When it comes to self-improvement, many people might view playing video games as a distraction rather than an actual way of getting ahead. When you’re putting all of those turns into Civilisation, or playing endless rounds of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, then you’re not doing something useful like push-ups and essay-writing.
But there’s considerable reason to suppose that gaming actually confers a number of benefits, which should not be overlooked. Sure, some of these are exaggerated by gamers in order to justify (often to themselves) excessive playtime. But that doesn’t mean that those benefits aren’t there.
Given this, you may want to keep up-to-date with the latest consoles and therefore you might be tempted to sell your old console with a view to an upgrade. But will going next gen help improve certain areas of your brain?
A study from California Irvine raised eyebrows in 2015, with its conclusion that playing games can actually improve memory. Players were asked to play Angry Birds and Super Mario 3D World for two weeks. Those playing the 3D game experienced a measurable improvement in memory. It’s often suggested that a stimulating, active lifestyle can limit cognitive decline – but the same might be true of a virtual environment.
Playing video games trains the brain to make faster decisions which are no less accurate than the ones you spend agonising over. At least, that’s the conclusion of another group of cognitive scientists, this time from the University of Rochester. Players who were exposed to fast-paced arena-shooters like Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty experienced measurable gains; those that played more leisurely games like The Sims 2 did not.
Many of us look to the world of videogames for release when the world of real life is grinding us down. A few rounds of FIFA, or a beat-em-up, might lead to a rapid improvement in mood. The more engaging and stimulating the game, the more effectively it can bust stress.
The best games are the engrossing ones. If the onscreen experience is sufficiently compelling, then the player tends to stop worrying about what’s going on in the world around them. Their attention is utterly focussed on earning the next prize – whether it’s lining up a headshot, or lining up a row of coloured gems, escape from reality is a key mental health benefit. Provided, naturally, that it’s pursued in moderation.
Moderation is Key
There’s always too much of a good thing. Playing a game for a few hours a week can be beneficial; playing it for a dozen hours a day can be severely debilitating. Striking a balance between the two is the responsibility of the individual – or the supervising parents.