Video games are here to stay and people love them, especially children, but have you ever wondered what, if any, affect they have on the brain? Many researchers have asked this very question and the answers are varied. Do a google search and you will find millions of hits debating the answer. One thing that all researchers agree on is that video games do have an affect on the brain, but what that is depends on many factors.
Gamers, parents, politicians and the media have all attacked video games as being a negative force on the minds of children. As games become more and more realistic through advances in technology, some games are criticized for violence, leading to a desensitization in the players. However, psychologists today are finding that video games have a positive affect on children and their propensity for learning.
Well designed video games are natural teachers. By using a system of reinforcements and punishments, the player gains immediate feedback and the player sharpens their skills through repeated practice. And the benefits of playing video games are varied and not just for children.
One U.S. Department of Education report from a study in 2002 showed that educational games were effective learning tools. Another study, published in Nature Neuroscience, showed that action video games improved adults’ ability to make fine discriminations in shades of gray, which is important for things like driving at night. Another neuroscience study showed that action video games can improve visual attention to the periphery, while yet another study showed that games that require teamwork assist in the development of collaboration.
In addition, study after study shows that video games that present situations where characters help each other in non-violent ways increase social skills. In one study, 161 college students were randomly assigned to play one of several types of video games: violent, neutral or pro-social games. After playing the assigned games, the students were asked to complete a skill where they could either help or hurt another student. The results showed that those who had played the violent game were more likely to hurt their fellow student, while those who had played the pro-social game were more likely to help one another.
Good or bad, video games are here to stay and as they become more and more popular and more advanced, the studies into their affects will continue to grow. Researchers tend to agree that with the exception of educational games, most of these affects are unintentional, yet very real.