Many childhood gamers who’ve grown into working professionals remember their parents telling them to stop playing video games. “They’ll rot your brain,” was a popular reason given by adults who turned off the Nintendo and opened the front door. While it’s true that no one should spend an entire lifetime with hands on a mobile device or controller, eyes locked on the screen, studies are finding more benefits to gaming every year – both for children and adults.
Take a 2009 study done by Deakin University medical researchers, for example. They determined that preschoolers who played interactive games performed better on tests of mobility like kicking, catching and throwing than did children who did not play interactive electronic games. The study wasn’t set up to determine whether the use of games actually increased the children’s functional mobility, but the head researcher, Dr. Lisa Barnett, said the results were interesting enough to warrant further research.
The study looked at children who played interactive games like those on the Wii, non-interactive games like those on the Gameboy, both types of game and no games. More than half of the children in the study were girls and the average skill increase was about 12 percent for interactive gamers.
It isn’t only children who benefit from games, though.
Another 2009 study found that doctors who spent three hours a week playing games (whether PC, Xbox, Playstation or another system) were both more skilled and quicker to finish a laparoscopic surgery than doctors who did not play games. On average, gamer surgeons made 37 percent fewer errors and finished 27 percent more quickly. Dr. James Rosser explained that the same hand-eye skills used in video games can be used at the operation table. Laparoscopic surgery uses small cameras and remote control tools to perform surgeries with minimal scarring or cutting.
The study was done at Iowa State University with researchers from Beth Israel hospital in New York City and the National Institute on Media and the Family. 33 doctors’ gaming habits and surgery records were examined. The study also found that the skill level of the gamers correlated to their success as a surgeon.
Not only do video games have many benefits for children and adults, but many claims made against video games – that they can cause negative side effects like depression, for example – have been proven mostly false. If you need an extra boost in your mental awareness, try playing a game or two. After all, even the even the Office of Naval Research has found that adults who game process information more quickly and improve their problem-solving and reasoning capabilities.