Since the humble beginnings of the industry, around 3 billion video games have been developed in the world. Some of them are playful and relaxing, while others are violent and gory. The latter type, preferred by many young gamers – shooters, survival horror games, and such – is often blamed for the violent behavior of youngsters.
Some vocal members of society condemn video games on every occasion – but science has a different opinion. It shows that video games not only don’t cause violence but they have several positive effects on our health.
Games improve memory and reduce stress
Playing video games does change the structure and functioning of the human brain, studies have shown, but it doesn’t turn children into blood-thirsty maniacs. Instead, depending on the game played, gaming can reduce stress, ease anxiety, and even improve memory.
3D games, in general, and strategy games in special, have been shown to improve the cognitive function of both older individuals and young students participating in a study.
On the other hand, casual games tend to improve mood, reduce stress, increase focus and even stop an anxiety attack when played in short sessions. Gamers have reported that, once they get into the rhythm of a game, it gives them an almost meditative state that helps them block out distractions and focus on the task at hand.
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Enjoy gaming responsibly
Moderation is key, though. In their study about casual games and stress, scientists found that sessions of 10 to 20 minutes per day, but not more than 30 minutes, were the most effective stress reducers. Of course, this time differs from one individual to another, so a bit of trial and error is needed for a person to find out their ideal session length.
It is important to choose the right type of game as well. In general, games that rely on fast thinking, experimentation, and problem solving are considered the best – examples include Minecraft or Legend of Zelda.
Online interactions in games – a double-edged sword
One of the best things about gaming today is social interaction – and at the same time, it’s one of the worst. Playing games in a collaborative setting, like cooperating in games like Halo, for example, will also improve the players’ mood, make them feel a connection with their peers, and improve cognitive abilities as well.
The problem comes when playing games with large player bases – like Fortnite, Call of Duty, or Overwatch – in a competitive setting, against players that are not a part of your social circle. These titles are known to have some of the most toxic communities of them all, with players that will sometimes say the most disrespectful and hurtful slurs, especially in a competitive setting, in the in-game chat.
Instead of reducing stress and improving social connections, these communities will have a negative effect on the players’ behavior, and can even impair their social skills with effects on their real-life interactions as well. And they can be incredibly stressful, too.
Video games are not the enemy. When used right, and in the right doses, they have the ability to improve our lives and our mental health. But with all things with a positive effects, they should be used in moderation, and after careful consideration of the upsides and downsides of every game.