Steam’s annual Summer Sale is well underway. I, like others, will find it irresistible to resist the siren call of cheap video games, despite my already-existing Steam backlog. Of course, when it comes to playing video games, like everything else in life, moderation is key. But the good news that a wealth of new research suggests that in moderation, there are a lot of benefits of video games for a lot of different people.
For example, video games:
- Can reduce stress and depression in adolescents. Ceranoglu (2010) mentions numerous instances in which troubled adolescents were able to connect with their therapists – even adolescents that had failed therapy before – through the use of video games as medium of communication between therapist and patient.
- Are playing a role in health care. For example, video games are used in pain management, particularly in children. Video games provide distraction and can help ease the discomfort of children going through chemotherapy. In addition to the psychotherapeutic benefits of video games discussed above, video games can act as a form of occupational therapy for patients with hand or arm injuries.
- Improve cognitive abilities, including attention and memory. Researchers have been interested in the cognitive effects of video games since their advent; in fact, early research found that players of Pac-Man had better response times than non-players (Boot et al). More recently, a study of non-gamers and gamers found that the two groups differed on a number of skills: avid gamers could track objects moving at greater speeds, better detect changes to objects stored in their visual short-term memory, and switch quickly from one task to another.
- Keep older individuals sharp. A group of researchers conducted a study in which 40 older adults, all novice video game players, completed a series of cognitive tests. The experiment group then played real-time strategy game Rise of Nations for a total of 24 hours, spread across hour-long sessions over a month. At the end of the month, not only had the game performance of these total newbies improved, they scored better on some of the cognitive tests than their non-gaming control group counterparts.
So go ahead, splurge on that game you’ve been meaning to check out. It’s better for you than you think it is.
1. Basak, Root, Voss, Kramer. “Can Training in a Real-Time Strategy Video Game Attenuate Cognitive Decline in Older Adults?” Psychology and Aging, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2008.
2. Griffiths. “Video games and health.” BMJ, 2005.
3. Ceranoglu. “Video Games in Psychotherapy.” Review of General Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2010.
4. Boot, Kramer, Simons, Fabiana, Gratton. “The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control.” Acta Psychologica, 2008.