Mentioning video games in conversation rarely elicits a positive response – that is, unless you’re speaking with a fellow gamer. It’s long been believed that playing them is a waste of time, desensitizes the brain, and encourages aggressive behaviours. Essentially, video games are about as beloved by parents as dance was in the town in ‘Footloose’.
But as it turns out, video games – much like dance – are actually really good for us. Numerous studies have concluded that video games can make us better people in the following ways:
Video games teach us to cooperate with each other.
According to a study from researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, violent video games actually promote cooperation and encourage gamers to control their aggression. They found that the situations gamers run into require well-crafted collaboration – you know, the opposite of hurting each other. It makes sense when you think about it. To progress in games like Call of Duty, you need to work with your team to complete tasks. Going against this model wouldn’t be very rewarding, or fun.
They make us more creative.
A Michigan State University study found that children who play video games tend to display more creativity than those that do not. They studied 500 twelve-year-olds and discovered that the more these kids played video games (of a violent nature or not) the more creatively they drew pictures and wrote stories. No real surprise there. Fantastical lands like those found in games like Skyrim, Ocarina of Time, and Super Mario Bros can only fill a child’s mind with wonder and stir up those creative juices.
Video games make us better employees.
Yes, that subtitle sounds counterintuitive, right? But the University of Colorado Denver Business School found that using video games for on-site training helped employees perform their jobs better because they were able to retain information they learned for a longer period of time. Making learning fun doesn’t just work for children – it works really well for us adults too. You might want to leave a copy of this study on your boss’ desk Monday morning. Just saying.
They can sharpen your memory.
This study really reinforces that whole “use it or lose it” notion. Video games act like a personal trainer for our brains. When we play them, our minds are exercising. Fast-paced action can sharpen your vision, improve your motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but mostly – they amp up our memory! How else do you think you’d be able to remember all those combos, shortcuts and traps? Keep your mind sharp in the virtual world and it’ll be sharp in the real one too.
Video games help us make up our minds.
If you can barely choose between oatmeal and fruit salad in the morning, your decision-making skills might need a little work. Video games can help you with that. Fast-paced games force us to make quick and accurate decisions continuously throughout play. Getting yourself used to making snappy choices will kickstart your ability to do so when the console is turned off.
And finally, video games can enable us to save the world.
That sounds like a bold statement, and it is. But it’s also true. Games like World of Warcraft equip its players with the means to save worlds, and it gives them the incentive to continuously learn new skills – ones that will help them complete complex quests. WoW players are known to clock hours and even weeks of time doing so. If we learn to harness this power and drive to solve real-world problems – rather than the problems of elves and warlocks – we can surely change our planet. Learn more about this intensely clever idea from Jane McGonigal:
So next time someone tells you that playing video games is rotting your brain, you tell them that not playing them is rotting theirs.