Content of the article: "Psychological benefits of video gaming"
Hi everyone. You have probably heard a lot of things about how gaming is bad for you. Nobody needs that kind of negativity in our lives so I did some research & composed a list of psychological benefits of video gaming. Enjoy the read!
Identifying with characters you like can help you internalise the traits you admire them for. Playing a character can make you feel strong, brave, unique etc.
Games can also provide you with the sense of accomplishment. Completing a difficult mission or solving a complicated puzzle makes you appreciate your abilities which feeds your self-esteem.
Most importantly, it's not only theory – studies show that people report feeling better about themselves after playing games (Griffiths, 2010).
2. STRESS & ANXIETY REDUCTION
Gaming helps to reduce stress & anxiety. It works through dissociative nature of video games – it acts as a form of escapism from our everyday worries. Research shows that consistent gaming has a lasting positive effect – which suggests that video games have a therapeutic potential (Russoniello, O’Brien & Parks, 2009; Barnes & Presscot, 2018)
3. PAIN RELIEF
Video gameplay was shown to reduce physical pain. One of the studies that showed this was done with children who have the side effect of chemotherapy which results in mouth ulcers (needless to say, very painful). The results showed that the kids reported lower pain levels and consumed significantly less morphine after playing a video game (Alonso-Prieto, Miró, Torres-Luna, de Sabando & Reinoso-Barbero, 2020).
Whenever we have positive experiences during gameplay, our brain releases endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins are a group of 'happy' hormones which work as an anesthetic (Sprouse-Blum, Smith, Sugai & Parsa, 2010). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for the feeling of reward – it distracts you, and it's been shown to reduce chronic pain (Taylor, Joshi & Uppal, 2003).
Gaming improves your coordination, especially between your eyes and hands (Griffith, Voloschin, Gibb & Bailey, 1983). A study showed that surgeons who play games 3+ hours per week made 32% less mistakes during laparoscopic procedures (making small incisions & basically operating through a screen) than surgeons who don't play at all (Rosser et al., 2007).
Another coordination-related finding is that virtual reality games improve balance. This was done with MS patients who saw a significant improvement in their balance after playing a VR game for some time (Gutiérrez et al., 2013). It shows that when it comes to VR, coordination improvement stretches beyond eyes and hands.
Gaming also enhances focus. There are short periods of time during the gameplay where you need a lot of concentration and focus (e.g. enemy attacks). Having these high concentration moments improves your vision (Li, Polat, Makous & Bavelier, 2009), information processing speed (Dye, Green & Bavelier, 2009), and attention to detail (Boot, Kramer, Simons, Fabiani & Gratton, 2008).
It can add up to improving things like dyslexia (Franceschini et al., 2013).
Another small note on vision, a study showed that games help with lazy eye treatment – some patients regained full vision and control over their eye (Bayliss, Vedamurthy, Bavelier, Nahum & Levi, 2012).
6. PROBLEM SOLVING
Strategic games (e.g. Portal) enhances our problem solving skills. One of the studies that showed this effect found that teenagers who play strategic games are better at problem solving and decision making than those who play other types of games (e.g. first-person shooters). They also have better school grades (Adachi & Willoughby, 2013).
7. MEMORY ENHANCEMENT & MULTITASKING
3D video games were shown to improve our episodic (autobiographical) memory. It is associated with repeatedly navigating 3d virtual environments training our hippocampus (a brain structure responsible for forming and recalling episodic memories) (Kühn & Gallinat, 2014).
Games can also improve our working memory. The type of memory we use when we need to memorize things simultaneously. For example, you get a mission – you're first given the coordinates for where you need to go and then you keep these coordinates in your memory while also listening to further instructions.
It's of course a crucial part of multitasking, and playing video games makes you better at it (Colzato, van den Wildenberg, Zmigrod & Hommel, 2013).
I hope you enjoyed these quick psychological findings. I regularly create content about psychology & its connections to the real world (Psych But Fashion) – if that's something you might be interested in, visit my profile where I have links to my social media accounts.
Thank you for reading,
Adachi, P. J., & Willoughby, T. (2013). More than just fun and games: the longitudinal relationships between strategic video games, self-reported problem solving skills, and academic grades. Journal of youth and adolescence, 42(7), 1041-1052.
Alonso-Prieto, M., Miró, J., Torres-Luna, R., de Sabando, D. P. L., & Reinoso-Barbero, F. (2020). The Association Between Pain Relief Using Video Games and an Increase in Vagal Tone in Children With Cancer: Analytic Observational Study With a Quasi-Experimental Pre/Posttest Methodology. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(3), e16013.
Barnes, S., & Prescott, J. (2018). Empirical evidence for the outcomes of therapeutic video games for adolescents with anxiety disorders: systematic review. JMIR serious games, 6(1), e3.
Bayliss, J. D., Vedamurthy, I., Bavelier, D., Nahum, M., & Levi, D. (2012, September). Lazy eye shooter: a novel game therapy for visual recovery in adult amblyopia. In 2012 IEEE international games innovation conference (pp. 1-4). IEEE.
Boot, W. R., Kramer, A. F., Simons, D. J., Fabiani, M., & Gratton, G. (2008). The effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control. Acta psychologica, 129(3), 387-398.
Colzato, L. S., van den Wildenberg, W. P., Zmigrod, S., & Hommel, B. (2013). Action video gaming and cognitive control: playing first person shooter games is associated with improvement in working memory but not action inhibition. Psychological research, 77(2), 234-239.
Dye, M. W., Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2009). Increasing speed of processing with action video games. Current directions in psychological science, 18(6), 321-326.
Franceschini, S., Gori, S., Ruffino, M., Viola, S., Molteni, M., & Facoetti, A. (2013). Action video games make dyslexic children read better. Current Biology, 23(6), 462-466.
Griffith, J. L., Voloschin, P., Gibb, G. D., & Bailey, J. R. (1983). Differences in eye-hand motor coordination of video-game users and non-users. Perceptual and motor skills, 57(1), 155-158.
Griffiths, M. (2010). Online video gaming: what should educational psychologists know?. Educational psychology in practice, 26(1), 35-40.
Gutiérrez, R. O., Galan del Rio, F., Cano de la Cuerda, R., Alguacil Diego, I. M., González, R. A., & Page, J. C. M. (2013). A telerehabilitation program by virtual reality-video games improves balance and postural control in multiple sclerosis patients. NeuroRehabilitation, 33(4), 545-554.
Kühn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2014). Amount of lifetime video gaming is positively associated with entorhinal, hippocampal and occipital volume. Molecular psychiatry, 19(7), 842-847.
Li, R., Polat, U., Makous, W., & Bavelier, D. (2009). Enhancing the contrast sensitivity function through action video game training. Nature neuroscience, 12(5), 549-551.
Rosser, J. C., Lynch, P. J., Cuddihy, L., Gentile, D. A., Klonsky, J., & Merrell, R. (2007). The impact of video games on training surgeons in the 21st century. Archives of surgery, 142(2), 181-186.
Russoniello, C. V., O’Brien, K., & Parks, J. M. (2009). The effectiveness of casual video games in improving mood and decreasing stress. Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation, 2(1), 53-66.
Sprouse-Blum, A. S., Smith, G., Sugai, D., & Parsa, F. D. (2010). Understanding endorphins and their importance in pain management. Hawaii medical journal, 69(3), 70.
Taylor, B. K., Joshi, C., & Uppal, H. (2003). Stimulation of dopamine D2 receptors in the nucleus accumbens inhibits inflammatory pain. Brain research, 987(2), 135-143.
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