A lot of parents don’t want their kids playing video games all day because they’re worried that the kids will spend more time glued to the screen than they will be interacting with other people or getting involved in physical activities. As it turns out, though, there are actually quite a few benefits to playing video games, and many of them have nothing to do with being just a game. Here are 5 unexpected benefits of playing video games that you might not have known about before now.
1) Increased creativity
A study by researchers at Queen Mary University London found that playing action-packed video games for just three minutes at a time can help you to think more creatively. It does so by increasing your ability to hold and manipulate information in your working memory. The action-packed nature of these games requires players to really focus, which helps them develop what psychologists call cognitive fluidity. This is a fancy way to say that gaming trains your brain to work better and faster.
2) Improved Fitness
Video games can improve our fitness by forcing us to get off our butts. Online multiplayer video games often require gamers to play in teams and work together for long periods of time. Gamers must be quick, attentive, and physically fit if they want to win. One study even showed that subjects who played a fast-paced first-person shooter game for one hour burned approximately 200 calories. You may not see yourself as a gamer just yet, but your future self will thank you!
3) Educational Gains
One popular online play game, Project Spark, is set to merge both gaming and education. Microsoft has said Project Spark will create an interactive learning experience that can educate gamers on a variety of subjects—including art, music, and how to code in an effort to teach kids 21st-century skills like critical thinking. For example, they plan on releasing new gaming experiences such as Criminal Case, which will allow players to role-play as detectives in an effort to solve crimes. Teachers are also able to use Project Spark’s editing tools to create custom curricula and track students’ progress.
4) Improved problem solving skills
It’s always been a stereotype that gamers are not as quick to solve problems in their everyday lives as others who don’t play video games. That might be true, but recent studies show that gaming can actually make you more apt to come up with creative solutions to problems – and boost your memory too. In one study, researchers found that online game players tend to have better visual short-term memory and spatial navigation skills than those who don’t regularly play games. Another study showed that playing fast-paced action games like Portal 2 helped improve problem solving skills—and even reduced cravings for tobacco and alcohol! Online gaming has also been shown to improve motor skills, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and other cognitive abilities.
5) Bonding experience with friends
The reason that video games are so popular is that people enjoy playing them together. And, by together, we mean face-to-face. Whether you’re enjoying a multi-player online game or sitting in front of your TV playing with friends and family, there is nothing quite like sitting on a couch and sharing an experience. In fact, many studies have shown that socializing while gaming improves communication skills among gamers as well as with their peers; it can even encourage you to talk more during other aspects of your life!
6) Enhanced memory retention
If you play some video games, you’re going to experience increased brain activity—particularly in parts of your memory responsible for spatial reasoning. As a result, video games are now being touted as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects millions worldwide. According to one study published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, mice that played action-based video games experienced improved memory retention and were better able to learn new tasks than those who didn’t. Another study from Stanford University supports these findings. Neuroscientists discovered that elderly individuals who played 3D platformer games for 40 hours over an eight-week period showed increased gray matter in areas associated with memory and strategic planning.
7) Mental stimulation
Many people tend to dismiss video games as activities that aren’t good for much more than wasting time. Research, however, shows that playing video games can benefit your brain in a variety of ways. First and foremost, video games are incredibly stimulating. When you play a game, you not only have to focus on what you’re doing in order to succeed; many games also require you to make quick decisions about how best to proceed and often offer players different options for approaching challenges.