Adults sometimes write video games off as child’s play, but that’s because they don’t realize the many benefits the occasional turn with the controller can have for gamers of all ages. Yes, games are fun (and that’s reason enough for us), but there are plenty of scientific justifications for playing too. For example?
Video games can improve manual dexterity.
Controller-based games can be great for your hands. In a study involving a group of surgeons, researchers found that those who played video games were faster at performing advanced procedures and made 37 percent fewer mistakes than those who didn’t. Special video games have also been used as physical therapy to help stroke victims regain control of their hands and wrists.
Video games can increase your brain’s gray matter.
Gaming is really a workout for your mind disguised as fun. Studies have shown that playing video games regularly may increase gray matter in the brain and boost brain connectivity. (Gray matter is associated with muscle control, memories, perception, and spatial navigation.)
Gamers may have better social skills.
The stereotype of a shy person who uses video games as a way to escape is not what the average gamer looks like. Past research involving children found that those who played more video games were more likely to have good social skills, perform better academically, and to have built better relationships with other students because of the social and collaborative component to some types of games.
Games can teach you to be a better problem solver.
Open-world, mission-based, and multi-level games are designed like complex puzzles that take several hours to solve. Occasionally, the solution varies based on your actions in the game. Learning to think on your feet and strategize in a fast-paced fantasy environment is a skill that can translate to the real world. One long-term study published in 2013 showed that children who played strategy-based games showed an improvement in problem-solving skills—and thus, tended to get better grades—the next school year.
You can become more physically active as a gamer.
Most major consoles now have the technology to get gamers off of the couch and onto their feet. The future of VR gaming will take things to a whole new level. Mobile game programmers have also started to create games that are played across physical space, building them around real-world location data and inspiring gamers to relocate in order to advance in the virtual world.
Video games can improve your vision.
As long as you’re not staring at the screen for 10 hours straight (or sitting two feet away), playing video games can actually make for better vision. In one study, 10 male students who were not gamers were trained for 30 hours in first-person action games and then tested against 10 non-gamers. The students who played were able to see objects more clearly in cluttered spaces because of improved spatial resolution. They were able to train their brains to see smaller details, because in each game, those details turned out to be important.
Video games can have mental health benefits.
Studies have shown that some video games can boost mood and make for better heart rhythms—a sign that they may also help relieve stress. The correlation (not causality) between video games and stress has been reflected in numerous unrelated studies, which is why video games have been used in therapy for over a decade.
They’re a fun way to get tricked into learning.
There are videos games on just about everything. Early on, developers realized that video games could be used to improve reading and math skills. Today, there are games that incorporate world history, cooking, politics, chemistry, architecture, and other topics you may not have been exposed to in school.
Video games can inspire you to be more persistent.
With video games you either win or you keep trying, learning from your mistakes as you progress until you reach the goal. Because of this, some researchers and educators argue that video games can teach people to be more confident and to work towards their goals, treating each misstep as just another learning opportunity.
Gaming is not just a pastime anymore. Find out how the fastest-growing sport is changing the game.