Online gaming and video games are often associated with negative stereotypes and connotations of laziness, with gamers depicted as hermits who lock themselves away from the world to sit in front of a screen and lose themselves in a virtual reality! But wait … because not all gaming and gamers fit with this portrayal. In fact, gaming itself can offer many tangible benefits for both adults and children. Here we examine some of the reasons why just 30 minutes a day of online gaming time can be beneficial to your well-being, mental health, and even your IQ!
Whilst still in the early stages of research – online gaming is a relatively modern phenomenon – studies of the impact of this pastime on the brain have shown that it can help aid a mental function named neuroplasticity.
This isn’t a novel concept and in fact it occurs naturally in our everyday lives and throughout our lives. When we experience new situations, our brain adapts and physically changes to process them, allowing us to be better prepared for the next time they occur. Gaming causes this to happen in the same way and can alter our brains in a positive way. For example, research has shown that people who regularly play action games have increased reflexes and reaction times as they are forced to react to relentless random events on screen.
Video games are widely popular because they offer an escape from the real world; if you have had a tough day at work or school, gaming can massively reduce your stress levels and even turn your mood around completely.
When you enjoy playing a game, the brain releases dopamine which makes us feel euphoric, reducing the level of stress. Depending on the degree of difficulty presented by a video game, overcoming these challenges can be extremely rewarding too, leading to feelings of satisfaction. At the same time, gaming is a way to achieve instant gratification, this can be extremely beneficial to reducing stress because gratification in the real world is a gradual process and requires more hard work!
It’s for this reason that so many of us pick up our phones and jump on a game like Candy Crush saga on the train or bus ride home from work – it allows us to switch off and relive our daily stresses in a fun and entertaining way. The same is true of casino games, from card formats like Blackjack to simple video slots like Starburst. The comparatively low levels of concentration and the high entertainment value of these games makes them ideal to put the brain into ‘downtime mode’, particularly when they can be played for free at casino sites like Grand Mondial or on social platforms like Facebook. They are hugely popular on those platforms as you can play with demo chips purely for the fun of it without even risking your own money.
As well as being entertaining, video games are designed to challenge players mentally, usually through the use of complex puzzles that players must complete to progress to the next stage of the game.
However, the solutions to these puzzles are not one dimensional, and can vary depending on the actions taken by the player. At times, depending on the game, these puzzles are done in high pressure situations, such as a time-based puzzle or with the player being under attack.
This autonomy allows us to develop our problem-solving skills which can be taken into our everyday lives. Some studies have shown that students who actively play strategy-based games receive better exam results overall.
Alongside forging new neural connections in your brain, video games are a great way to, sometimes inadvertently, expand your knowledge. Gamification of learning is a concept which is now widely being accepted by many educational institutions because it makes learning, especially to children, more fun and engaging.
While games may synthesise subjects and topics which have already been explored in school, they can also introduce completely new concepts which you may have never come across before, expanding your understanding of the world.
The ultimate goal of games is that they are meant to be completed. The job of the player is figuring out how to reach that goal.
Because video games are not real, any actions taken in a game will not have any big negative consequences in the real world. Therefore, researchers have argued that video games can make people more persistent to develop the skills necessary to work towards and complete tasks, due to the fact that failure can be seen as something to learn from without many consequences.
Everyone who has ever played video games will have, at some point in their life, been told that sitting in front of a screen can damage your eyes. This could not be further from the truth, it appears.
Research has suggested that gamers often have better depth perception and spatial resolution than people who do not play video games. This is due to the fact that, as our field of view is limited to what the game will show us on the screen at one time, people who play video games are able to recognise minute details which may be important in the context of the game that they are playing.
The classic adage that gamers are lonesome, shy people is a stereotype that is simply incorrect.
What many non-gamers do not realise is that video games are intertwined with collaboration and social interaction. Most games will have some sort of multiplayer mode where they can talk and work together with people from all over the world.
This has some tangible benefits for everyday life, once again, studies have shown that children who regularly play video games are more likely to develop their social skills, which can therefore lead to better relationships in the real world.