Ever since their conception, video games have been in the hot seat in the media whenever something bad happens. Somebody has to blame something! In spite of the reams of scientific resources suggesting games are anything but bad, we still see them demonised in modern society just like the television was and even the novel! Sadly, the mentality that games are a waste of time is still a dominant one.
In a Forbes article, we learned that 26% of people think video games are a waste of time. And 30% of adults don’t think games are a better form of entertainment than TV. Yet, there is plenty of science pointing out that any one of your videogames can be brain games that feed your mind in some way.
Brain Food Is Found In Moderation
Turns out, it’s not just puzzle games that qualify as brain games. Pretty much anything at all that you like to play is good for your brain in some way. Like anything else, however, moderation is key. In a post on iflscience.com, Dr. Mark Griffiths flies in the face of the media naysayers, backing this up. He says:
“What’s also clear from the scientific literature is that the negative consequences of playing almost always involve people that are excessive video game players. There is little evidence of serious acute adverse effects on health from moderate play”.
Dr. Griffiths also states that his studies revealed young people on chemotherapy needed less painkillers when habitually playing videogames. Naturally, the mind is preoccupied by concentrating on other things. Yes, you can make this argument for anything requiring concentration. However, videogames and their immersive nature are surely the fastest route to therapeutic distraction. Sadly, your local GP is not about to prescribe you a brain games weekend omnibus of Overwatch to see you through your rainy days. That’s entirely up to you.
Many of the tasks our brain performs in RPGs are not too dissimilar from mathematical problem solving. From prioritizing which quests we want to do in what order, or managing inventory space – all these mental tasks are akin to compartmentalising information for retrieval later in the problem. Or in this case – the quest. Even in games like Call of Duty, pitching us in a virtual battlezone has our minds racing with thought equations, creating split second decision-making for every second of the match. Of course, whoever can run this process the fastest and most accurately make predictions will be the winner.
Brain Games & Theory
This direction of brain games leads us nicely into the academic side of things. The medical side, to be precise. It turns out, surgeons who like to pick up a controller from time to time are better at their craft! They will have a better sense of image recognition and finer tuned motor skills. In a post from Reuters, we learned that nine gamer doctors:
“made 37 percent fewer errors, performed 27 percent faster, and scored 42 percent better in the test of surgical skills than the 15 surgeons who had never played video games before.”
Again, flying in the face of the media witch hunt we endure, the post goes on to say parents should not be so concerned about their children playing videogames. Just don’t sink entire school holidays into GTA V! Aside from that – trust the surgeons!
It Even Helps Social Anxiety. That’s Right
There is a stereotype out there in the big bad world that suggests gamers are socially inept. For starters, this is a very harsh way to describe people who struggle to integrate. A stereotype it may be but sadly, there are some of us who can only find solace in videogames. We can immerse ourselves in another world and forget the worries and stresses of things that aren’t so worrisome for other people. In this virtual world, we are empowered. We feel safe. That’s not to suggest people who feel this way are perpetuating their social anxiety.
An article on geekandsundry.com has highlighted a counter argument to that last sentence. Something that many gamers have argued the point for, only for it to fall on deaf ears. MMORPGs like World of Warcraft are incredibly good at leveraging this sense of safety and integrating it with communication being a core part of the game. People with anxiety issues can communicate safely, without the pressures of a face to face environment. On top of that, it’s an environment they can feel themselves in. So, the trick is, transferring that sense of relaxation to the real world.
What About The Actual Brain Training Game?
Ironically, the Brain Training game available on the Nintendo DS and the many others like it, have been found to be ineffective at sharpening focus. They’re simply not ‘multi dimensional’ enough to really stimulate so many parts of the brain. So, as we can learn from sciencedaily.com’s post, videogames in the more conventional sense qualify far better as brain games. This is where there’s a lot more going on.
These kinds of games are better for dealing with anxiety as they tend to have a higher rate of reward-giving mechanics. The ‘reward’ hit experienced by the brain is known for releasing small bursts of Dopamine which has a plethora of positive side effects. One of them being – combating social anxiety.
So the next time somebody gives you a hard time for playing games, you now have a little something to bounce back at them with. Though, the saying ‘everything is good…in moderation’ is true even when it comes to playing video games. If you want to feed your brain with brain games (that isn’t Brain Training) that involve lots of jumping and shooting, go ahead! It’s not as bad for you as people may insist.