Video games are actually good for you — here’s why

Virtual adventures might be more than just a distraction from reality — they can also improve your mind’s ability to process information.

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Video games can relieve stress and improve hand-eye coordination.

Amelia Schuhler, Opinions Editor

The video game industry is booming in 2022. COVID-19 caused much of the growth happening in the entertainment industry as people around the world turned to television, movies and video games to take their minds off of current events. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook’s comprehensive five-year forecast of consumer spending, the global gaming industry is expected to be worth $321 billion by 2026. With this in mind, it is no wonder Biola offers a B.A. in Game Design and Interactive Media. 

THE NUMBERS ARE IN

More than 150 million Americans play video games, 51 million of whom are children. The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that about 3% of gamers have a disordered relationship with the habit, which WHO now recognizes as a major health condition.

VIDEO GAMES FEEL GOOD FOR A REASON

Because of these extreme statistics, much of the research done on video games focuses on their harmful effects. But the reason kids glue their eyes to a screen while the hours pass them by is the same reason that they can benefit one’s health, and that has to do with the brain’s dopamine reward system. 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of pleasure or satisfaction that comes from completing a task or solving a problem. While dopamine is not addictive, it is a motivator. 

Video games trigger the release of dopamine by setting individualized and achievable challenges, providing outlets for many with mental disorders such as ADHD and depression that lack dopamine production. 

ARE VIDEO GAMES THE NEXT TEXTBOOKS?

Parents and educators currently use video games as tools to teach children basic concepts in math and grammar, and many grew up playing Oregon Trail. Harvard Graduate School of Education honed in on what types of games most effectively aid learning. Harvard found that good learning games give players agency, spark curiosity and provide feedback for the player so that they can form their own understanding of the game’s systems. 

Additionally, video games can promote learning in adulthood, as certain video games can improve players hand-eye coordination as well as cognitive and perceptual skills. Gaming could structurally improve one’s brain, as some studies show frequent game-playing enhances the functional connectivity between neural pathways. 

EVERYTHING IN MODERATION

The evidence for why video games can be harmful is still present. Too much time in front of a screen for any reason can affect your circadian rhythm: the health of which plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, sleep disorders and cognitive dysfunctions. For that reason, scrolling through Instagram, sitting in a zoom class or watching TV can negatively affect your health. Many of the arguments against video games apply to any lengthened form of technological exposure. 

A study from the National Library of Medicine proposes that video games have design elements which promote flourishing mental health, but the amount of gameplay is the moderating factor of the player’s personal wellbeing. Finally, playing video games relieves stress, as doing the things that one loves usually has health benefits. And for many people, the immersive world of a video game is an escape from the mundane: it makes sense that becoming the hero in one’s favorite stories can cut through the dullness of coming home every night and performing the same bedtime routine.  

So game on, Biolans. It could help you relax, and might actually make you a better student. 

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