10 Surprising Health Benefits of Playing Video Games


Since home video games were popularized in the '80s, killjoys have blamed them for almost every ill in society. Games have supposedly started wars, made children morbidly obese and caused people to shun the outside world, at least according to their theories. In reality, video games are an entertaining, sometimes time-consuming hobby that falls somewhere between watching TV and reading books. Believe it or not, there is some good associated with parking yourself in front your favorite console each day. Perhaps you've experienced some of the following health benefits — and, even if you haven't, you can show them to your significant other to convince her/him that you haven't really been wasting massive amounts of time.

  1. They comfort people with depression

    As with any mind-consuming activity that you thoroughly enjoy, gaming can serve as somewhat of an antidepressant. In the case of Bejeweled, a puzzle game in which players move gems into rows based on their colors, a study indicated that participants experience improved mood and heart rhythm from a session of play. Essentially, it helps people unwind and relax as if they're working on a crossword puzzle — something that certainly isn't viewed as an unhealthy activity.

  2. They improve dexterity

    A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Rochester found that video game-playing surgical residents and surgeons who were tasked with performing a procedure were 24% faster, made 32% fewer errors and scored 26% better overall. Those percentages were even higher for those who played game in the past for more than three hours. The findings could open the door to training potential surgeons and scientists from an early age. Having surgery soon? You'll be better off if your surgeon is a gamer — imagine that.

  3. They improve your eyesight

    Forget LASIK eye surgery — you can spend $60 on a video game and experience improvement in your vision. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, people who played action video games for a month were able to identify letters presented in clutter 20% better than before. Incredibly, results were shown after just 30 hours of play. When you play action games, your vision is tested to its limit, and the brain adjusts accordingly. The human body is pretty neat.

  4. They improve social skills

    Gamers have been unfairly stereotyped through the years as socially inept, significant-other-less freaks who dwell in their parents' basements. The fact of the matter, given the sheer popularity of gaming, is that a variety of individuals with varying personalities compose the gaming community. As it turns out, World of Warcraft, a game that requires players to be social, teaches leadership and conflict resolution skills, according to a Swedish researcher. Although fans of the game may be viewed as cult-like, they're actually strengthening their ability to function in the outside world.

  5. They improve knowledge retention

    Video games can be used for the specific purpose of advancing learning. A study conducted at the University of Kansas found they can impart specific knowledge. Researchers administered tests to three different groups, one of which prepared using a PowerPoint lecture and two of which prepared using a video game. Of course, the latter two groups demonstrated better knowledge retention. The advantage of using video games in this case may have been the mere fact that it requires active engagement of the mind, as opposed to almost thoughtlessly looking over slides.

  1. They increase response time

    Amazing work is being done at the University of Rochester. In another much-welcomed study, researchers found that video games can provide a training regimen that increases visual reaction times while maintaining accuracy. Certain games require quick processing of sensory information, an activity that can be mastered with practice. If you're a fan of Halo or Call of Duty, take note — those skills could prove useful in other nonviolent endeavors.

  2. They reduce stress

    Not only do video games serve as a distraction, but they can fight anger. Researchers at Texas A&M University found that playing violent video games, such as Call of Duty 2, gave players an outlet in which to take out their aggression, contradicting the numerous studies that have indicated the opposite. Thinking of going postal? Play Playstation instead.

  3. They improve self esteem

    It always feels good to crush your opponent in Madden, which naturally makes you feel better about yourself. But did you know there have been games designed for the specific purpose of improving your self esteem? McGill University researchers focused on encouraging positive thoughts and positive attitudes in an effort to remove negative thought patterns. Of course, developing self-esteem is a bit more complex than just playing a video game, but it provides a good start for patterning behavior.

  4. They actually help you exercise and lose weight

    One of the most obvious health benefits of modern gaming is physical, thanks to the creation of Wii and its exergaming offerings. The International Sports Sciences Association confirmed that such games are effective at getting kids off the couch and increasing their heart rates, a far cry from the stereotype that all gamers are obese oafs. Seniors seeking gentler exercise can play Wii fit, for example, to maintain their health, which is why many senior residences contain the gaming system.

  5. They relieve pain

    Perhaps pain really is all in the mind. Once again, the key word is "distraction" here, as participating in games can take a player's mind off of their ailment, according to researchers at Emory University. It's most effective using virtual reality, which can transport a player into an entirely different virtual world. This type of therapy has been used with real patients, including those who've endured significant trauma. What's more, there are no side effects — beats the heck out of a lot of medications.

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