Video games are seen as a useless entertainment to many parents and even some educators believe that they damage a child’s brain. Over the years, violent video games have been blamed for leading people to a life of crime because they believe that games are the cause of kids becoming violent or develop antisocial behavior. In reality many psychologists and scientists have found that playing video games can actually have benefits towards a person’s brain. Video games can eventually teach kids skills that they will need and use in their lives. Today everyone has played video games for fun, but some have put it to the test to use video games for research purposes.
In a study done in New York, one set of surgeons played video games for 3 hours a week, while the other set played none. The set who played the video games made 37 percent fewer mistakes during laparoscopic (Medical bag). In another study, those who play action video games on a regular basis can process visual information faster and can track 30 percent more objects than non gamers. Action video games are shown to increase one’s contrast sensitivity, or the ability to notice minute changes in color against a uniform background. One group of gamers played action games, like Call of Duty, while the others played The Sims. The Call of Duty group showed a 38 percent increase in aforementioned sensitivity, whereas the Sims group showed none whatsoever. Video games can also slim you down.
Wii Fit, for example, has players doing yoga, stretches, and another exercise in order to unlock fun and exercise. Dance Dance Revolution requires players to dance by placing their feet on the corresponding arrows. After a while, players work up a sweat due to the required rapid movement. Gaming can also make you smarter. People who play video games display fluid intelligence and problem solving. Managing multiple objectives and multiple resources is one of the goals that helps you become smarter. Learning the rules of the game and what strategy works best for you also helps you. When playing video games, the coordination and concentration can physically, socially, and mentally benefit the user. Research today shows that certain video games can reduce fat and therefore promote weight loss. Other sources state that doctors have instructed parents to let their children play video games to help control focus. Active video games are also being marketed for adults. New Gaming companies have been turning their gaming systems into exercise machines.
The workout levels are increasing stamina causing weight loss and health awareness. The new video machines can drastically change an adults workout routine. Video games can also improve visual skills and brain function. Action video games train the brain to better process certain visual information. When people play action video games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing. When people play action games, they’re changing the brain’s pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it, and we’ve seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over. By playing Action video games, vision improves up to 58 percent. Video games that involve high levels of action, such as first-person-shooter games, increase a player’s real-world vision, according to research in today’s Nature Neuroscience.
The ability to discern slight differences in shades of gray has long been thought to be an attribute of the human visual system that cannot be improved. But Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, has discovered that very practiced action gamers become 58 percent better at perceiving fine differences in contrast. Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery. However, this will need further testing in people with this condition. As a treatment for poor eyesight generally though, gaming is unlikely to replace conventional approaches in the near future. Bavelier had previously found that game players had better vision when compared with non-game players. She says that these video games, and spending time in front of the computer, may not be harmful to our vision.
The researchers suggest that this indicates that playing video games could have potential for improving some conditions such as amblyopia (Rochester.edu). Additionally, evidence has shown that gaming can help with psychological problems and games reduce symptoms of depression more than conventional treatment. Another research team at Oxford University found that playing Tetris shortly after exposure to something very upsetting in the experiment, a film of traumatic scenes of injury and death was used, can actually prevent people from having disturbing thoughts (oxford.edu).
Therefore playing games can also help in releasing tension and help a person to have lighter thoughts. The effects are not always so positive, however. Indiana University researchers carried out brain scans on young men and found evidence that violent games can alter brain function after as little as a week of play, affecting regions in the brain associated with emotional control and causing more aggressive behaviour (Indiana.edu). But Daphne Bavelier, one of the most experienced researchers in the field, says that the violent action games that often worry most parents may actually have the strongest beneficial effect on the brain (Bavelier).
Games like Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, Doom and others, have taken the blame for various heinous crimes (Gross). Certain government officials have even gone as far as filing lawsuits against the developing companies in an attempt to outlaw video games in general. Not only that, but they have also been under inspection for supposedly causing a gaming addiction. Some of the other controversial video games are also the ones with the greatest potential benefits. Fast-paced, FPS like BioShock Infinite, Halo, Half-Life, Borderlands and third-person equivalents like God of War: Ascension, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Force Unleashed have all been accused of being too violent, but the benefits gamers gain from playing them are astounding. Researchers like Daphne Bavelier and C. Shawn Green have been able to demonstrate in multiple laboratory tests that playing these fast-paced games increases a person’s ability to try multiple pieces of visual information and decrease reaction time.
They also have worked with another researcher, Alexandre Pouget, and showed that fast-action games also decrease decision making time. Basically, these games have so much going on all the time that for someone not used to following and tracking so much information it can be overwhelming. Gamers have no trouble keeping up with this information overload. The players are able to assess, make decisions and react quickly because they have learned how to do so in order to play and advance. If they are playing by themselves they may have to give orders to their computer allies. If they are playing with other humans then they have to be able to communicate effectively with them while tracking all the other data. This shows how playing video games cna help a person be more confident in telling others what to do and helps their communication skills and interact with others better. The brains of gamers adapt so quickly, that they can keep track of all the information they need to.
Bavelier and her team found that a video gamer’s brain physically changes so that the player can process all of this information, and, most importantly, use it. A video gamer is capable of making accurate, informed decisions faster than a non-gamer with the same percentage of right answers. Bavelier and Green demonstrated that this benefit from fast-action video games sticks around for at least six months after a test subject has played only 10 hours over the course of 2 weeks. This means that every person can gain this benefit without actually being a gamer, as long as he or she is willing to put in a few hours a week to train his or her brains. This is really exciting because many of these changes have immediate benefits other scenarios such as driving because when driving, the increased awareness, ability to track the many things going on around us and to make correct, fast decisions about likely outcomes of movements is invaluable in the prevention of car accidents.
Playing video games has a huge impact on an individual’s brain and as a result has a direct impact on how gamers interact with and navigate our world. Many gamers are told over and over that they have trouble focusing, but they do so well in focusing when there is so much happening on their screens all the time. Exciting new research, again from Daphne Bavelier and her team, is showing that gamers’ attention and focus is actually better than that of non-gamers. They are capable of resolving visual conflicts faster, which is frequently used in the lab to determine attention and focus capabilities. However, video game detractors point to information released by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) regarding increased Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis rates since 1997 with growth rates as high as 22% between 2003 and 2007.
They argue that more and more children are being exposed to video games and more and more educators and parents are complaining that their children are unable to focus on things like classroom instruction the female orgasm and homework (Sucutti). What has been found, though, is that these child gamers’ brains, as well as the brains of their already adult counterparts, are very capable of focusing and they can maintain the same level of performance in what we find in many video games like World of Warcraft, much of the Final Fantasy series, and the previously mentioned first person shooters for hours. However, Gabe Zicherman, a leader in the development and application of gamification, disagrees with such views. He suggests that it is adults that need to catch up and keep up with kids, not slow down kids to their slower pace.
Today’s kids play games in which they’re expected to chat in text and voice, operate a character, follow long and short-term objectives, and deal with their parents interrupting them all the time to talk to them. Kids have to have an extraordinary multi-tasking skill to be able to achieve things today. It should then not be a surprise to discover that children who have become excellent learners in high-stimulus virtual environments may have trouble settling down into a sedate classroom with other children who are also conditioned to learning through video games. Tom Chatfield has written multiple articles and a book on how video games are a perfect education and motivation tools. He points out that children are constantly learning in a virtual environment where there are consequences to not accomplishing a task, losing a life, a tool, or not meeting a time requirement.
There are also clearly stated rewards to completing the task as well as possible unexpected rewards that are doled out at calculated increments. Video game designers have been fine tweaking the ratio of difficulty, rewards and consequences to being a dumbass so that they know exactly how much to throw at a gamer at what level in each game in order to keep that person engaged and coming back for more. Educators could learn a lot from what these designers already know; children who are engaged and rewarded in an interactive learning process can and do give their entire attention and focus. The fact that video games are a tool that can be used for education, and therefore do have an impact on the human brain, means we do need to be aware of what the potential negative impacts of those changes could be.
What most every person has heard as an argument against video games is that they encourage violence and aggression in the people who play them. Multiple studies have been published on the topic, but when those studies have been reviewed and compared, it was found that they contradicted each other, and in many cases, used flawed methods to reach their conclusion regardless of the results. Christopher J. Ferguson with Texas A&M University used meta-analysis to review 12 studies available to him at the time of his publishing and found that researchers often used flawed methodology, drew conclusions that were not supported by their evidence, or in general could find no link between video games and violence. Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol of the Dept. of Psychology with Ryerson University found that there is no indication that people who play violent video games have any long-term emotional desensitization to violence in their immediate surroundings. They do acknowledge that there may be a period immediately after playing these violent games that a gamer may be desensitized, but it is not an effect that could be attributed to an increase violence and aggressive behavior in those test subjects.
Essentially, the evidence so far is showing that video games have a short-term impact on how people respond to violence and are likely desensitized to violence and possibly even reading for a short period after they play violent video games, but there is little evidence that there is a long-term impact. The heart of the argument against violent video games is based on the idea of a long-term, negative impact on gamers. Research just does not support that position. Video games have become a part of our culture and a part of our lives in many ways. As a society we need to focus our energy and attention on is how to use them to make our lives better. We’ve already seen research that shows how video games can be used to help with several tasks with real-world applications. We can use video games to increase our ability to track multiple objects and thus be able to monitor more of our surroundings while driving. They teach people how to be able to focus and maintain attention in situations where there is a lot of information to absorb in a very short period of time. Video games can help us to better analyze what is going on around us and make quick decisions about the best action to take in a variety of situations.
New research about the benefits of video games is coming out every year. It is time for us all to step forward and embrace the technology around us that has so many benefits and work together to mitigate the deficits that are present. Our society will not be ruined by this action, but will instead be enhanced further. There is one further thing we need to do. We need to sit down and pick up a controller. We leave ourselves at a disadvantage if we refuse to play out of false concerns regarding violence and aggression. Video games are a form of media that is often believed to be associated with negative health consequences.
However, they are a great source of stress relief and improvement and development of mental health for social skills. They are engaging and immersive on a level different from traditional board games and other forms of entertainment. The player actively contributes to the level of satisfaction they attain because of the willingness to engage in the elements of the video game. The amount of playtime can also an important factor to the effects of playing certain games. In other words, excessive screen time can have its negative consequence,but gaming in its proper manner and be healthy, fun, and educational to all ages.
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