Ever since the first video games were created, there has been a raging debate about how they affect people’s health. Video games have been blamed for everything from obesity to mental illness. However, the more researchers look into video games, the more health benefits they find.
Video games do not make you fat. Because gaming is mostly done indoors in front of a screen, many people assume it also makes you fat. Never exercising and eating junk food makes you fat. You don’t need video games for that. The truth is that games are just another entertainment option. No matter what you are doing, spending all day, every day, in front of a screen is not healthy for you. People need to move and occasionally go outside.
In recent years developers have been working on games and systems that help people be more active. Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect pioneered using video games to get people to do physical activities IRL. Smart Watches are the current version of this idea. Playing video games will not turn you into an Olympic athlete. However, playing video games in a sensible way also will not harm you physically.
Since the first video games, the biggest fear about games has been that they will turn kids into sociopaths. The ways games affect mental health has been the subject of numerous studies over the years. Consistently, the results show that video games help reduce stress. Even violent video games can improve a person’s mental health in the right circumstances.
Researchers have found that games are a type of play, and that humans, even adults, need play time to be at their best mentally. Games also do not turn otherwise happy people into social recluses. Instead, games and gamers are increasingly social. World of Warcraft is a prime example of how video games can help people connect with each other and form virtual communities.
Games are increasingly being used in new ways to make people better and happier. Some researchers are trying to use video games to help autistic children learn better strategies for interacting with other people. The one thing research has shown is that the positive possibilities for video games on the mind are endless.
Video games, like movies or other types of entertainment, also provide people to escape into another world for long periods of time. This type of escape makes people happy. Video game benefit our mental health because they are fun.
Video Games and Aging
Games aren’t just for kids. More adults that grew up gaming, continue playing throughout their lives. Scientists are just starting to understand how gaming may affect the aging process. It turns out that games can be used to help keep elderly people physically and mentally healthy.
Systems like Nintendo’s Wii and WiiU allow aging gamers to continue to have physical movement in a controlled environment with much less risk of injury. The more physically active people are the longer they tend to live and the sharper they tend to be mentally, even as they age.
But, the big news here is that video games help people from losing mental acuity as they age. All games require you to solve some kind of puzzle. This problem solving activity keeps the mind young. Research suggests it may prevent dementia and can help improve elderly gamers’ short-term memory. Seniors who play video games are also happier than those that don’t.
Moving Beyond Stereotypes
Games aren’t just for adolescent males. Women make up one the fastest growing segments of the market. The average age of gamers is actually going up. More and more people are realizing that there is no need to stop gaming just because you become an adult. Gaming is as much of a mainstream entertainment choice as watching a movie or reading a book. Games have the added benefit of being both interactive and social. You can talk while you play a game. Try doing that in the movie theater.
Many pop-science articles and social watchdogs like to claim video games are a menace to society and are harming our kids. But, if you look at the science, the evidence just isn’t there. Researchers are showing us that video games have an important role to play in improving mental health, and even in helping the people of the world to become more open and social.
The science is in and video games are actually good for your health.