Well beyond the financial benefits accrued by video games producers, manufactures and event planners which have outstripped the music industry and are closing in behind the movie industry, video games and applications of game thinking offer unexpected benefits for people of every age.

Video Games Go Mainstream

Long considered the domain of solitary male teens cordoned off in their bedroom obsessed with games, video gaming has entered the mainstream.

  • Global gaming stats reveal that 58% of Americans play video games, the average age of a player is 30 years old, 45% are females over 18 and, parents are involved with their children’s game purchases 81% of the time.
  • While there may remain pros and cons about violent video games, parental involvement in play, the broad range of game choices and the finding that 79% of parents limit the play time of their children reveals attempts to reduce possible negative impacts.
  • In addition research and books as Grand Theft Childhood by Harvard authors provide parents with evidenced-based guidelines for reducing risks and maximizing benefits of video games.

Unexpected Benefits

A closer look at video gaming and its applications reveals social, psychological, educational, medical and health benefits. Here are just some of those benefits:

Social Benefits

  • Research suggests that only 3% of gamers play alone, more are involved with multi-person play in the same room or connected on-line. Harvard video-game research, Dr. Lawrence Kutner suggests that gaming for children and adults can be a topic of conversation and a platform for friendships.
  • The recently reported video game competition in Seattle attended by 11,000 spectators would suggest that those who love gaming, like all other sports fans, love coming together for this “e-sport” to witness the competition and cheer on their team.
  • Anyone who has attended a sports event knows the positive sense of community of being with others who know and love the sport.
  • What also speaks to the social connection of players in gaming is not only the clear evidence of teamwork; but also a sense of collaboration that exists between the “ super-players” and the fans.
  • Through a website called “ Twitch” pro-players stream videos of their playing to anyone who visits this website. It is an up-close way of learning and viewing technique. How many other professional athletes are in ongoing dialogue with fans?

Psychological Benefits

Stress Reliever

  • Since playing a video game demands undivided attention, (ask anyone trying to speak to someone playing) many report it as a way to step out of the day-to-day stress, a total change of set.
  • One woman reported that that she has substituted playing the game, Candy Crush for the daily glass or two of wine as her stress reliever.

Reducing Negative Feelings about Self

  • In studying what made video games enjoyable, Dr. Przybylski in conjunction with academics in Germany and the US studied hundreds of casual game players in the laboratory and close to a thousand dedicated gamers who played everything from The Sims and Call of Duty to World of Warcraft.
  • What he found was that players liked and seemed to benefit from the chance to adopt a new identity during the game – it made them feel better about themselves and less negative even after they had played. The enjoyment was even greater when there was a greater difference between their real self and the ideal self they played in the game.
  • According to the researchers, video games served more as a chance to move towards ideals than running away from self.

Increased Self-Esteem

Given the public venues that applaud video gaming and the increased family and adult use, video gaming has potential in promoting competence and self-esteem in the eyes of peers as well as parenting figures.

Education

The application of video games and gaming strategies to educational curriculums changes the experience of learning. In a Psych Up podcast on this subject, Michael Lynch, video gamer, software developer and educational game designer for STEM (Science, technology, education and math) describes himself as an underachiever in grade school whose learning would have been greatly improved by gamification and classroom technology.

What Does that Mean?

Consider using the same elements that glue children and adults to video games for learning. According to educational researchers Hammer & Lee, learning becomes as engaging as playing a game because:

  • Learning activities, like games, would allow repeated experimentation in order to reach a goal. We know that adults and children get engrossed in reaching the next level of a video game.
  • As in games, if educational learning provided immediate feedback it would motivate students to keep trying different strategies with a better chance of success in each try.
  • Instead of worrying about taking a test and failing, the inability to get it right becomes feedback and motivation to keep trying and learning.
  • A major component of gaming is unexpected rewarding that keeps a person playing. Educational applications can draw upon this powerful intermittent  reward schedule.
  • If educational tasks are adapted to skill levels with increasing levels of difficulty as students improve, students will realistically believe in their chances of success and remain engaged and motivated.
  • The idea of breaking complex learning tasks into shorter and simple sub-tasks within a larger task is very common in video games. In education this technique teaches students by experience of the value of breaking complex tasks into shorter achievable tasks.
  • We often talk about recognizing that children learn in different ways. When an educational task allows a student to choose different sequences of sub-tasks as found in video games, it allows students to choose their own best route in completing a task.
  • While rewards are inherent in the use of gaming techniques, one of the important findings underscored by Michael Lynch and others is the observation and experience of developing “ flow” while immersed in video games.
  • When a student is in a state of flow, he/she is engrossed for enjoyment and pleasure and not simply for an external reward. The use of game elements in educational material offers students an incomparable gift – the experience of flow.

Given the pressure and controversy over testing and test scores in education, the use of gaming techniques that make learning an exciting quest for knowledge is a very important and welcomed possibility.

Medicine

One finding that may give parents pause to reconsider benefits of video games involves the proficiency of surgeons. In a study conducted by Dr. Rosser with 300 surgeons, he found that surgeons who had played video games in the past for more than three hours per week made 37-percent fewer errors, were 27-percent faster and scored 26-percent better overall than surgeons who never played video games!

Health

While we are increasingly told that exercise is comparable to medicine in preventing the development of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls, we are often hard pressed to get up and do it.

Many have been helped by “ Gaming” techniques and products that offer ongoing motivation due to instant feedback, encouragement and the re-enforcement of seeing results.

  • Individual activity and tracking devices and websites allow people to “ see and share” what they are accomplishing.
  • A little device by fitbit called ZIP is one of many possibilities that tracks distance, calories and how much better you do every day.
  • There are also many free fitness apps that can be used with your phone from yoga to step meters to muscle building.

We are startled when we consider the number of hours that young people spend playing video games and maybe surprised to know how many in every age group have joined them. As a professional in the field of video game application, Michael Lynch suggests,

“ Don’t’ be afraid of technology…Embrace it. It is exciting and can open doors for you and your children.”

 

 


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    Last reviewed: 5 Sep 2014

APA Reference
Phillips, S. (2014). Video Gaming: Unexpected Benefits for All Ages. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/healing-together/2014/09/video-gaming-unexpected-benefits-for-all-ages/

 

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