The Hidden Benefits of Playing Video Games

This story was originally published in Art Hive Magazine issue #30, Summer 2019

Check out our Hello Creatives! podcast for more on this topic! Episode : “The Hidden Benefits of Video Games.”


Photo by: Florian Gagnepain

Photo by: Florian Gagnepain


They steal into reading time, cut homework time short, and leave the backyard feeling like a lonely, pristine wilderness. Video games have been a source of contention for many families. Many parents have struggled with how much time to allot for video-game play. They may worry that their kids aren’t spending the amount of time outdoors like they did as children. It’s true that limiting screen time is important and that well-rounded childhood that includes outdoor fun is ideal, but there actually are some benefits that come from playing video games--and they may be too good to overlook. In fact, there are some persuasive arguments in favor of adults playing them too.


Make Quick Decisions

In life, there are times to deliberate about an action as well as times where a split-second decision is needed. A study conducted by scientists at the University of Rochester in New York illustrated how playing action-packed video games trained people to make accurate decisions more quickly. There is evidence that the gamers who played the action games reacted 25 percent more quickly to study questions than non-players. Similar studies are also associated with compelling evidence that certain video games, particularly action games where new information and variables are continually presented, are promoting quick--and accurate--decision making. University of Rochester scientists have pointed out that there are certainly many careers where quick-decision making in a fast-paced environment is essential. Fields like the military, emergency medicine, air transportation, and so forth need people who think well--and quickly--on their feet. Yet, the scientists also suggest that these action video games can improve various general skills “with everyday activities like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town.”


Slow Down the Aging Process in the Brain

There have been numerous studies that have demonstrated that video games can improve cognitive function, but one involving elderly players has suggested that video gameplay can even slow the aging process in the brain. As individuals age, they tend to experience a decline in their attention span, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Some also experience a reduction in their ability to reason abstractedly. According to a study published in Gerontechnology, participants aged 50 and older who played digital action games for 10 hours or more experienced an improvement in cognitive function--a benefit that could last for several years. The study reported that “Digital action games require sensory discrimination, leading to efficient and rapid information processing, they are adaptive, with increasingly difficult levels made available after achieving success at lower levels of performance, and are challenging.” When elderly participants, aged 65 or older, played action video games such as Medal of Honor, as mentioned in the study, they demonstrated an improvement in “perceptual, attentional, and memory abilities.” While action games like Medal of Honor haven’t been designed for this purpose, they are, nevertheless, offering some surprising benefits.


Photo by: Fredrick Tendong

Photo by: Fredrick Tendong

Stress Reduction

For some players, video gaming can be stressful; some types of games may actually induce stress. However, there is considerable evidence that suggests gaming actually helps promote stress management skills and allows people to unwind and reduce their stress levels. In a study conducted at the University of Central Florida, researchers found that people who played video games during a work break experienced less workplace stress. The study, published in The Journal Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, showed that the workers who played during a five-minute break experienced a boost in mood and even improved cognitive function compared to study participants who did not play.


Vision Improvement

There is surprising evidence that video games can help improve eyesight--and even the American Optometric Association is pointing out the benefits that digital gaming bring to vision. A study has shown that players with the condition known as amblyopia, more commonly known as ‘lazy eye,’ experienced an improvement in the affected eye after playing for a period of time. In a separate study, people who played for 10 weeks experienced a discernible improvement in their ability to discern nuances in color. As a consequence, the American Optometric Association is reporting that many eye specialists are employing video gameplay as a form of vision therapy.


Photo by: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron

Photo by: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron

Diminish Cravings

Attempting to stop overeating, smoking, or drinking too much is a struggle for many people. There is evidence that playing video games helps reduce their cravings. A study out of Plymouth University found that participants experienced a 24 percent reduction in their cravings while playing the game Tetris. The scientists determined that a visually stimulating game such as Tetris occupied areas of the brain associated with imagination; instead of imagining a snack or cigarette break, players were preoccupied with the game. It’s unclear how long that benefit could last once players stopped playing, but for individuals trying to cut back on snacking, smoking, or drinking, the benefit of gameplay is clear.


Photo by: Emmanuel (@axville via: Unsplash)

Photo by: Emmanuel (@axville via: Unsplash)

Moderate Gaming Is Key

Researchers involved in the studies relied on moderate gameplay in their experiments. None of them suggested that playing video games to excess was required to promote a benefit. There have been a plethora of studies suggesting the disadvantages of playing video games--and those cannot be ignored either. Playing to excess can lead to video game addiction, reduced school performance, and decreased real-life skills. Many psychologists have warned that associating violence with ‘fun,’ as many video games do, can have negative consequences on players. With moderate gameplay, players may enjoy many of the benefits of digital gaming without suffering the negative effects. A growing body of research from reputable institutions is showing that video games, even those violent shooter games that many parents shun, can offer mental and physical health benefits. Both kids and adults can enjoy these benefits with moderate gameplay. As research in this field is ongoing, new benefit discoveries may be on the horizon--so keep your controllers charged and at the ready.


Sources: Entrepreneur (entrepreneur.com/article/297881); NCBI (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4130645/);

Time(time.com/14021/playing-tetris-will-make-you-forget-youre-hungry/ ); University of Rochester

(rochester.edu/news/show.php?id=3679)


Check out our Hello Creatives! podcast for more on this topic! Episode : “The Hidden Benefits of Video Games.”