Most of you know I am not a fan of children, teens and young adults spending long hours a day playing video games –especially the violent and sexually exploitative ones. We know from studies that playing violent video games changes the adult male brain after just one week of playing. The brain regions associated with emotional control become depressed. And there is an association with compulsive gaming and obesity, depression, and being more introverted. Furthermore, a meta-analysis conducted by Iowa State University found violent video games to make people more aggressive and less caring to others.
But is there any up side to the research on game playing?
Apparently YES, according to the Tuesday, March 6, 2012 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Even when violent games are played, these benefits were noted compared to those who didn’t play games:
1) Those who played action video games were 25% faster at making decisions.
2) Those who played Starcraft II were faster thinkers.
3) Middle school kids who played electronic games scored higher on creativity.
4) Surgeons who played video games for at least 3 hours a week made 37% fewer surgical errors.
5) Hand-eye coordination improved.
6) Players could multitask better (University of Rochester).
7) Women improved on their ability to mentally manipulate 3D objects.
The games played were engaging but most often violent and researchers do not know if the violence matters. So while there are positive benefits noted, there are also positive benefits to other types of learning that engage the reward systems in the brain.
For me, the jury is still out in terms of the overall impact of violent video games. But at least we know there is also an up side to time spent playing video and computer games.
Dr. Mintle is the author of Raising Healthy Kids in an unhealthy world. The book includes a chapter on the impact of video game playing on children in terms of childhood obesity.