You’ve probably caught some flak for the amount of time you spend playing video games. People accuse gamers of being addicted — of whiling away the hours in overly aggressive, sexist, antisocial activities.
Well, they’re wrong.
It turns out that you’ve been becoming smarter, faster, and happier while you play your favorite games. This isn’t conjecture — it’s all backed by solid research. Here’s what recent studies show your gaming habits are doing to make you a better person:
1. Gaming enhances psychological wellness
The challenges and triumphs you experience when you play a video game fulfill some of your most basic psychological needs. Researchers have linked gaming to increased feelings of freedom, achievement, and social connection in gamers who responded to questionnaires before and after playing. Other studies have shown that some video games help people feel happier, kinder, and more relaxed. Not bad.
2. Your brain gets bigger — literally
Gamers in Germany who played Super Mario 64 for a half hour each day over a 2-month span actually built up the gray matter in their brains. The areas that grew in volume were the ones that control fine motor skills, spatial awareness, strategic thinking and memory.
3. Gaming keeps you young
On a related note, the complex challenges of video gaming keep your brain functioning as you age. Just 2 hours of video gaming a week has dramatically slowed the decline in the cognitive skills of seniors.
4. You can finally become a surgeon
No kidding. Doctors who spent a month playing on Wii while training to become laparoscopic surgeons showed better skills than their peers who didn’t play video games. Their movements were more precise and their overall eye-hand coordination was better.
5. Gaming makes your mind more flexible
In a British study, volunteers played Starcraft for a total of 40 hours spread out over about 7 weeks. They took a series of psychological tests at the beginning and again at the end of the study. And the results? After 7 weeks of gaming, they were faster and more accurate when completing tasks that required mental flexibility.
6. Your vision improves
Cool breakthrough! Maybe soon we’ll all be playing video games instead of wearing glasses. It turns out that shooter games like Call of Duty can boost your sensitivity to color contrast, especially in the hard-to-correct gray range, which is crucial to night vision and is one of the first visual abilities we lose with age.
7. Gaming relieves physical pain and stress
People who experience the pain of serious injuries, chronic disease and chemotherapy feel less stress, less fear and less pain when they play immersive virtual reality games. This is probably partly because they’re giving themselves something else to think about, but also because gaming stimulates the brain to release pain-killing endorphins.
8. You make the right decisions — faster
Who knew that being a confirmed gamer might look good on your resume? It’s true, though. Playing action games like Unreal Tournament teaches video gamers to make quick, smart decisions in situations that aren’t game-related. How quick, you ask? About 25 percent faster than people who prefer slower games like The Sims.
So keep playing those games. You’re not just having fun — you’re improving yourself, mentally and physically. But you knew that all along, didn’t you?