Video Games

Why Play Video Games?

GeekValley - Video Games (photo)

 Video games have unfairly been berated in this history of their existence. Indeed, parents and media have often used them as scapegoats to explain obesity, violent behaviour and addiction in their children.

Yet, there are more compelling reasons to play video games than “just to unwind” or “for a bit of fun”. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that several studies have demonstrated that video games have numerous mental and physical benefits.


I feel passionately that gamers shouldn’t be labelled as lazy, socially awkward and brain-dead. Instead, many gamers are fortifying their mind while breaking out a sweat.

This page extols the virtues of playing video games and aims to fight back against the naysayers.


Faster Decision-Making

High-tempo video games demand quick thinking and snap decision in order to avoid a sudden death. Using these games as a training ground, active gamers apply this skill to real-life situations, and develop a more attentive approach to their surroundings.

Scientists from the University of Rochester conducted a ground-breaking study which gathered up a group of 18 – 25 year olds and then split them into two groups. The first group were assigned to play 50 hours of a strategic game, “The Sims 2”. The other group were to spend the same amount of time playing high-octane “Call of Duty 2”.

After completing the 50-hour period, the strategy and action gamers were asked to perform a task, unrelated to gaming. The results were astounding; the action folk made decisions 25% faster than the SIMS folk, without sacrificing accuracy.

So, for all of you deliberators, procrastinators and worriers, pick up a controller and start firing a bazooka until deciding what to eat for lunch is a snap decision rather than a drawn out process.


Physical Activity

Upon reading the above sub-title, you may have done a double-take. Perching your caboose on your La-Z-Boy sofa, tapping away at a controller for hours on end, isn’t generally the training regime of an elite athlete.

However, a brand new crop of video games that encourage exercise have recently been released. Known as “exergames”, these games combine real-world movement and exercise with virtual worlds. For those fearful of leaving their front step, or frequenting overcrowded gyms, this could be a godsend.

Perhaps the first ubiquitous “movement video game” was Dance Dance Revolution. Making its debut in arcades, this game flashes up a series of arrows on a screen, which correspond to one of four different squares that the participant needs to step on, in time.

Endocrinologist Stanley Hsia is working on researching whether players of this game are at a lower risk of contracting Type-2 Diabetes than those who run on a treadmill.

Better still, a study out of the University of Indiana demonstrated that when workout advice was doled out by a video game called Second Life , participants reported more positive changes to their diets and physical activity than versus a traditional gym, even when weight loss was equal in both cases.


Making us into Better People

Strategy games reward deep thinking; those who have thought through all aspects of a situation and arrived at the best conclusion typically complete a level and move on to the next.

Indeed, slow-moving strategy games can alter our thinking behaviour so that we begin to make more prudent, ethical decisions. Not only that, it forces the gamer to take a “long-term” approach, rather than cut corners and go for instant gratification.

While most games are not designed with this end-goal in mind, a newly designed game, Quandry, has. This game situates human colonists on the fictional planet “Braxos”, requires the captain (you) to overcome the dilemmas and disagreements among settlers.

That’s not to say that a few hours plugging away at the game will transform you into Mother Teresa. Rather, Scot Osterweil, who is the creative director at MIT’s Education Arcade, explains,

“We don’t believe that playing the game will automatically help players take better perspectives in their own lives, but we think the game represents a playful way of introducing ideas that can be further developed through reflective conversation with others, and through additional activities provided on the website”

So, if you’re not going to send your kids to church, this needn’t be a moral quandary – just buy your kids Quandry.

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