There are some surprising scientific evidences on gaming, writes Aiman Maulana

GAMING is one of the best pastime you can indulge in today. You can imagine what it’s like to live in a medieval world, fight against mythical beasts and be the hero of the story. It’s fun and it feels good to play them.

Like every entertainment medium out there however, people have voiced their concerns, with some believing that it’s just a waste of time. Believe it or not, gaming have positive effects and are scientifically proven. Here are five benefits that gaming can have on people.

1. MAKES YOU SMARTER

Many parents feel that gaming is a waste of time. They prefer their children to spend time on studies instead since they feel that gaming has no intellectual benefits whatsoever. But here’s the thing, gaming can actually make you smarter and science has proven that.

In 2013, psychologist Simone Kuhn studied the effects of prolonged videogame exposure on the brains of young adults and found that several areas of grey matter saw significant growth. Kuhn’s subjects played Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes every day. After two months, those subjects underwent MRI scans and Kuhn discovered that their prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum had grown more compared to another group that didn’t play games.

The prefrontal cortex involved higher cognitive functions such as strategic planning. The hippocampus on the other hand, involved memory formation and spatial formation, while the cerebellum involved motor function.

Kuhn said: “The region in which we found the changes after video game playing is, predictably, the region where the digits of the hands are controlled.”In other words, gaming can improve brain functions and therefore, make you smarter.

2. MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER

Cyberpsychologist Berni Good studied the effects of gaming on our wellbeing. She explained how gamers can address their fundamental psychological needs through gaming via the Self Determination Theory (SDT). According to the theory, there are three key areas that tap into motivation and sense of wellbeing.

“The first is the strong human need to feel competent. Next, we have the human need to relate to others in a meaningful way. Lastly, within the SDT model is human need for autonomy, the idea that we need to be the masters of our own destiny,” said Good.

Mastering a particular game and playing with friends will satisfy the first need. With recent advancements in technology, gamers can now share their progress and achievements on social media that helps them relate to other people better. As for the last need in the SDT model, videogames allow us to play however we like and head for whichever path we choose, which makes us the masters of our own destiny.

Ever felt that sense of satisfaction upon finishing a game? Now, you can see how gaming can satisfy our psychological needs and make us feel happy and more self-aware.

3. IMPROVES EYESIGHT

In the past, we’ve heard that gaming can damage our eyesight, especially due to staring at the screen for long hours.

However in 2012, Canada’s McMaster University has found that it is the opposite. The study involved six adults aged between 19 and 31, who are born with cataracts in both eyes, and had their sight problem fixed through either surgery or special contact lenses in early childhood. Despite that, they still had trouble reading, tracking moving objects and identifying faces.

In the study, each subject was tasked with playing first-person shooter games for up to 40 hours within a month. After the period was over, the subjects’ eyesight was improved. They can now read one or two lines further down on a standard optician’s eye chart, become better at tracking the direction of movement, detecting slow rates of flicker and capable of distinguishing between faces.

With that in mind, gamers can not only improve their eyesight but it might also be the best rehab option after a successful optical surgery.

4. FOCUS BETTER

It’s not about eyesight focus but rather what to focus on first when a problem arises.

Dr Daphne Bavelier, an expert in the field of Brain: Cognitive Sciences, gave a presentation on the common misconceptions of gaming in a 2012 TED talk. She presented the audience with a “word colour” test, where the names of specific colours will appear written in a different colour than the name itself.

Dr Bavelier explained that gamers have an easier time with that test as they have many advantages in terms of attention, such as when tracking moving objects. “Those action video games have a number of ingredients that are actually really powerful for brain plasticity, learning, attention, vision, etc.

“We are working on understanding what are those active ingredients, so that we can really leverage them to deliver better games, either for education or for rehabilitation of patients.”

As gamers, we are used to seeing a main objective in a game being divided into several smaller objectives. For example, our main goal is to save a person but to do that, you may need to obtain in-game items, solve puzzles and more, before you can accomplish the main objective. As such, gamers are more capable of focusing on what needs to be done first in order to solve a particular problem.

5. SOCIALISE BETTER

There’s a stereotype that gamers are antisocial. This might have been true before when online gaming wasn’t mainstream but today, you can tell that it’s just another misconception.

Researchers from North Carolina State University, York University and the University Of Ontario Institute Of Technology have conducted multiple surveys in Canada and the UK, targeting gamers in Internet cafes, large events and even those in bars.

From that survey, they found that gaming did not discourage social interaction instead, it enhances and encourages social interaction among gamers.

Dr Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at North Carolina State University and head author of the study, said: “We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviours at once: Watching games, talking, drinking and chatting online. Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”

It’s easy to interact with people in online games as it’s instantly known that everyone you meet in a particular online game will have a common interest with you and that is the game itself. Even if you move outside of online games and focus on more single player-oriented ones, gamers can use their experiences with certain games as social currency with people in order to connect with them better.

Now, there are more benefits of gaming than just these five but it’s definitely enough to show people that your favourite hobby is not only doing no harm to you but it also improves your life. Like all good things however, too much of it is bad, so if you’re going to game on, do it in moderation and you’ll be fine.

MORE POSITIVE EFFECTS

OTHER benefits of gaming:

1. Gaming helps improve hand-eye coordination, especially after playing shooter games.

2. Gaming helps improve a gamer’s multitasking capabilities. This is especially true for real-time strategy games, where players are required to manage multiple objectives simultaneously.

3. Gaming can help you bond with family and friends better thanks to multiplayer games.

4. With recent advances in virtual reality and motion sensors, you can actually lose weight with gaming.

5. Gaming is an effective way to relieve stress and it can act as an antidepressant.

6. Gaming can help relieve a player from both physical and mental pain.

7. Due to increased brain activity during gaming, doctors are encouraging senior citizens to play videogames as a way to maintain and improve cognitive functions.

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