Feature: How Gaming Can Be Good For You

Written by Katie Allen on Sun, Nov 17, 2013 5:00 PM

Anyone who hasn't been fortunate enough to grow up with gamers for parents probably resigned themselves for the duration of their childhood to hearing the same negative messages about gaming. "Don't play for too long, you'll get square eyes" or "I wish you'd spend more time doing something useful, like sport".

Year after year, we hear the same repeated, negative messages. Teenagers who go on murder sprees: it’s all because they played Call of Duty occasionally. The western world's obesity epidemic is nothing to do with diet or exercise; it's because we're all playing too much Mass Effect!

Any gamer knows that the experience of gaming is a far from negative one. Reaction time, problem solving skills and socialization are just a few of the happy side effects of the generally rewarding a fun experience of playing a particularly beautiful or well thought out game. Fortunately, science – for the most part – agrees. Now we are not suggesting you give your 5 year-old child GTA V to play or go on 40 hour Battlefield binges  where you don't eat of leave the house, but moderate gaming can improve a whole host of things. We've compiled just a few of the best examples of how gaming can be good for you.

Gaming Can Greatly Improve Spatial Awareness, Accuracy And Motor Skills

Anyone used to playing FPS games will probably be unsurprised that this genre in particular has been noted as a great way of improving accuracy and spatial awareness, with people who played these games on average able to make decisions around 25% quicker than those who did not. Interestingly, in studies acted out by the University of Toronto on subjects playing Medal of Honor, the female subjects tested showed an even greater improvement than their male counterparts, to the point where the expected gender distinction between them was eradicated. 

Probably the greatest (and most worthy of bragging rights) study of this kind so far was research from Iowa State University in 2007, which compared surgeons who played video games to those who did not when they performed complex laparoscopic surgery; a method of surgery where tiny cameras, thin tools are used to perform surgery through small incisions without excessive invasion. Those who played games were 27% faster and 37% more accurate than those who didn't.

“The single best predictor of [the surgeon's] skills is how much they had played video games in the past and how much they played now,” psycologist and research head Douglas Gentile said. “Those were better predictors of surgical skills than years of training and number of surgeries performed.”

So, next time anyone you know needs an operation, maybe the question you ought to be asking them is "so ... how much do you game?"

RTS Games Like StarCraft Can Help Make Your Mind “More Agile”

As someone who has ploughed a considerable amount of time into StarCraft II and still can't drag a pitiful Terran force from the dregs of Bronze league, I have no problem believing that a long term commitment to the game could turn you into some kind of genius. In fact, a study at the University of California last year proved that professional players could make decisions and react four times quicker than normal people. Crazy. But earlier this year, researchers at Queen Mary, University of London actually proved that the skills learned in RTS games like this could aid general brain development in those less gifted at the game, too.

As part of the study, 72 female volunteers from the University of Texas at Austin considered “novice” gamers were trained to play certain video games to see how the experience impacted memory skills and tactical reasoning. A third were trained to play StarCraft II managing a single base, a third played the same title but had to control two bases on different sides of the map, whilst the others played The Sims 2. Since putting simulated children in swimming pools and then seeing them attempt to get out once you've removed the stairs requires little to no cognitive ability, it won't surprise anyone that The Sims playing control group saw little improvement. In the StarCraft II group, however, the participants showed much better results in the subsequent psychological tests, with those who had to manage two bases managing much stronger performances still.

According to the head of the study, the fact that StarCraft "emphasizes maintenance and rapid switching between multiple information and action sources" can lead to a "large increase in cognitive flexibility" which can be measured in non-video gaming tasks. So that’s something to quote next time someone tells you that your compulsive RTS habit is dulling your senses.

Gaming Can Improve Your Sense Of Wellbeing

A great deal of focus has been put on research studies – such as one by Indiana University in 2010 – that show excessive playing of violent games can depress brain activity in regions associated with emotion and wellbeing. But “excessive playing of violent games” is not representative of the majority of us, and it has been suggested that – in most cases – moderate gaming can actually improve a sense of wellbeing. This idea goes back over a decade, when researchers found that playing multiplayer in games like Counter-Strike were not only sociable, but “[offer] a way to play with things you may be scared of in a safe way where there are very few consequences."

More recently, researchers in Sydney looked into whether gaming could positively impact the wellbeing of children and young people. Significantly, not only was the answer a fairly resounding "yes", but benefits were reported regardless of the game's content.

"We have shown improvements in mood, reductions in stress, and feelings of competence and autonomy resulting from playing videogames. Our studies of play with others have revealed benefits for young people in terms of social wellbeing and feelings of relatedness. But importantly, we have also found co-operative videogame play to be associated with increased brain activity for younger people."

So far from turning us all into gun-wielding psychopath, it turns out gaming is actually making us into happier, more well rounded people. Who knew?

Gaming Can Make Your Eyesight Better

Shout it from the rooftops! It’s official! All those times your mother told you that your hours of screen time was frying your retinas was a lie. It turns out that even relatively limited amounts of game-time can greatly improve your eyesight.

That’s according to two separate studies by the University of Rochester, New York, who noted that as little as 30 hours played on a first person shooter provided a serious boost to gamers' spatial resolution (otherwise known as "the ability to see lots of small and crowded together objects).
So for anyone who bought Call of Duty: Ghosts or Battlefield 4 the last couple of weeks, that should be your spatial resolution boost good and accounted for!

More dramatically, developmental psychologist Daphne Maure revealed her belief that gaming could also greatly help people born with cataracts, who were almost entirely blind at birth. In tests, those who were given a game to play for just ten hours saw dramatic improvements, and after 40 hours could read an entire two more lines on their eye charts. They've also been shown to help kids with amblyopia (that's lazy eye to most of us), by playing gamed with a patch over their good eye. Let's be honest, if you're one of those kids who is unfortunate enough to have to wear an eye patch, you should at least get some good gaming time thrown in to the bargain.

"If you stepped back and asked what might be an effective therapy for visual defects, first-person shooter games have a lot of what’s needed,” Maurer said.

“They require a person to monitor the whole field of vision, not just what is ahead of them. The player has to monitor everything, because the enemy could come from anywhere. The game is fast-paced. You can’t sit back because you will get shot dead. We know that the game changes neurochemicals. It causes an adrenaline rush. It also causes dopamine levels to rise in the brain. That potentially may make the brain more plastic.”

So there it is. Sure, gaming can have it's negative side even without twelve year olds using their gaming headsets to shout abuse at you online, but it undoubtedly also has a wealth of positives too. So next time someone makes a sarcastic comment about gaming whilst the stare blankly at their smart phone's facebook app, feel comforted by the knowledge of your lightning reactions, extreme mental agility, excellent eyesight and all round wellbeing.

How do you think gaming has improved your life? Do you put your lightening quick reactions down to your childhood spent playing Goldeneye on N64?

Tell us about your positive gaming experiences in the discussion area!

 

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12:50 Dec-24-2013

I think I'll say 'Whaaat' in Minion Voice over this :P

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02:18 Dec-20-2013

well games can improve our quick reactions towards other people. We can come to know many things that we have to know about...

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22:46 Dec-19-2013

Maybe i should start playing starcraft 2 xD lol

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15:48 Dec-10-2013

Informative Article

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20:13 Nov-18-2013

I agree with every single word written above :D
But my eyesight is getting worse and worse and worse an....
The awareness and everything are all true facts 100% but the eyesight still gets worse...
I can't see well even what's written on TV and other things... :/

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08:36 Nov-19-2013

You use an LCD or LED monitor?

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21:43 Nov-22-2013

which is better ?

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21:55 Nov-22-2013

its not which is better, its more like which u like more:D both of them got got lcd screen but only diffrence is that lcd screen has this led lighting. its like lcd:s brightness is led powered. it debends which your eye prefer more. u should test it out somewhere:D

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22:01 Nov-22-2013

well what led does to lcd?
the colors in the lcd screen looks more deeper, contrast is bigger, especially darker colors look more a varied.

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22:28 Nov-22-2013

LCD is different to LED. LED is considered to have the better picture as it has the warm, high contrast picture of the LCD with the power efficiency and sharpness of LEDs. There is a notable difference. LED screens also tend to be thinner but more expensive. So it's up to your budget reall. Always try to aim for LED but don't cry if you get stuck with an LCD screen

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22:53 Nov-22-2013

but yes led is better than lcd

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22:56 Nov-22-2013

if i need good and precise screen, i just plug my hdmi to my 43" plasma tv:D

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23:07 Nov-22-2013

Ouch plasma, not great, friend of mine got burnt by his

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08:14 Nov-23-2013

it is about 2years old now, what is lifespan predict of plasmas?

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17:52 Nov-23-2013

Manufacturers often boast 7 years but it is more like 6 with frequent use. Assuming of course that you don't have a burn in

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05:48 Nov-24-2013

lets hope it wont burn:D. i have thought if i should plug the power of tv everytime when i dont use it. becuse its practicly in safe mode when power is on..

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11:30 Nov-24-2013

that's fine, the life deteriorates when the monitor is displaying an image

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13:23 Nov-24-2013

ok, thanks:D +1 to you bro:D

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16:35 Nov-24-2013

Thanks man. Glad I could help :)

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16:12 Nov-18-2013

although i do agree with the article, to be honest i think gaming causes me more trouble than good. i spend so much time in front of my pc and neglect other stuff that i should do like studying for the university or other creative hobbies like my guitar etc. dunno... just some honest thoughts.

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00:48 Nov-19-2013

Yeah, I was kinda like that before until I realized I have a life outside of gaming too. Just discipline yourself and limit your game time everyday. Maybe 2-4 hours a day? There are lots of other stuff to do than just sit around! For example, playing your guitar, reading a book, watch TV, hanging out with your friends, maybe taking a stroll around your neighborhood. Take a nap when your eyes are tired. When you nap, your brain will be refreshed so you can think up some more tactics in RTS's and your reflexes will be at top speed in FPS's. ;)

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06:44 Nov-19-2013

yeah thats me you are describing there :P. its not like i spend 10 hours a day in front of the pc. Usually 2-4. Sometimes it gets more though. Or i spend 3 hours on the pc when i dont really have the time to. but as you said i must just put a limit to it. pretty much everything needs limits. :)

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16:01 Nov-18-2013

Heck Yeah!!!!
Great article, btw

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15:10 Nov-18-2013

dayz - improved patience and spotting skills
fps games like bf or cod - improved reflexes
assasin's creed improved history knowledge
strategy games-improved a bit of math and economy.
minecraft - improved my imagination and creativity.
lol

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15:45 Nov-18-2013

NFS games also helped me in sharpening reflexes.

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14:54 Nov-18-2013

My mother lets me play games moderately but my dad doesn't so when his home I hav to shut down my pc, so now I'm gettin a PS4 so I can remote play on my vita....low profile gaming !!!! ;)

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17:34 Nov-18-2013

Stealth gaming LoL

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14:04 Nov-18-2013

Great, Very good article...never forget "too much of everything is bad" so i wish we all be mindful lol ;)

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14:01 Nov-18-2013

My father supports gaming but my mother doesn't. But I have got freedom to play games as I am good at studies. I want to become 18 year old and want to get a job as soon as possible so I don't have to ask my parents for money for games and hardware. I was hardly able to convince my parents for a new GPU ;D Nice article :D

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15:44 Nov-18-2013

Same Here Buddy!

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09:41 Nov-18-2013

so dats the reason!!!
grt article
gamers write well too

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09:30 Nov-18-2013

Assassin creed is helpful for my history knowledge

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09:07 Nov-18-2013

I always thought that FPS games were good for you and this proves it. After playing so many FPS games and specially after playing Brothers In Arms Hell's Highway I make decisions more confidently and have more confidence in myself. Age Of Empires was also good for making decisions.

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06:30 Nov-18-2013

The main thing with my mum is that she hardly likes me playing games, but she let's me.

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07:42 Nov-18-2013

Maybe she saw your specs and accepted you can't play any games xD

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04:52 Nov-18-2013

the nice thing about my mom is she doesnt complain to me about gaming and even if she does it doesnt effect me cause im 19 im old enough and second of all im working :)

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07:00 Nov-18-2013

Then the more I want to be 18+ already xD

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09:14 Nov-18-2013

well dont worry you will get there soon lol

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14:02 Nov-18-2013

I also want to be 18+ ;)

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04:07 Nov-18-2013

My childhood:
AoE made my mind sharper
CS and Quake 3 improved my reflexes
DOTA and CS parties helped me and my nerd friends bond thus resulting in a nice social atmosphere (no we are not your usual group of CS players who throw about profanity at a whim and threaten to sexually abuse your female relatives - it was all clean and fun among us maths geeks - yes a group of maths geeks getting together to shoot each other)

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06:53 Nov-18-2013

sharper mind - nice :Đ I guess applies for my mind too :)

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03:44 Nov-18-2013

this is why I'm proud to be a a gamer :P

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01:38 Nov-18-2013

gaming makes your english better!

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02:05 Nov-18-2013

True that. As a french Canadian (don't hate XD) I can definitely say that gaming has made me improve my English more than school ever did :)

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03:44 Nov-18-2013

i learn whatever after abcd is from gaming :P school sucked in teaching, still my grammer is ****ed up.

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06:59 Nov-18-2013

I see what you did there B)

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09:12 Nov-18-2013

GD also helps in improving English. It's because of this site that now I can conversate in English very easily!

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00:58 Nov-18-2013

Don't say I'm trying to lie on gaming effect , but I noticed I tend to understand things faster than before. Plus I'm french , and online gaming discussions strongly improved my english level.. seriously my classmates truly hate me at english class , and I'm a litte bored I gotta admit xD

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