in the middle of the game you have to make dozens of decisions in a minute, process all the variables and the factors of the game, so players have to adapt quickly and make well-justified decisions in seconds. Action video games such as “Call of Duty” are usually fast-paced and many things are popping up and going on. In order to win, a player has to take in sensory data, process it, and then decide on the actions. With a process that sometimes is happening within seconds, it can well be stated that video games can strengthen the decision-making ability and enhance perceptual functions.
Video games may help in slowing down aging
Aging might be the most dreaded part of life since Gilgamesh and his epic journey to look for the secret of immortality. People do plastic surgeries and inject themselves with things just to look young. Like the body, the brain needs to exercise in order to stay sharp and in shape. Surprisingly, video games might help with that. A study, conducted with participants who were 50 and older, involved playing video games for five to eight weeks. The results show that after only ten hours of playing, the participants’ cognitive flexibility, attention, and working memory were improving and these improvements can stay in effect for several years. Another study came to the conclusion that video games also help in bettering self-concepts and enhancing the quality of life in elderly participants.
Video games can improve social skills!
Contrary to the stereotype about gamers and how they are usually being introverts and anti-social creatures, the studies show that nowadays most games involved in multiplayer online games have large socializing skills. Multiplayer gaming involves constant communication between the players as they need to engage in the game simultaneously and that results in creating a new form of socializing around things they have in common, things to talk about. That leads to meaningful and casual relationships among players. Some studies have shown that video games can also be a motivation for people to meet in person. About 70 percent of all players occasionally gather to play with friends. For me, video games are one of the reasons to have good people in my life, who I can call friends, and I’ve met them online.
Games improve the brain’s speed and the ability to learn
During a game, the brain usually gives and receives many audiovisual instructions. Research from the UK suggests that gamers can process these instructions faster than others because of the constant input from the game which boasts the cognitive flexibility to ensure that the brain is continuously working to interpret these instructions. Also, games motivate curiosity and thirst for knowledge as many games base their stories on real historical events. These games ignite a spark to dig more about history, to know more about the characters and places in the game. Some education institutions use video games as a teaching methodology as it’s been mentioned above that gaming stimulates the brain. These games are designed to help children improve their academic skills by providing video games that are specifically aimed at enhancing their cognitive and creative skills.
That being said, I hope this list will help clear the misconception on video games and it might help you explain to your friends and family if they are the kind of people who still blame games for bad school grades and antisocial behavior. Let’s hope that one day they will realize how games have actually been improving our lives in some ways.
However, bear in mind gaming should be exercised in moderation and one cannot spend the whole day glued to the screen. Remember: it is essential to choose the right game since not all of them provide the same cognitive benefits.
-By Marianne Wolf