Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

6 Scientific Benefits of Playing Videogames

Time to load up the console.

JACINTA BOWLER
26 APR 2017
 

This article has been sponsored by Bethesda for their new game Prey – out on the 5 May 2017.

The jury is in – video games are not the mind-melting devil creations that your parents made them out to be.

Not only can gaming be a whole lot of fun, but recent research has revealed there's also a range of scientific benefits to playing videogames – everything from increasing brain matter to pain relief.

 

Here are six of the best benefits to tell your friends next time you blow off drinks to game:

1. 3D video games could increase memory capacity

In a 2015 study in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from the University of California, Irvine recruited 69 participants, and asked a third to play Super Mario 3D World for two weeks, a third to play Angry Birds, and the rest to play nothing.

"Because of their engaging experiences and enriching 3D virtual environments, the same video games that have been played for decades by children and adults alike may actually provide our brain with meaningful stimulation," the researchers wrote.

The people who played Mario ended up doing better on follow-up memory tasks, while the others showed no improvement pre- and post-gaming.

 

"Video gamers who specifically favour complex 3D video games performed better," the researchers concluded.  

2. Gaming could be good for pain relief

This one is the best excuse for playing video games on your next sick day – a 2012 literature review published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that in the 38 studies examined, video games improved the health outcomes of 195 patients on every front, including psychological and physical therapy.

Plus, in 2010, scientists presented research at the American Pain Society's conference, which found evidence that playing video games, especially virtual reality games, are effective at reducing anxiety or pain caused by chronic illness or medical procedures.

"The focus is drawn to the game not the pain or the medical procedure, while the virtual reality experience engages visual and other senses," said Jeffrey Gold from the University of Southern California.

Preygr2Prey/Bethesda

3. There's evidence games help dyslexic kids improve their reading

Video games can help kids, too!

A 2013 study published in Cell investigated the effect that playing action games, like 'Rayman Raving Rabbids', could help dyslexic children aged 7 to 13 year read faster, with no loss in accuracy.

The results were equal or better to traditional reading treatments, which can be more time consuming and not as fun.

The researchers think that the fast pace in these games helped the kids increase their attention spans, although this hypothesis is yet to be tested.

4. Tetris could help limit trauma

Trusty old Tetris might be good for more than just time wasting if this new study is anything to go by.

Last year, 37 patients that arrived at a hospital emergency department in Oxford, UK, to be treated for a traffic accident were randomly selected to play 20 minutes of Tetris.

Another 34 patients didn't get given the game, but were asked to log their regular activity instead – including things such as texting, crosswords, and reading.

The Tetris players had significantly less flashbacks to the traumatic traffic event than those that didn't – about 62 percent less on average.

TetrisGifWolfram Research/Giphy

The research, published last month in Molecular Psychiatry, concludes that the "brief, science-driven intervention offers a low-intensity means that could substantially improve the mental health of those who have experienced psychological trauma."  

5. Some research shows that video games might actually make you smarter

A study published in PLoS ONE in 2013 goes as far as saying that your cognition might be enhanced when you start up your Xbox or PlayStation.

The researchers took five groups of non-gamers, and made them play a phone game for one hour a day over four weeks.

They found that all video games, both action and non-action games, improved cognitive function in the participants – measured by tests such as short term memory tasks.

6. Gaming is linked to an increase in brain matter

And finally – a 2014 study published in Molecular Psychiatry by researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany from the found that playing Super Mario 64 caused an increase in the size of brain regions.

Specifically the bits of the brain responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning, and fine motor skills.

When the researchers looked at 24 participants who had played the game for 30 minutes a day for two months under an MRI machine they found that they had increased grey matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum, compared to a control group that hadn't played any game.

"This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games", said one of the researchers, Simone Küh, at the time.

So there you go – scientists have totally just backed your decision to play video games all weekend.

You can thank us later.

This article has been sponsored by Bethesda for their new game Prey – find out more about the game here

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