Evidence abounds about the health benefits of video games. They include:
- Overcoming dyslexia. Action games may reduce the effects of developmental dyslexia.
- Improving vision. Action video games are associated with enhancements in contrast sensitivity, visual acuity and crowding, peripheral vision, and temporal processing.
- Increasing physical activity. There’s probably no senior living center in the nation that doesn’t offer Wii Fit. About a third of the games on the system meet guidelines for moderate intensity physical activity after 8 minutes of activity. Kinect for the Xbox 360 has been proven to increase physical activity in children.
- Enhancing creativity. Children who played video games scored higher in creativity, and it didn’t matter what kind of video games they played. An earlier study using Dance Dance Revolution showed that creativity scores were highest for players who were physically stimulated and felt positive after playing the game.
- Improving memory and cognition. Some studies show that action video games improve the ability to switch between tasks more efficiently, multitask, and mentally rotate objects. Action video games are linked to improvements in working memory and fluid intelligence, but studies have not been definitive.
- Relieving pain. Playing an engaging video game or virtual reality game may distract people from pain. One study using Wii Play Bubble theorizes that it may be more effective than medication.
- Building connections. Playing games led to more social behaviors among children, but the reason for the benefit should apply to anyone. Massive multiplayer online games (not necessarily role-playing) require developing strategies with friends and others.
- Preventing/alleviating depression. Research by North Carolina State University with participants around the age of 77 showed that occasional gamers and frequent gamers performed significantly better on measures of well-being, negative affect, and depression than non-gamers.
- Speeding up decision-making ability. Action video games have been shown to increase visual attentional skills, which is especially important for older adults, because these skills may prevent driving accidents.
- Curbing cravings. An experiment using Tetris on the Gameboy indicated that playing the game for as little as 3 minutes helped curb cravings for food, alcohol, and cigarettes.
- Lowering stress. One study showed that violent video games lowered stress. Another found a correlation between the total number of hours spent playing action games and recovery from work-related stress. The casual video games used were called BJW 2 (a matching-sequencing game), PGL (pachinko), and BWA (crossword-type word game). You can probably guess what games they actually resemble.
- Improving hand-eye coordination. Action video games develop coordination and other skills required by surgeons and pilots.
However, not all video games are alike. Certain games improve memory, but do little for your hand-eye coordination. Others increase your physical activity, but do nothing to improve your vision.
Video Games Can Improve Your Health
Some Action Games Improve Cognition
Some scientists argue that action games, including some violent ones, improve cognitive function. Action games, including first-person shooters (e.g., Wolfenstein: The New Order) and third-person shooters (e.g., Grand Theft Auto V), “have been shown to enhance many cognitive functions.”
The study specifically excludes building/exploration games (e.g., Minecraft), social games (e.g., The Sims 2), phone games (e.g., Angry Birds, Candy Crush) and online card games (e.g., Hearthstone) as having features that affect cognition, although they may offer other benefits.
Games that do offer cognitive benefits include those that “have complex 3D settings, that feature quickly moving targets that pop in and out of view, that necessitate substantial visual processing of the periphery, that include large amounts of clutter and task-irrelevant objects, that require the player to consistently switch between highly focused and highly distributed attention, and that require the player to make rapid, but accurate decisions,” note the study authors.
The authors conclude, “Playing action video games has been linked with myriad enhancements in cognitive function, from low-level vision through high-level cognitive abilities, while playing many other types of games fails to produce equivalent impact on perception and cognition.”
Strategy games, such as StarCraft, may improve cognitive flexibility. Rise of Nations improved participants’ working memory, task-switching, visual short-term memory, and mental rotation skills of older adults. Other strategy games include XCom Enemy Unknown and Civilization V.
Problem-solving and spatial reasoning skills improved after training on Portal 2, a 3D puzzle game.
Results from Brain-Training Games Vary
The results from brain-training games are mixed, in part because many of them are gamified tests. However, car-racing game NeuroRacer improved multitasking, sustained attention and working memory for older adults for at least 6 months after they stopped training. Unlike many other brain-training games though, NeuroRacer is designed as a racing game.
Wii Bowling and Other Group Games Promote Socialization
A study among older adults in what is called a care facility in Australia and is a nursing home here in the U.S. showed the benefits of Wii bowling. “Participation in a group activity playing Wii bowling may lead to a decrease in the levels of depression experienced, as well as higher levels of social support and sense of belonging, and increased meaningful social interaction.”
First-Person Shooters Develop Hand-Eye Coordination
Although Call of Duty is probably the best-known first-person shooter, others include Battlefield 4, Titanfall, and Destiny. These games also call on the type of skills you need for safe driving.
Action Role-Playing Games Enhance Decision-Making Skills
Although the action is slower than in a first-person shooter, role-playing gamers still must make fast decisions. These types of games also require inductive reasoning. They include Diablo, The Elder Scrolls, and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Casual Video Games May Reduce Depression and Stress
Experiments using casual video games, such as Bejeweled 2, Solitaire, Pachinko, and Words with Friends, showed reductions in depression and stress. Researchers theorize that other casual video games, such as Candy Crush, Sudoku, and Farmville may provide similar benefits.
Some casual video games, such as Tenacity and Zen Garden, are designed specifically to relieve stress.
Multiplayer Games Improve Social Skills and Provide Socialization
Multiplayer games involve communication and, usually, strategy development. As a result, players use social skills and derive the benefits of socialization, which include improved health. Multiplayer games include Minecraft, WarCraft and many team sports games.
Older gamers schedule games on Better with Age Gaming, providing additional opportunities for socialization.
Find out more about how The Esquiline provides programs to increase the physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness of residents by contacting us.