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Why Video Games are Good for Your Brain

Updated on March 18, 2012

The Video Game Debate

Video games have long been maligned. I have two boys so video games have been a part of my household for the last twelve years or so. I've seen my kids spend hours on a specific game like World of Warcraft or Minecraft. I've often worried about their video game playing and try to limit the time they spend on them. And it's not just me who's been worried. The debate about how much time children spend playing video games instead of playing actively outside has been raging as the percentage of over weight and obese children has increased.

But more than that, the common perception is that video games are just that, a game, and that there isn't much value in a child spending time playing them. Video games have been blamed, as already mentioned, for childhood obesity, but also for violence, a need for instant gratification, and attention deficits. While some of this may be true, what is less well known is that video games can actually be good for people in many ways. For example, research has shown that games like World of Warcraft actually develop leadership skills that can be transferred to the real world. And, according to new research, video games can actually change your brain for the better.


Video Games Develop Leadership Skills

While some employers are reluctant to hire people who reveal that they play MMORPG's (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games) saying that those employees are sometimes distracted and less focused on their job, they don't deny that games such as World of Warcraft, the most popular MMORPG, build leadership skills.

In order to be a guild leader in this game, a player must be adept at building teams and evaluating risk. They must lead their team just as a business leader would. IBM and Yahoo! have recognized this ability as immensely valuable and have publicly stated that they like hiring people with World of Warcraft experience.

So how do these role playing games develop leadership skills? According to Wired Magazine, it's all about learning to be rather than learning to do. In other words, in a role playing game, an individual must adapt to new situations, build a team, gather resources, and make sure the team stays together to accomplish a quest. If they're not successful, they must continue to try until they succeed. This adaptation and perseverance can't be taught in a classroom and video games provide a low risk way to fail and try again.

Video Games Improve Your Brain

Now, new research has shown that playing video games can actually change your brain for the better. The research, conducted at The University of Geneva in Switzerland, The University of Rochester in New York, The University of Wisconsin, and The University of California in San Diego shows marked changes in brain function.

For example, a study of 491 middle school students found that those who played video games scored higher on standard tests designed to measure creativity. Other activities, such as using the computer for other tasks or using a cell phone, had no affect on creativity scores.

Another study showed that those who play video games can make decisions 25% faster with no loss of accuracy than those who don't play and gamers can pay attention to up to six things at once without getting confused. This compares to the average person who can pay attention to about four things at a time.

There are some downsides, however. The research also showed that heavy gamers are more likely to be overweight, isolated and depressed. And playing violent games suppresses parts of the brain responsible for emotional control. Both of these negative affects can be avoided by limiting the time played and by selecting non-violent games.

Video Games Are Good for Your Kids

For parents who may be wondering whether or not all of those hours spent playing video games are harming their children, most of the news is good. In fact, parents can feel assured that their children are learning valuable skills as they have fun playing. As with anything, too much time spent playing or video games that are too violent should be avoided. Children should spend their time on a mix of activities but video games are okay to include in that mix.


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    • profile image

      w01f_br0 5 years ago

      i agree to your article. im writing an essay for school about the way video games help people.

      i myself am a gamer.

      ps. tell your sons that they are not the only minecrafters in the world!

    • ramurray3 profile image

      ramurray3 6 years ago from New York City

      Great article. Video games are full of things to figure out and it works the brain to try and solve things.

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 6 years ago

      Hi David - Thanks for reading and for the comments. My personal experience confirms what you say...both of my boys play video games and neither is over weight.

    • David 470 profile image

      David 470 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States

      Great article. There is no correlation between playing video games and being obese. Society just thinks that if you play games your automatically fat. Which is true in some cases because these people may tend to be very sedentary, but as long as a person exercises a few times a week and eats well, then playing video games will not affect them.

      As for learning from games, I think it depends on the game. Some games have a lot of reading even though there is also a lot of shooting etc.. Mass Effect is a good example.