Whenever you hear about a gamer, you probably think of the fat kid who lives in their parent's basement, right?
We see articles condemning gaming and making kids ill, unhealthy, and simply need to be avoided. While there are plenty of negative reasons why gaming (too much) should be avoided, there are plenty of surprising ways that gaming actually improves overall health and brain function.
Related - Do You Have a Video Game Disorder?
Gaming can help our mental, physical, and emotional states. Whether you play an MMORPG with millions of players, you create a bond with real life and online friends like none other. Playing Call of Duty or even busting out the Wii Fit all have a positive impact on our health.
While this article shouldn't be used as an excuse to game all day and put your duties to the side, there are plenty of benefits of gaming when used in moderation.
I recently wrote an article on being addicted to gaming is being considered a mental health disorder. You should check it out after reading this. It's linked above.
So what can playing video games even do for us? While not every game is created equal, different types of games will address different types of issues we need to improve. Let's see how video games help us.
How Video Games Can Be Healthy
#1 - We Can Overcome Dyslexia
If you suffer from dyslexia, video games have been shown to improve and overcome this mental disability. Researchers still don't understand dyslexia and why it happens to some people, but there's no way we can deny the results of the studies.
One theory is that attention problems can lead to dyslexic tendencies.
Playing video games for an extended amount of time force you to concentrate for long periods of time. Many games are full of changing sceneries and scenarios, you need to read instructions, follow storylines, and complete missions that force you to think and make decisions.
Focusing intently on something we enjoy changes the way your brain is made up. While we need more studies to be completed to fully understand why this helps, there is no denying this benefit.
#2 - Improved Vision
If sitting too close to the TV or masturbating really did ruin eyesight, I'd be blind right now.
With the emergence of wireless controllers and longer cables, we are able to sit plenty far away and game at a safe distance away from the television. Studies have shown that video games that force you to find details and distinguish between different objects of the same color actually improve your vision.
People with lazy eyes have also been shown to improve. The studies covered the patients' good eye and the gamer was forced to view through the lazy eye.
The eyes are controlled by muscles, so the extra focus and muscle strain you put on the eye will strengthen and correct eye tracking to the point where there is no longer a problem.
#3 - Boosted Creativity
Improving your creativity boosts all areas of life.
Games force you to come up with a way to beat the enemy, sneak behind enemy lines and coordinate attacks, and can help you come up with new tricks for skateboarding and other sports related games. Games such as the Sims or Minecraft allow you to build or control people, build houses, families, and create entire worlds.
You can create whatever you want and it's as easy as clicking a couple of buttons.
I used to love Legos as a kid and Minecraft is a pretty good alternative to that.
You will start to find new ways to attack problems in real life, be more valuable at your job, and the boost in confidence will allow you to accomplish anything you set your mind to.
#4 - Boosted Physical Activity
When you think of games, you think of sitting still in a chair or couch and using your fingers to control everything. While this type of game is not designed to improve the amount you get up and move, there are some games that do.
Games like Just Dance, Wii Fit, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band all utilize getting up and actually using your body to control the game. You improve coordination, improve posture, and some games even focus on weight loss like the Wii Fit.
Children who enjoy sports games can also become interested in those actual sports. The skills developed by learning plays and finding ways to outsmart the other team can carry over to many facets of life.
I invite you to encourage your kids to get out more. Find what games they are interested in and find a creative way to involve that game and get them active.
Does your child like to play NBA Basketball? Buy them a ball and a hoop. Don't yell at them to quit playing video games... It just doesn't work.
#5 - Improved Reaction Times
Many action and shooter games require quick reflexes and pinpoint accuracy.
The more practice you get with these games, the better you are at having those cat-like reflexes that you used to have.
I've noticed my reaction times have gotten rusty over the years and I've opted for a more simulation style than who can point and click first.
#6 - Improved Memory and Cognitive Abilities
While you think of games such as Sudoku or crossword puzzles as a game that would improve your cognitive abilities, there are many other games that can help.
Remembering your missions, characters, what items do in a game, and the controls are all improving your brain at a basic level.
Many games have been specifically created to help train the brain. As you beat your high score or complete a game in a harder mode, the boost in confidence allows you to keep thinking uninterrupted. There's no more self-doubt and you can get a boost in serotonin when you beat that hard level finally.
#7 - They Take Attention Away From Pain We Feel
While sitting and not moving for hours can cause discomfort, video games actually reduce the amount of pain we feel.
Similar to other activities, gaming takes your mind off of pain, stress, and anything else that the world has thrown your way. You get immersed in the game and you literally forget that you can't walk due to ankle pain or a surgery.
I've gone weeks and months where I could not sleep due to pain in my ankle, but gaming seemed to make that pain go away; at least temporarily.
Playing video game also releases endorphins. This is a painkilling hormone and is also why gaming can be pretty addictive.
Next time you are dealing with pain, turn on your favorite video game and the pain will melt away.
#8 - They Improve Social Skills and Build Connections
With online gaming and online communication becoming easier and more involved, it's no wonder why some people are content with never talking "in real life."
You get to know people and can build relationships with hundreds of people. People you'd most likely never walk up and talk to in person.
Playing a co-op shooting game or multiplayer sports game such as Rocket League forces your ability to communicate and work under pressure.
Learning better ways to communicate, especially under pressure, will lead to improved communication with your family, and you'll find networking much easier.
#9 - Improve Your Ability to Forge Deeper and More Meaningful Relationships
Humans need interaction and socialization. This is why our grandparents are so adamant about "getting out there and meeting people."
While networking and making career moves are important, gaming allows us to forge a deeper and meaningful relationship with people.
The overwhelming sense of isolation and loneliness melts away when I sign onto my favorite games and start talking with friends. These friends turn into people you can turn to in times of need.
The feeling of being accepted in a group is one we all strive for. There are many amazing gaming groups and conventions where like-minded people gather to talk about and enthuse over their favorite games.
#10 - Improves Decision Making Speed
Many women need to start gaming so they can actually decide where they want to eat.
Improving your decision making speed doesn't mean that it improves your ability to make the right decision, it improves your ability to make a decision and run with it.
These skills benefit you and directly relate to your health and well-being.
#11 - Improves Attention and Concentration
Playing games for an extended period of time requires concentration and full attention.
Many people who suffer from ADHD or other attention disorders can find relief when they start making progress in a game that requires their full attention.
The need for immediate decisions and attention for the next enemy attack actually lets us work and improve how we maintain attention.
#12 - Curbs Food Cravings
Sure, the normal setting shows a kid who binges on Mountain Dew and Doritos all night... But it's really not like that.
When we reach for snacks, we generally do it because we are bored or stressed. Both of which video games help with. We are having a lot of fun and enjoying ourselves, food is not the priority. In fact, I've forgotten to eat many times due do this.
Focus on eating healthy foods when you do eat and enjoy video games to help curb your cravings.
#13 - Minimizes Stress
If you're one that can't take your mind off of things, video games can help reduce your stress levels.
While you can't get rid of stress completely, you're able to keep it from taking over your life.
Your problems will still be there when you are done, but hopefully, you will have a fresh outlook on how to remedy or handle whatever you are dealing with.
#14 - Improves Coordination
While you think we're just sitting on the computer being inactive, video games provide outstanding mental stimulation.
For one to be good at a video game, you have to coordinate your visual, audial, and physical movements.
Many games require improving our muscle memory and timing.
#15 - Improves Problem-Solving Skills
Many games have rules. You have to think carefully before you make any move so that you ensure you are staying within those rules.
You will need to play split-second decisions and be able to act upon them.
Just like anything, practice makes perfect; you'll notice your problem-solving skills you've developed in video games will directly relate to your problem-solving skills in real life.
#16 - Games Can Be a Great Source of Learning
Since video games are so captivating and stimulating, many modern education instructors are incorporating video games as a tool to teach.
These video games are specifically designed to enhance children's cognitive and creative skills.
#17 - Enhances Multitasking Skills
Do you have troubles multitasking? While multitasking, in general, is not productive, being able to multitask is a handy skill.
If you're playing an action game, you'll most likely have to worry about what's going on in the game, your health, ammo, and anything else your game incorporates.
If you are able to master this in a video game, you will start to get better with multitasking skills in your workplace and home.
#18 - Gamers Are Better Surgeons
If you've made it this far through the list and this is surprising, here's why.
Many studies have shown that video games allow us to do more intricate surgeries without as many errors. This is due to the sheer amount of mental stimulation video games give us.
You need to make quick decisions, have pinpoint accuracy, and be able to control your stress levels.
There are many new technologies coming out that allow a doctor to control a robot to do surgery while looking at a screen. It's no wonder why these younger doctors are becoming some of the greatest surgeons available.
#19 - Many Games Improve Skills for Other Careers
There are so many simulation games that simulate other careers and teach you things that you can't just learn from watching.
From Euro Truck driver to flying a helicopter in Arma 3, these games allow us to see how things work without worrying about messing anything up.
I've watched gamers who fly helicopters in the ultra sim Arma 3 that have jumped in with a flight instructor and almost flawlessly started flying as if they've had months of seat time.
#20 - "Brain Games" Have Been Shown to Possibly Slow the Brain Aging Process
Just like the crossword puzzle your quick-witted 80-year-old grandmother has been doing since before the newspaper was invented, there are video games out there that actually train our brain and make them more powerful.
Many new games involve problem-solving, memory, and puzzle components that have been shown to help older players.
In fact, one study showed that 10 hours of game time led to increased cognitive functioning in participants that were 50 and older. This improvement lasts for several years.
#21 - They Address and Help People With Autism
Plenty of studies have shown the positive effect that video games have on people with autism.
They are able to forge some social interaction without the pressure of someone physically in front of you. They communicate through achievements and everyone feels like they belong to a group. This is one of the most basic fundamentals that we so dearly need met.
Being able to be more engaged in a celebratory victory with other teammates help address the lack of communication that people with autism generally present.
Other studies have shown that sharing space with multiple players also can lead to increased social interaction.