Benefits of Video Games: Do They Really Exist?
The benefits of video games have been little studied in scientific research. However, interest in the empirical study of this medium is increasing.
Today approximately one third of the world’s population plays video games. Being such a widespread audiovisual and interactive medium, we wanted to delve into the impact that this new way of leisure has on people.
Much of this research has focused on its most negative aspects. They have focused, above all, on the adolescent and child population. Thus, we have information that relates aggression, addiction, isolation, sedentary lifestyle … with video games. However, to understand the impact that video games have on the population, a broader perspective is necessary.
Video games can be immersive and compelling experiences given their playful and interactive potential. There are many types of video games on the market. Each one belonging to a different genre that offers a unique way of living the experience.
They can be played in many different ways: online (cooperatively or competitively), alone, with other people present, etc. In addition, there are a wide variety of platforms that allow variations when playing them. These devices range from consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Wii, Switch, etc.) to computers, tablets and mobile phones.
Each video game gives way to very different social, cognitive and emotional experiences. But now you might wonder, Are there really benefits when it comes to playing video games?
The game as a means of development.
As already mentioned, the benefits of video games have not been well researched. However, evolutionary psychology has focused on the functions and benefits of play (in general) for many years. Psychologists such as Erikson, Vygotsky or Piaget have already raised the adaptive functions that play could have in child development.
It has been observed how playful contexts have allowed children to develop social, cognitive and emotional skills. For example, games provide children with opportunities to reproduce and resolve real-life conflicts. This greatly benefits the emotional regulation of the little ones, since they do not usually have such sophisticated resources as talking and deepening about their problems with close people to resolve emotional conflicts.
In neuroscience, for example, rats have been used in research related to play and the development of social competence. Apparently, “fighting” games produce the release of chemicals in parts of the brain related to social activities (for example, in the orbital-frontal cortex). This promotes the growth and development of these areas.
Given the similarity of this type of game in humans, there may be similar mechanisms that influence social competence in children.
Benefits of video games.
Next we will review the areas of the personality that derive the most benefits from video games.
Video games can enhance multiple cognitive abilities. There are several studies where the cognitive abilities of novice players and regular action video game players are compared.
In general, the seconds were seen to feature faster and more precise attention, greater visual processing, multitasking ability, and better spatial skills. Furthermore, it was found that these skills could be trained with video games in a (relatively) short period of time.
The benefits of this training, however, lasted for quite a long time and could be transferred to other spatial tasks outside the context of the video game. This makes sense, since skills like perceptual learning can be improved through training.
In MOBA ( Multiplayer Online Battle Arena ) players, a clear increase in attentional and executive functioning abilities has also been observed. Also, this gender positively correlates with fluid intelligence. This is defined as the ability that the individual has to attend to their context and the set of resources available to deal with it.
The performance in this area is usually high, reaching its zenith point around the age of 25. From there, its decline can be compensated for thanks to experience and strategies learned with video games. In addition, they have the advantage of enhancing teamwork. In this type of game it is necessary to be quick in making decisions under pressure and to develop strategies in record time.
Memory is also a great beneficiary when playing video games. People who gamble regularly tend to improve their working and episodic memory. This aspect could greatly favor the elderly, using video games as a means for cognitive stimulation.
Motivation is another important aspect in video games, especially that associated with achievement. Video games continually test players, who are often rewarded once they overcome a challenge (eg through points systems, coins, etc). This serves to reward the person’s continued effort. Gradually, the skills of the players develop more and more and the game presents increasingly demanding challenges.
It is quite common for video games to use failure as a motivational tool, providing occasional opportunities to achieve success (such as intermittent reinforcement programs). This type of operation gives the player an essential basic lesson: persistence in the face of failure. However, when faced with failure, players are motivated to reach their goals again. Despite the fact that players feel anger, sadness … from time to time during the game, they usually respond to failures with enthusiasm.
This series of challenges and overcoming them reinforce the players’ feelings of self-esteem and confidence. Increases the sense of achievement in the game, while conveying the desire to improve further. In addition, it enhances the flexibility that players have to overcome increasingly challenging and complex obstacles, as well as tolerance for frustration.
Video games are leisure activities, people immerse themselves in them as a means of having fun and having a good time. In fact, it is one of the most effective means of generating positive moods. For example, some studies show that non-demanding puzzle games with short-term commitments and a high degree of accessibility can improve mood, promote relaxation, and prevent anxiety.
It is common to experience positive emotions when playing video games. Intense pride is often felt after having been able to overcome great adversity. This is a feeling that gamers pursue and are looking to experience.
These types of experiences have been associated with positive outcomes for adolescents: academic commitment and achievement, higher self-esteem, and less anxiety. Although these experiences are not exclusive to video games, the importance of experiencing positive emotions on a daily basis has been demonstrated.
These are the foundation of well-being and sources of inspiration and connectivity. Now, it is important to study the cases in which people turn to video games to feel better. This motivation can become somewhat maladaptive, if it becomes an emotional avoidance strategy. This could be detrimental to the person.
Some video games (eg Life is Strange, Mass effect, Dragon Age , etc.) place great importance on the player’s decision making. Thus, some of these are defined through a series of choices that will affect their development. This tests the person’s ability to consider and be aware of the effects and consequences of their own choices.
Contrary to what may be thought, video games are an area where social relationships can develop. In fact, around 70% of people tend to play video games with a friend cooperatively or competitively.
Video games can foster relationships of friendship, a sense of leadership, solidarity, feelings of belonging and cohesion. In MMORPG ( Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game ) games like World of Warcraft, decision-making and team cooperation are very important. Thanks to this, prosocial skills and behaviors could be generalized to their peer and family relationships outside of the gaming environment.
Several studies found that playing prosocial video games was associated with helping behaviors. Even video games that can be classified as “violent” have the same probability of promoting this prosocial behavior if they fit these characteristics.
The esports (eSports) can promote moral (and sometimes professional) player development staff. These are not limited to the competitive field, but participate in the development of cooperative skills with the team.
This teamwork can later be transferred to other aspects of life. Several studies have found that even cooperative “violent” video game players, compared to competitive and single-player, engage in more prosocial behaviors outside of play.
The effects of video games in the family environment have also been studied. If family members participate and play video games together, family satisfaction and contact are greater. In fact, families with communication problems could benefit from the effects of playing video games together .
Now, we must take into account the time spent on the devices, especially in stages of intellectual maturation. It is recommended that the little ones spend no more than two hours of daily entertainment with screens.
Video games have often been associated with rather sedentary practices. However, there are so-called active video games, which have an important physical activity component.
Players can use these video games as a means of playing sports, dancing, walking, etc. in a world where more and more time is spent sitting. In a society immersed in technology, with high rates of sedentary lifestyle, active video games can emerge as a new way to promote physical activity.
There are several who try to promote a healthier lifestyle and behaviors, such as the WiiFit . Although there are few studies, they could also be used as a means of physical rehabilitation for those who need it.
These new technologies could also be used as a means to reduce physical problems. However, caution should be exercised to avoid unnecessary injury, as you are rarely under professional supervision when playing.
Other games also include a social aspect, apart from the one already mentioned. Mobile games like Pokémon GO showed that these types of activities, which at first could be considered lonely and sedentary, became physical and social experiences.
All kinds of people of different ages, professions, etc. participated in this game. They played with their families, couples, friends, even with strangers they met on their walk and with those who teamed up to knock down gyms or get legendary Pokémon.
Some friendships have been forged from these interactions. All this achieved thanks to social interaction through the game. That is, apart from obtaining physical benefits (walking kilometers to find Pokémon) there are also social benefits.
Video game damage
It cannot be ignored that video games can also have negative impacts on people . One of the biggest problems of these is the addictive potential they have. It can even become dependency due to the multiple hours that can be spent in front of the screen.
In addition, it would be influencing other areas of the person, such as social (translated into total isolation from the environment), academic / professional (absenteeism), etc. When these difficulties appear, it is advisable to consult a psychologist in order to delve into what underlies the addiction.
Other types of psychological difficulties often hide behind these addictions. Other times, when phenomena such as pay to play / win occur , the most vulnerable people (eg children) can get carried away and spend a lot of money on a video game .
Another major concern regarding video games is its relationship with violent behavior . It is feared above all that these spread among children and adolescents. Often times, this violence is not only physical, but ideological issues also come into play.
On occasion, the player has been observed to be rewarded for the violent behaviors of their avatar. It is feared that these video games end up negatively affecting empathy and encouraging aggressive behaviors . In addition, the video game contains an active dimension that could influence the impact of this violence, magnifying it.
Controversy still exists as to whether violent video games actually have such a negative impact on the youth population.
Now, not all video games are recommended for all audiences . Look at the age rating. In addition, there is currently a wide catalog of video games that do not involve violent actions and that can be played by everyone.
Conclusions on the disadvantages and benefits of video games.
We have reviewed the various benefits of video games and the problems they could bring. The most important thing is to highlight how much still remains to be investigated in this field .
Thus we know, for example, that the improvement in cognitive performance is not documented for all genres of video games. The strongest effects on cognitive performance come from the shooter genre and not from, for example, role-playing games.
Its negative effects are not too clear either. Many studies are still necessary on the subject to be able to draw more solid conclusions. However, the results are there and video games aim to be more than just a means of entertainment.
Video games appeared in the 50s and it is clear that they have come to stay. The best that can be done is to continue investigating its effects, both positive and negative, to get the best possible performance and benefits. Without a doubt, the potential benefits of video games are a huge field for study and research in the coming years.
Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.