The debate over the possible pitfalls and benefits of video games on the brain has been raging on for decades. Some insist that children should not be allowed to play any video games at all, that they are an unhealthy substitute for human interaction and physical activity. Proponents of video games, however, insist that they are an important resource for developing and training the minds of adults and children of all ages.
There have been a lot of studies recently, and many of them do seem to agree that playing video games can serve as a brain training exercise, enhancing problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and reflexes, to name a few. As a recent study by the University of Michigan states, however, video games can provide beneficial effects so long as they are played in moderation, preferably no more than two hours a week.
Keep reading to find out what some of the benefits of video games on the brain exactly are, and also what to be wary of.
Improved Hand-Eye Coordination
This is an example of developing spatial skills. In playing video games, players are made to translate the action on the screen to the movements of the controller in their hand. The more precise the hand movements, the more success and effectiveness the player will find in the game. Additionally, hand-eye coordination can be further improved by the more modern controller-less games that require direct and large motions of the hands and arms in order to play.
Concentration and Memory
While playing the game, players are often required to read and pay attention to the ongoing story that drives the game forward, causing them to concentrate and remember important information. Memory enhancement can be especially prevalent in games that incorporate memory-based games and challenges.
These memory-building aspects of video games are not only beneficial for building the minds of children and young adults, but it has been found that they can help maintain and rebuild the memories of seniors playing the games, too. In this way, video games can effectively take the place of conventional brain-training games that have become popular in recent years.
Problem Solving Skills and Adaptability
Like any game, video games operate under a set of rules that you have to abide by in order to play and have success in the game. While there are plenty of more traditional games with a wide range of rules that vary and force the players to think in different ways, the rules in video games are uniquely adaptable. As a game progresses or changes in location and objective, for instance, the capabilities of the player may change and each task at hand may require a completely different set of rules and approach than any of the previous.
This means that the player has to be extremely adaptable in their ways of thinking and approaching each situation, thinking both within and outside the box to find the appropriate moves and solutions. This, therefore, increases the problem-solving skills of the players involved in a way that is similar to ever-changing necessities and decisions of real life. Additionally, the quick-moving nature of many games mean that many of these decisions have to be made on the fly, requiring players to develop quick-thinking skills, too.
In addition to problem-solving in the heat of the moment, players are also often required to multitask to be successful in a game. For instance, at any given time a player may be aware of their health, their supplies, and whatever is going on in the moment, taking in all of this information in order to make the right game moves.
Many video games, especially story-centric games, definitely help written communication skills as the players must read what is happening on the screen in order to know what is happening in the game. A lot of games can also help with verbal communication. Many games are conducted via the internet now, allowing for other players all over the world to play together in the same game. For players that take advantage of this, they can work on developing their verbal communication and teamwork skills with other players in the safe and comfortable environment of their own home.
Moderation is Key!
Like all good things, moderation is key. Video games can be helpful for the development of a lot of visual and cognitive skills, but only to a point. Video game usage should be limited to just a few hours a week. Any more counteracts the benefits of video games on the brain, increasing the addictive and unhealthy nature of excess gaming, according to the University of Michigan study. So, let your child (or yourself) play video games every now and then—just do other things, too!
Feature image via Medical News Bulletin