We read and hear plenty of criticisms of video games. Violent games have been blamed for real life shootings, depression, aggression and addiction to games. However some research has shown there are positives to playing video games with different types of games having different effects.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
For the purpose of this article I will use the Dictionary.com definition of video game, 'any of various interactive games played using a specialized electronic gaming device or computer or mobile device and a television or other display screen, along with a means to control graphic images'.
There are a wide variety of type of video games including shoot 'em ups, role playing games, action, puzzle, Massively Multiplayer Online, sports, strategy, simulations, platform and fighting. Some of these genres can overlap for a particular game or may be known by other names.
A review of research done into video games written up in the American Psychologist claims they may improve the health, learning and social skills of children.
Increase reaction speed Action and fighting games often require quick reactions. With time the player's reaction speed will increase and this will effect the speed with which they react to events in the real world.
Improve coordination Video games can help hand - eye coordination and improve motor skills. A study by the University of Toronto found people who played action games such as Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed regularly were better at learning new sensorimotor tasks. Specific games are even being used to help train surgeons.
Develops problem solving skills Playing role playing games have been found to improve children's ability to find solutions to problems. Studies even showed many children who were involved in a lot of these types of games had improved grades the following year.
Increases creativity Playing any type of game on a video console was found to increase creativity. However, in general playing games on a computer did not show the same result. Having said that, some computer games allow activities such as 'modding' where a player can customise their character and this does encourage creativity.
Sharpen decision making A study conducted by the University of Rochester found playing action video games helps children make decisions faster with no decrease in accuracy. They tend to be more aware of what is happening around them in everyday life too.
Improve memory Research has shown playing video games may improve memory. Playing these games later in life could decrease the risk of developing Alzheimers Disease just as other activities that exercise the brain have been found to do.
Develop cooperation and social skills Games played as part of a team encourage cooperation. Sometimes two or more children will play a game in the same room and the shared activity encourages discussion and lots of cheering when they defeat the game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Help with thinking in 3 dimensions A University of California - Irvine study found the hippocampus (where learning and memory occur in the brain) is altered by as much as 12% by playing 3D games. Being able to think in 3 dimensions can help with engineering, maths, science and technology related study.
Puzzles and role playing type games do not help with thinking in 3D.
Promote relaxation Simple games can improve a player's mood, increasing relaxation and lowering stress. Some games have been found to ward off anxiety and reduce stress and depression.
Learn resilience It has been claimed video games can help children learn to be resilient. They may lose a game or fail to achieve the objective several times in a row but with practice will improve in games of skill. This can help teach them to keep trying.
The benefits or otherwise of a game will depend on a variety of factors including the genre of game, the age and personality of your child, how long your child plays the game and what other activities they participate in. Each parent needs to observe what effect a particular video game is having on their child and act accordingly. A balance of activities including some active time outside is important. However, it seems a certain amount of time playing video games could have benefits.