Video Gaming Research Reveals the Benefits of Play

Video gaming is the one form of entertainment that has grown rather than dwindled over the decades. Children cannot, for the most part, go outside and find others to play with freely, away from adults, as they once could; nevertheless, many of them can and do go online and play video games. These games have evolved over time to become more diverse, complicated, creative, and sociable. This is especially true now that multi-player internet games are becoming more popular. You could believe that the rise of video gaming is a cause of deterioration in psychological health if you accept the scare stories in the media, but as I’ve shown previously (e.g. here), the opposite may be true. In fact, video gaming may be a mitigating influence, helping to mitigate the negative impacts of the loss of traditional forms of play.

We should anticipate to find more mental health and social difficulties in video gamers than in otherwise identical people who are not gamers if video gaming impairs psychological wellbeing. If video gaming, like other types of play, enhances mental health, we should find that gamers are, on average, mentally healthier than non-gamers. Hundreds of research have already been conducted on the psychological correlates and repercussions of video gaming, and the findings overwhelmingly support the notion that video gaming provides many of the same benefits as traditional forms of play. This is a summary of that research.

Cognitive Advantages

To date, the majority of video game research has focused on cognition. Young people who play video games frequently have higher IQs and score better on a number of cognitive tests of perceptual and mental aptitude than non-gamers, according to correlational research. Furthermore, a lot of studies have shown that when non-gamers take up gaming for the sake of the study, their cognitive capacities improve. In a previous post, I described several of those findings (here). More current research has verified and expanded on those findings.

Benoit Bediou and his colleagues (2018) evaluated all recent studies (published since 2000) on the cognitive impact of playing action video games in a recent paper in Psychological Bulletin. They discovered 89 correlational studies that linked the average number of hours spent playing action video games per week to one or more measures of cognitive ability, as well as 22 intervention studies (true experiments) in which non-gamers were asked to play action video games for a set number of hours per week for a set number of weeks, and were compared to other non-gamers on their degree of improvement on one or more cognitive tests over that time.

Benefits of Creativity

There has been little investigation exploring the probable links between video gaming and creativity to date. A research in Michigan by Linda Jackson and her colleagues (2012), in which 491 12-year-old students participated, is an exception. These researchers looked at how many hours per week each youngster spent playing video games, as well as how much time they spent on their phones or on the Internet when they weren’t playing games. They used the well-validated Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking to examine several facets of creativity in each child (see here for more on this battery of tests).

Benefits of Motivation

Video games are designed in such a way that the level of difficulty can be gradually escalated, presenting players with more tough issues to complete. Persistence pays dividends in video games, according to many gamers themselves. If you keep trying and experimenting with different techniques, you will finally achieve your goal in the game.

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