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Sometime in your life, you have heard rumors that video games are bad for you. If you are a kid, you’re parents have probably told you that hundreds of times. If you’re a parent, you’ve most likely said it yourself. Well, guess what, the kids were right. It seems that many people, maybe even yourself, believe myths about video games without thinking about possible advantages.
Luckily for gaming enthusiasts, these myths have been shot down by many researchers and scientists.
First off, the games-violence connection is one of the myths that is explained by Henry Jenkins, an MIT professor. Shooting and fighting games don’t directly make you violent, the violence that occurs would have happened anyway. Shooting games require an enormous amount of sensory ability and brain function. From knowing how much ammo is in the five or so guns that you switch through to remembering advantage points in a map, the game requires so much thought that it helps train your brain to tackle many tasks at once. Over time, sensory abilities increase in general. Reaction time will improve and eventually an ability to isolate important sounds will develop.
Some people may argue that video games aren’t very expressive. “Why waste your time playing video games?” Just take a look at games that exist today. Games like Scribblenauts and Spore not only give you freedom get to a goal however you want, but they let you share your ideas with the world. In Scribblenauts, you get to type anything into the Nintendo D.S. and have them appear in game for use. In Spore, you create a species and help it evolve however you want it to. Most games today allow you to create your own levels and share them with others. Only thing about having all of these features is kids really don’t want to stop playing. This leads to the antisocial “con” of video games.
Some think that video games are socially isolating. The only socially isolating scenario I can think of is spending hours in a closet playing Pac-Man or Galaga. Playing the same games in an arcade can result in the exact opposite effect. People in an arcade can start up a conversation about their records and short-cuts in H2Overdrive (a boat racing game). Even playing single player games at home can become socially interactive by using forums and other conversational tools on the internet to talk with others. Playing online multiplayer games force players to get into their opponents thoughts. Video games allow people around the world to compete with each other for highscores and virual fame. Competitive behavior makes us want to be better than others, so people start to discuss strategies with others to make the competition tougher. Video games are actually pretty high on the list of socially active activities.
Not only is there evidence against every video game myth out there, but there are also studies that prove that video games are good for you. For example, a study was done in Albuquerque by the Mind Research Network that tested the effects of Tetris on a person’s brain. Simply playing Tetris for 30 minutes a day for three months thickened certain areas of the participant’s cortex and increased brain efficiency. MRIs compared the brains of the girls who played Tetris to the control group that didn’t. These MRIs showed thicker cortex in the areas that scientists believe the brain uses to plan complex and coordinated movement, and in the areas that are believed to be used for multisensory integration. This part of the brain organizes the five senses into one understandable and useful arrangement for the brain. Other MRI scans showed that brain efficiency was increased in areas that are often associated with critical thinking, reasoning, language, and processing. It’s unknown whether or not the brain returns back to its original state after not playing the game for an extended amount of time. Based on other brain studies, we can hypothesize that, “Use it or lose it.” For those who haven’t seen how intense tetris can get, I have included a video below.
If all reaction and planning games help the brain develop thicker cortex and increased efficiency, playing this game daily for an extended period of time should cause your general times for answering the questions to decrease. Even if the game isn’t as effective as Tetris, and short time effects aren’t known, it may still show some results. I just hope you know your division. Being that as a human race, there is still so much about our own brains that we don’t understand; it’s possible that training certain parts of the brain may not help its use in other activities. Studies are being done on whether or not certain effects from video games to the brain can have some real world uses. Daphne Bavelier and her team found that gamers can easily sift through unnecessary visual information. The gained skills can last for months or years. The obvious visual advantages have real world applications, like driving. Playing video games can also stop some of the effects of aging on your vision.
Specific skills are gained from accomplishing certain tasks. The effects of playing games that force you to accomplish multiple tasks at once, like first person shooters, can be completely different than games that isolate the tasks, like puzzle games. The simplest argument for video games is the fact that just using your brain helps it make connections, so playing video games is better for your brain than just sitting around watching a cartoon. Playing complex video games can help in many areas of your life, but even though they are fun, learning a language or playing a sport might have a similar effect.
What were your scores (the change in time, your initial time, and your post-game time) in the game? Based on evidence, should the game and other games in general help your brain make certain connections?
The capacity of the brain to learn and change is known as Plasticity, and it relates a lot to how video games can create and train mental connections. Are there any other activities that change brain Plasticity? If so, what are their effects? Is there evidence that certain genres of video games are better than other genres at training the brain?