It's official, computer games are good for you. At least it seems with some everyday skills and general quality of life. Of course, this doesn't mean you should play them all day every day. Everything in moderation.
Here are nine ways computer games can help improve everyday skills and your general happiness. The following is not exhaustive nor in any particular order.
1. Video games can teach you personal accountability
Everyone knows the best games are those that are challenging. Defeating that 'impossible' boss or getting that 'Ultra-rare' achievement feels like real accomplishments. That rush of dopamine really does teach us perseverance and personal accountability.
The reward our brains feel teaches us to focus our own actions and helps us control the situations around us. Lessons like this are easily applied in the real world.
2. Video games are now used in therapy
In 2012, a research team in New Zealand used a game called SPARX to help treat depressed teenagers. The game, to be fair, was specifically designed to provide therapy for kids that was both fun and therapeutic. The study included 168 teenagers with an average age of 15 who were struggling with depression.
Half of them were used as a control group and given regular one-on-one counseling whilst the other played SPARX. The SPARX group of users showed encouraging results. 44% of the players completely recovered from depression with only 26% from the conventional treatment group.
3. Video games can help you make friends
Games that have a large following or social aspect can really help with making friends. Some games even require you to go outside, take Pokemon-Go, for example. The real benefit from games isn't playing them per se, but the community they build around the shared experience.
Gaming conventions, online multiplayer sessions, and competitions all help players meet new people and make friends with a common interest. Some happily married couples can even claim to have met because of gaming.
4. Video games boost reading skills
In February of 2013, Italian researchers submitted evidence that playing computer games can help everyday skills like reading.
They took two groups of children aged 7 to 13 and had one team play 'Rayman Raving Rabbids' whilst the other played a slower-paced game.
When they tested the reading skills of the two groups they found that the ones who played the action game could actually read faster and more accurately. Impressive!
5. Video games improve multi-tasking
The intensive situation awareness and management needed when playing computer games like Call of Duty seem to improve gamers' ability to deal with visual and auditory distractions simultaneously. This might seem obvious but it really does help with real life productivity.
Developing multi-tasking is a great everyday skill to master. It helps productivity in general. This will spill over to the real-world applications, at home, and in the workplace.
6. 'Mario' actually boosts grey matter
In 2013, German researchers studied how computer games like Super Mario 64 affect the brains of players. They asked 23 adults with the median age of 25 to play 'Super Mario 64' for 30 minutes a day for two months. They also had a control group who played no games at all.
What they found was amazing. After scanning the brains of the players and control group using an MRI machine they found the gamers had a markable increase in gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex, and cerebellum. These are the areas responsible for memory, strategy, fine motor skills and spatial navigation.
7. Shoot 'em ups improve eyesight
A 2009 study by the University of Rochester found that shooting 'bad guys' can actually improve your vision. Players who enjoyed 'wasting' pixelated enemies in games like Unreal Tournament 2004 or Call of Duty had a boost in their contrast sensitivity function. This is the ability to discern subtle changes in brightness of the image. Makes complete sense. What's more, this is one of the first visual skills to diminish over time. The researchers also believe that video games could be used in the future to help as an aid to correct bad eyesight.
8. Video games improve our problem-solving
It is not yet clear whether computer games improve general intelligence but they certainly seem to help teach us new skills and reinforce them. This doesn't necessarily mean you are getting smarter though.
There are some games that are designed with problem-solving, critical thinking and reading comprehension built in. Of course, there is also a large swathe of educational apps and games for children of all ages too.
9. Computer games help you 'level-up' in general
Whether or not you are a hardcore gamer, perhaps treating life like a computer game could improve your general quality of life. It could, for example, improve your fitness or help you fulfill your goals. If you were to think of yourself as a character starting at levels 1 you might be able to identify areas in need of improvement.
Work in those abilities and keep track of your progress. Why not then, gamify just about every aspect of your life. Use the strategies you've developed in games and apply them in real-life to reach your goals (or defeat that boss). The world is your oyster, as they say. Get out there and improve your everyday skills.