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Top 10 (Proven) Health Benefits of Video Games

Most gamers play games for one reason: because they’re fun. The things that makes us happy in life are always worth indulging in, we only get one life and we should enjoy it as much as we can; but there are those who claim that gaming is bad for us though. Whether they claim games are making us anti-social, violent or just plain fat, the mainstream media loves to demonize games and make us feel guilty about playing. The truth though is that there are many legitimate health benefits to our hobby, and here are a few of them:

10. Pain Relief

It’s certainly painful where you’re on a 24 kill streak and get sneakily taken out by some camping mofo, or when you lose online to some racist, sexist, homophobic moron on Xbox live. Games can also help relieve pain as well as inflict it though.

For those suffering from depression or another mental disorder, video games offer a way for them to relax and cope with the pain during the wee hours of the night when it’s hard to turn off their brains. Video games are also reported to help those suffering from chronic pain because it distracts them and reportedly builds up their pain tolerance.

Of particular interest is the recent work done with Virtual Reality games. For those that don’t remember the early 90’s, virtual reality was a stupid pair of googles you put on your head that we all thought would make you enter a game world like in The Matrix, but actually made you feel sick and bump into things. Nonetheless Jeffrey I. Gold, Ph.D. said “Virtual reality produces a modulating effect that is endogenous, so the analgesic influence is not simply a result of distraction but may also impact how the brain responds to painful stimuli,”.

That’s science-talk for “totally kicks pain’s ass”.

Games That Can Help:
Virtual Reality
Virtual Boy games *snigger*

9. Weight Loss

While formerly a purely sedentary pastime, videogames have recently become the equivalent of the angry drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. They bark instructions at us like: “Jump”, “run on the spot”, ”sing, “dance”, “do press ups”, “play drums”, “stretch” and “throw a controller into a flat screen tv”. And how do we react to these instructions? We obey them of course! Like we do with any Space Commander asking us to wipe out a race of insectoid bio-aliens, or an Elven lord asking us to free the Kingdom of Nonsensia, we as gamers are programmed to do as we are told.

The benefit of this unthinking obedience is that it can make us engage in positive activities. We follow instructions so well that we will even leave the comfortable womb of our sofa ass-groove and physically sweat. We will do exercise, real exercise, if incentivised to do it by a game. Decades of TV documentaries have warned us about the dangers of heart disease, but its games like Dance Central, Warioware Smooth Moves and Wii Fit that have actually make us use our atrophied limbs for something other than shovelling food and lifting a remote. Sure, we don’t all play these games, but the people who do (and who take them seriously) see real world benefits. You know, little benefits like living ten years longer.

Games That Can Help:
Wii Fit
Dance Central
Rockband (drums)

8. Increased Self-Esteem

It would be hard to imagine anyone who managed to improve their physical condition through gaming wouldn’t also see an increase in their self esteem. If you’re a 200 pound couch gorilla and Wii Fit helped you slim down enough to buy clothes from a non-specialist store then it’s a fair bet that you probably feel a whole lot better about yourself.

But gaming self esteem benefits can come from more than just physical improvement. In her book, Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal highlights several key studies showing that gaming actively makes us better people by raising our self esteem.

In her own case, McGonigal was able to get over crippling neurological and emotional problems by making a game out of her own recovery. She has gone on to proselytise on the benefits of social and team work in games in making us all better at communicating, working together and developing our own self confidence and self esteem. Sure, she then went on to popularise the truly awful term: “gameification”, but at least she’s giving us all a good excuse when our mums/partners/wives/starving pets tell us we play too many games. We’re not just playing games, we’re re-establishing our self worth….by shooting dudes in the face.

Games That Can Help:
MMORPG’s
Wii Fit
Dance Central
Modern Warfare

7. Fitness

The only problem with the explosion of exercise games is the horrible terms that have been coined by researchers to describe them. I mean, exergaming, and exertainment? Seriously?

Despite the icky-ness of these terms, games like Wii Fit have made it semi-feasible to become fit and healthy without having to venture outside. This is a huge benefit to gamers who stereotypically fear the things that exist in the outside world like sunlight, human interaction and those confusing but intriguing individuals we know as “females”.

Games That Can Help:
Wii Fit
My Fitness Coach
EA Sports Active

6. Improved Social Skills

I know, I know. Bear with me.

Gamers are introverted loners who can’t communicate with the outside world, right? They’re locked up in dark bedrooms and talk in a series of muffled grunts and snorts like mindless animals connected to soulless machines. They’re like the humans in pods in the matrix, but with less weird pink liquid (most of the time).

Apparently… not.

In 2008 a Swedish researcher performed a social experiment where they used World of Warcraft in all of their lessons with a group of students for a whole year. These 15 year olds were “under-motivated” and were the poorest performing students in that year. By using WOW, they were taught about politics using proportial representation to vote on where and when they would perform in-game raids. They used mathematical formulae to determine the best DPS (damage per second) for their character builds and they studied economics through the in-game gold markets.

Most importantly however, the researchers noted how the students who were often loners or belonged to very small social groups got to know one another better. Their grades improved markedly, but they saw an even larger increase in their communication skills. These lonely and disenfranchised young men and women learned how to talk to each other as well as how to talk to strangers online. What years of school and formal classes had failed to achieve, they attained through gaming.

Just goes to show, there’s more to World of Warcraft than slaying orcs.

Games That Can Help:
World of Warcraft
Eve Online
Rift
Age of Conan

5. Improved Dexterity

Did you think all that time you spent getting incredibly frustrated with Trauma Centre on the Wii or DS was wasted? Well it turns out that surgery games could be more beneficial than you think.

For surgeons, video game play allows them to opportunity to improve their dexterity which means less mistakes in the operating room. A study conducted with laparascopic surgeons found that those who played video games to improve dexterity were 27 percent faster and made 37 percent less errors than those who don’t partake in a little video game action.

So while playing a few hours on the Wii certainly doesn’t qualify you to remove your cousins appendix, you should still appreciate how games may be the difference between a successful operation and a….well a dead dude. If you have a surgeon who makes 37 percent less errors that’s a lot less dead dudes, and if you’re one of the non-dead ones, then you could say a videogame saved your life.

So next time you’ve got a choice between two surgeons to open you up and mess with your innards, check which one has the highest gamerscore first!

Games That Can Help:
Trauma Center
Heavy Rain
Cooking Mama

4. Stress relief

And speaking of shooting dudes in the face, doesn’t it feel good! Whether it’s the satisfaction of blowing guys away in Modern Warfare or dragon punching Chun Li in Streetfighter, there’s something visceral and satisfying about games. That feeling of satisfaction is exactly what we need to chase away the stress of modern life.

Whether it’s kids kicking your shins on public transport as their parents look on oblivious or waiting in line for coffee behind someone who must examine every cake in detail before ordering a grande half-fat mocha-choca-lotta-frotha-cino, modern life is inherently stressful. To get us through our worst days we need something to look forward to. When we’re in the office listening to the same dull people tell the same boring stories, we yearn for the chance to topple galactic tyrants, slay dragons as large as mountains and obliterate enemy combatants with missile launchers…and games let us do that.

A study conducted by PopCap Games found that 88% of people play video games to help alleviate stress. A moment playing one of their excellent titles like Peggle or Plants Vs Zombies will show you how effective games are at doing just that.

Games That Can Help:
Peggle
Plants Vs Zombies
Streetfighter 4

3. Improved Eyesight

Do you remember when your parents told you not to sit so close to the TV or you would ruin your eyes? Yeah, that was rubbish. The same is true with anyone who says videogames damage your eyesight….well except maybe for those eye-exploding Nintendo 3DS things.

If you suffer from a lazy eye or have trouble driving at night, video game play may actually help you improve your eyesight. An article published in Nature Neuroscience stated that video games have been known to improve contrast sensitivity.

Ok, so it’s not like playing games will make you have super vision or anything. You won’t develop x-ray vision if you play Halo for ten thousand hours. I guess if you play games that much you probably don’t have a job and ergo can’t afford an optician…but that’s really no one’s fault but your own.

Games That Can Help:
Anything, really. Maybe a Dead or Alive game. Those always do pretty well for my eyes.

2. Learning

This is pretty much a catch all category for the beneficial things we can learn from games. Whether it’s learning about renaissance Italy from Assassins Creed Brotherhood or getting to know the national flags of the major footballing nations from the team select screen in FIFA, games allow us to acquire knowledge.

The best thing is that there is no limit to what games can teach us. Just as a book can be written on any subject, a game can teach us about anything too. Whether it’s what type of cars they drove on the 40’s (LA Noire), how Japanese armies mobilised for war (Shogun) or what’s the most dangerous modern automatic shotgun (Black Ops), there’s no limit to the domains of knowledge that games can cover.

It’s not just knowledge that we can acquire either. According to Professor James Gee of the University of Wisconsin, video games are an excellent choice for the cognitive development in children and adults. He explains that we get better at navigating mazes in games, we are actually getting better at the act of navigating mazes, not just better at the game.

Of course there’s hasn’t been a game developed yet to help gamers learn how to talk to girls. Whoever figures that out will be a millionaire overnight.

Games That Can Help:
Assassins Creed Brotherhood
LA Noire
FIFA
Anything really

1. Faster Response Times

Perhaps the most logical of all of the entries on this list, but a benefit nonetheless. It turns out that a lifetime of twitch gaming makes you more likely to react quickly in real life.

A study in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science showed that players who played video games regularly scored higher in reaction times, even when tested under circumstances not involving actual games. In other words, come the zombie apocalypse, give the shotgun to the guy who plays the most Left 4 Dead.

Games That Can Help:
Time Crisis
Counter Strike
Street Fighter 4

MOAR FROM CALMDOWNTOM!

4 Comments

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  1. 09/20/2013, 5:55 PM

    […] other benefits that playing video games can have. So today’s post is going to discuss the benefits of gaming  as well as how it will continue to evolve […]

  2. Chester says
    06/04/2013, 8:34 AM

    I can’t deny that video games really improves my way of thinking and helps me to be a team player. That’s a good thing right? But the point is you should know you’re limit and be responsible enough to know when to stop and prioritize the things more important than the game such as studying.

  3. 09/11/2012, 8:47 AM

    hehe like this page

  4. fg says
    01/04/2012, 5:31 PM

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