Video games have always been hailed as a threat to children and adults all the same; many assume that video games induce anti social behavior, promote violence and have kids spending all their time indoors instead of playing with their peers out in the sun. Other concerns – mostly by parents – such as eyes being constantly exposed to radiation from TV screens or maybe anxiety are also a common misconception.
Most of these concerns can be directly dealt with by straight forward parenting and by acknowledging that they can also be caused by other types of media influences such as books, movies and TV; monitoring what type of material kids are exposed to is a long subject and out of the scope of this post.
Video games hold their own right as a beneficial teaching tool that most people tend to neglect. Physic and occupational therapists started using simple video games in the late 80s to treat people with a whole range of conditions from physical, learning or emotional disorders to cognitive problems following stroke and/or brain injury.
I’m not only basing this article on personal experience; I have taken into account several experiments and observations done in the field to conclude the following positive outcome of games.
Creates a deep sense of logic
Games are all about puzzles; while the first toy of logic that is presented to a child at birth is placing the right shape in the right hole, games provide such puzzles and others of much more complexity. But it is included with a new twist, you HAVE to solve the puzzle to progress.
Identifying progress with proper problem solving skills is a feat games work on gradually by the player, they present easier challenges at first and they get harder as the player progresses. the player expects and works hard on solving puzzles in the most optimum ways. Also, puzzle and problem solving skills are usually presented under pressure, players learn that they have to solve the puzzle quickly before they get attacked, before time runs out or other assorted combinations. Games teach players problem solving skills under pressure.
Building a sense of exploration
Games provide players with huge worlds to venture into; realistic or cartoonish, one staple of video games is hidden treasures and levels. Players learn that if you explore the level to it’s max you will get an extra bonus, a free item, an extra life or maybe even an entire new world to explore. By providing the players with a reward they have the incentive to explore and wander around in the comfort of your living room (where you can keep an eye on them).
Like competitive sports, games usually require a certain amount of skill to enjoy and a substantial amount to master. It takes both focus, training and hard work for someone to be really good at a certain video game (Star Craft or Street fighter for example). But that is not enough, the game itself encourages the player to compete among others to test their skills.
Teaching new languages
Hardcore video games fans usually are into the game’s story. Games provide story lines that help further engage the player and involve them with their virtual avatar. And with some games being entirely focused around a given story, language control is a must; and in the case of Arab gamers, learning English came with the bundle. Games helped a lot of people I know expand their English vocabulary to better understand their games.
picking up new hobbies
When I first started playing video games, I remember filling my times in class by doodling my favorite game characters on my notebook. Not completely satisfied with the outcome I learned to practice more and more to build artistic skills good enough for me to do my characters just. Soon afterwards, I started designing my own video game characters on the side of doing fan art for already existing ones. I made friends who used to do the same as kids and are now professional digital artists.
Video games music was the first thing that drove me into picking up an instrument. at the age of 14, I started playing the keyboard desperate to mimic the outstanding sound track of the Final Fantasy games or perhaps the infamous super Mario themes.
Group activity engagement
Video games could be a great way to spend time with people you know, and it’s far more engaging than a ‘movie night’.
Watching a movie – at home or at the theater – isn’t exactly a social activity. While you might be sharing the same room with other people, talking or exchanging experiences would be annoying and disrupting for the activity itself. Video games however, involves everyone including the ones who aren’t playing to pitch in, mock players mischievments and perhaps participate with good advise or previous experiences.
Exploring new technologies
Like it or not, Video games being a billion dollar industry is now setting trends for technological advancements. Perhaps the most recent example of which is the BlueRay, wii and ps3 joypad sensors, Audio surround systems and Konnect! All these technologies pioneered in gaming first before advancing to other media.
Gamers by interest are the first to deal with these technologies and they get to test and criticize it before it goes into mass production for other ‘normal’ people to use.
Enhances Sight skills
Action games could sharpen vision and may even help cure Amblyopia- commonly known as “lazy eye”. In Amblyopia, the vision in one eye is inferior to the other. the condition is normally treated by making a patient wear an eye patch over their good eye, but researchers at Nottingham University found out that playing certain video games could achieve in one hour what eye patches do in 400 hours.
researchers at the university of Rochester found that first-person-shooter video games improve visual skills by increasing the brain’s capacity to spread attention over a wide range of events.
Video games also seem to induce plasticity in the visual cortex – an are of the brain which influences how well you see and pay attention to objects in your visual field.
Gamers are faster and more effective at filtering out irrelevant information and spotting targets in a cluttered scene. The size of their field of vision and their ability to track different moving objects in it is greater. Gamers beat non gamers hands down when it comes to everyday eye sight especially the ability to distinguish between different shades of grey – known as contrast sensitivity – which affects everyday activities like reading the newspaper and is essential in low light conditions (e.g. seeing at night or in fog).
Refines Focus Span and Reflexes
Gamers are also quicker at shifting between different visual and attention skills than non-gamers.
The secret to why games improve focus seems to be in complexity of the tasks – you have to pay attention to many different moving objects, use your memory to recall what weapons or items you have or the way into your enemy’s lair and use your eyes and hands to aim and shoot all at the same time.
You can’t just take one of these elements and use it as a brain training exercise. That’s why video games provide training that other mediums can not; computerized cognitive tasks help people improve in more general ares such as driving a car or sharpen their brain’s visual system and working memory. Everyday activity seem like they’re a piece of cake compared to the number of brain activities required from the player in a single moment while playing a game.
Improves patience and will power
Games teach players to fail and get up and try again; many many times. All though frustrating at times. games teach players that it’s fantastic if you made it from the first time; however, if you fail it’s also okay for you to go back and start all over again. Their competitive urge will drive them to go through boring tasks just to achieve a certain objective and win.
Games can boost overall brain efficiency
playing Tetris, one of the oldest and most popular vide games, can boost brain efficiency. researchers from mind research network in albuquerque tested a group of adolescent girls who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day over a three month period. They found that Tetris players developed a thicker cortex than others who did not play. the part of the brain that showed a relatively thicker cortex were areas that scientists believe play a role in planning complex coordinated movements and coordinating visual, tactile and auditory information.
University of Ottawa researchers have tested Nintendo’s Wii on Parkinson’s patients. After six weeks of training daily for 30 minutes with Wii Fit and 15 minutes with Wii sports, participants significantly improved their static balance. Training with consoles like these could help slow down the decline of functional disabilities according to the researchers. These changes are thought to be related to an increase in dopamine production triggered by exercise and incentive gaming.
Generally improves eye hand coordination
Video games can improve motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination. An Iowa state university study on surgeons revealed that playing games for three hours a week reduces mistakes in a minimally invasive surgical procedures. Game playing helped doctors perform tasks faster than colleagues who did not play. As a result of the study, a video game was devised to help trainee surgeons warm up before entering the operation room.
Pushing the boundaries
Gamers always look for the easiest way to go through a challenge; so naturally they try everything at their disposal and exploit game bugs to better defeat the game. Gamers are known to figure out relatively simple answers to problems and exploring the outrageously impossible solution if it can guarantee an easy way out. Games teach players to try everything at their disposal whenever they can.
Can end up being a career
Games offer a wide variety of career choices: 2D artists, 3D artists, animators, graphic designers, marketing personnel, sales personnel, movie makers, game designers, musicians, sound engineer, sound FX mixer, programmer, quality assurance officer, writers, scriptwriters, camera crew and accountants are people who normally work at a game development house. The shared requirement for all of these people is one thing: A passion for games.