5 Health Benefits of Playing Video Games

Don’t let your grouchy significant other, parents, children, or job get in the way of another hour of your quest to rid London of Templars, take on strange (yet familiar) foes on Sanghelios and Genesis, or fight through a post-apocalyptic Boston — you’re simply doing it for our own health.

That’s one way to look at, or justify things, especially if you’re an avid gamer.

There’s a certain level of stigma that is associated with video games — a stigma that has been around since games themselves were conceived decades ago, and that has yet to completely dissolve. Though today’s games are more akin to interactive movies than to anything like the games of the 1980s and ’90s, people who aren’t interested in them still consider them to be nothing more than a time sink; a childish hobby or habit that some people never grew out of.

And yet, the gaming industry becomes bigger and better, year after year. Kids are growing up with video games on their computers, tablets, and smartphones, not just with consoles. Learning systems are being designed to mimic games, and there are more and more positive outcomes being attributed to gaming than anyone would have ever thought possible. Games are now an intrinsic part of our culture, and there’s no indication that they’re going to go away anytime soon.

And the good news is that games themselves actually offer a myriad of health benefits — in sharp contrast to what your parents probably told you growing up. So, now you have a little ammo to fire back when someone tells you that you’re playing too much, or when you hear that famous line, “you’re rotting your brain playing those things.”

Let them go back to watching the Kardashians, and keep soaking up the health benefits that video games present, including the following five.

1. They boost your memory

Man having fun playing video games

Man having fun playing video games | Source: Thinkstock

More and more studies are showing that video games are good for memory. Just recently, a study from the University of California-Irvine found that the hippocampus, the region associated with complex learning and memory, was altered by playing 3-D games. The memory improvement was fairly substantial, as high as 12% in some individuals. Though it’s not quite clear how or why these games are helping memory, researchers are excited about how their findings can be used to treat people suffering from memory and cognition issues.

2. They increase coordination

Friends playing video games

Friends playing video games | Source: iStock

Video games help zero-in impressive levels of hand-eye coordination. In fact, they help so much that games are actually being used to help train surgeons, as they work on making precision movements and performing tasks in very limited space. The link between video games and motor skills has been known for quite some time, but newer research is shedding even more light onto the connection. Fast-paced games, like first-person shooters, have been shown to boost motor skills and help develop fast decision making.

This is how you’re able to “360 no-scope” some pleb from 30 meters out.

3. They’re good for cognitive health

We already discussed how games can help with memory, but they can also help with overall cognitive function as well. That means that by sinking some time into your favorite game, you can be working on becoming more attentive, focused, and perceptive — all while thinking critically and making decisions, in-game. This is especially important as game-playing may be a viable treatment option for folks suffering from age-related cognitive diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

4. They reduce stress and depression

Two friends playing video games

Two friends playing video games | Source: iStock

Nothing relieves stress quite like using a Scorpion tank to decimate waves of enemies on a faraway planet (or alien construct). And there’s plenty of evidence now that points to a link between video games and reduced levels of stress, and even reduced rates of depression. As it turns out, games can keep your brain busy while not slamming you with any of the stress and anxiety that real-world problems present. Playing Angry Birds, for example, is a simple and relaxing exercise for many personality types. Games can also be a social outlet, allowing those who are lonely a chance to get some interaction.

5. They can sharpen your decision making

We touched on this, but video games can really help you sharpen your decision-making skills. Many games are rife with moral dilemmas, which force you to weigh the pros and cons and make a decision that will impact your in-game experience. Others, like strategy games, require you to think critically on a very high level. Even a first-person shooter requires a good deal of critical thinking and strategy, rather than just “aim and shoot.” The skills polished by playing games can actually translate well into the real world as well, studies are finding.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

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