Playing video games was perceived as something that children and teenagers do to spend time (American Psychological Assiciation 2013). However, nowadays it is evident that playing video games can have multiple positive effects to them: relieve depression, reduce stress, and make them feel better. Although it may sound weird and even funny, there is enough evidence to support this idea. Dube (2015) recommends adding to ones schedule a bit of video games playing, which can surprisingly advance a persons mental health. Video games are a part of almost every child and teen's life as studies indicate that 97% of children in America play video games for at least one hour every day. Some scholars have started developing interest to studying potential benefits of these video games especially in the last five years where such benefits have been documented (Aldao, Nolen and Schweizer 2010, p.220). In this paper, I will argue that playing video games has social, health, and educational benefits for both adults and children.
Benefits of Playing Video Games in Adults
According to a study report in Texas (A&M) done by Comrade Professor, Dr. Christopher J. Both in 2010, women play violent games along with men, which is rather useful in developing stress-handling skills (Anderson et al. 2010, p.151). Besides, it is clear that if one plays brain-teasing games minimum two hours a week, it may help slow down the mental degradation and memory loss that is associated with the natural process of aging.
At the Americas Pain Societys meeting in 2010, researchers provided evidence that video games, especially those based on virtual reality, reduce pain and anxiety resulting from medical procedures (Anderson et al., 2010, p.151). According to the study, people who undergo chemotherapy and are put in the virtual gaming world report less fear and stress.
Although video games are frequently blamed for causing mental disorders, studies also show that they can cure (Anderson et al. 2010, p.151). In 2010, New Zealand researchers presented a novel way to treat teenagers that are depressed. It was a video game designed to give children something active, fun, and therapeutic at the same time but being different from the traditional psychotherapy methods (Anderson et al. 2010, p.151). 168 teens aged 15 that suffered from depression were studied. Almost half of the group received the usual treatment, which includes one-on-one counseling sessions. The remaining half of the teens played SPARX; each game level showed the player some of the basic depression symptoms and how to deal with negative emotions (Blumberg et al. 2013, pp.42). The results were encouraging: about 44% of the SPARX players group recovered completely while 26% reported not being depressed anymore (Blumberg et al. 2013, pp.46).
Recent studies suggest that games like Call of Duty advance our cognitive skills way better than other activities designed to perform such a function (Blumberg et al. 2013, pp.45). In 2014, seven neuroscientists from all around the world signed a document to object the claim that brain-teasing games improve cognitive abilities, which aimed to reveal the truth about common fallacies as there was no scientific evidence to back it (Blumberg et al. 2013, pp.41). Scientists from Florida and North Carolina state universities claim that typical games geared towards entertainment help in improving problem-solving skills and spatial orientation (Walters 2015). Games like Angry Birds are simple programs that are easy to download. In most cases, they improve the mood, make people relaxed, and relieve stress and nervousness. It is a primary emotional benefit to consider since video games make people happier. According to American Psychological Association (2013), video games are real tools to learn flexibility in the face of disappointments. Authors suggest that kids create emotional elasticity, which can improve the quality of their daily lives by teaching them to overcome frequent disappointments in video games and perceive them as sports.
Social Benefits of Playing Video Games in Children
Perhaps the most obvious difference between today's games and those that existed ten or twenty years ago is that they possess pervasive social aspect (Bushman and Anderson 2002, p.1679). In contrast to stereotypes, most gamers are not socially isolated when compared to individuals who spend most of their time lying on the couch. About 70% of children play with their friends either cooperative or competitive games (Bushman and Anderson 2002, p.1681). A good example is multiple-player fantasy game called the World of Warcraft that currently has a whopping number of 12 million players around the globe (Bushman and Anderson 2002, p.1682). Another example is Farmville, a popular game played on Facebook that had over five million players playing daily in 2012. In these social networking communities, one is required to make a decision on whom to trust, whom to reject, and how most efficiently guide a group (Bushman and Anderson 2002, p.1686). In the social interactive contexts, it is proposed that players are acquiring both social skills and prosocial behavior that may generalize their age mates and family relationships away from the gaming contexts. In the games designed to allow rewarding effective collaboration, helping and support behavior generally encourages the gamers to acquire critical prosocial skills (Bushman and Anderson 2002, pp.1679). One study summarized those global researches and stated that playing prosocial games is consistently linked to the predicted prosocial behavior. It may be thought that playing violent video games may hinder the acquisition of prosocial behavior, but this is not true as studies have shown that the violent games are equally promoting the prosocial behavior as nonviolent games (Eastin 2007). However, the factor that determines whether the violent video games promote prosocial behavior or not is the extent to which these games are played competitively or cooperatively (Crenshaw 2008). For instance, gamers who generally play violent games that allow cooperation are more likely to develop supportive behavior either online or offline in comparison with those that play non-violent video games. Again, playing violent games in groups (socially) helps to decrease the hostility feeling that is seen when playing violent games alone. Similarly, playing violent games in groups seems to reduce aggressive cognitions in relation to the individual player (Crenshaw 2008). Social skills are also displayed in civic engagement forms. That is the capability to consolidate groups and guide the like-minded individuals in social classes. Adolescents who play video games that have civic features such as Guild Wars II, MMORPG among others are said to be more likely to engage in civic and social affairs in their daily lives, for instance, the collection of charity funds, persuading others, and volunteering (Crenshaw 2008).
Medical Benefits in Children
The medical field has noted some benefits of playing video games and thus is studying gamification in medical interventions. The emergence of health journals on the issue, and calls for grants from various granting organizations such as National Science Foundation has recently made international news headlines for their potential health benefits (Crenshaw 2008). Medical practitioners as well as researchers have started applying the power of video games to motivate patients and enhance health care outcomes. Perhaps the most familiar and fruitful story of a video game that impacted positively health-associated behavior is Re-Mission, a video game made for children suffering from cancer (Dube 2015). The game entails nanobot that is controlled by the player in shooting cancer cells, getting rid of bacterial ailments, and controlling nausea as well as constipation; all of these are popular hindrances to cancer patients acceptance of the treatment. In a nutshell, the aim of this game is to teach children how to stick to their treatment of cancer (De Freitas and de Freitas 2013, p.192). The game has been proven to improve the adherence to the protocol of cancer treatment, self-efficacy, and increased cancer knowledge. As a result, the game currently has 200000 patient users and is consistently seen as a rewarding treatment approach (De Freitas, and de Freitas 2013, p.196).
Education Benefits in Children
The potential of video games has proven a great deal in the education field. Space limitations impede a review of myriad games designed to enhance the educational outcome almost in all subjects taught in most of the schools in the United States and other countries (De Freitas, and de Freitas 2013, p.197). Numerous reviews are already available on outcomes of the educational games. Meta-analysis has recently concluded that video games could make critical improvements in educational modifications required to encounter the leading hurdles that might be a chip in the next century.
However, video games can help students attain basic understanding of the management and handling of finances (Adachi and Willoughby 2013, p.1044). Students who play games such as SimCity will have an upper hand when it comes to the management of finance. The SanCity game and others of the similar design give the people a goal to make a whole city and manage the welfare of the city's citizens at the same time managing its budget. As a result, a student can develop excellent management skills especially those involving finance (Adachi and Willoughby 2013, p.1049). Apart from imparting strategic planning and financial management, these video games may also foster an interest in economics and business careers. Other students may be attracted by the idea of designing cities and building houses hence being inspired to pursue engineering, architecture, and interior designing careers.
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Another educational benefit of video games is the encouragement of healthy competition during the early ages that would likely to go on in their later years (Adachi and Willoughby 2013). Video games involving two or more gamers playing simultaneously encourage competition (De Freitas, and de Freitas 2013). Even if competition is found in almost every sector of education ranging from quizzes, exams, and classroom affairs, video games make sure that children value the competition.
Video games can also teach the students the necessity of speed and having their work completed within the stipulated time (Curtis 2014, p.380). Most games are typically timed hence allowing children to challenge themselves and compete with others by trying to break the time record, winning the race, and building a feature within the required time (Granic, Lobel, and Engels 2014, p.66). The children's cognitive ability is tested in a more positive way making them learn the importance of completing tasks within the required time (Granic, Lobel, and Engels 2014, p.66). With this, educational performance remarkably improves as the students become more aware of the concept of time.
Most psychological studies focus on the negative side of playing video games (American Psychological Assiciation 2013). They present only the negative impact of gaming and fail to reveal the useful results. They usually say that video games play a crucial role in the promotion of violence, depression, and addiction. These studies focus on how video games affect education by arguing that kids waste a lot of time on playing games rather than reading. They also contend that many people emulate the violence acts they see in these games and hence become more violent than those who do not play video games. As much as the efforts of the researchers must be recognized and respected, a more balanced perspective is required, one that does not concentrate exclusively on the possible negative consequences but also considers potential benefits of gaming (American Psychological Assiciation 2013). I believe that video games have more benefits than harm as shown by various studies discussed above.
In contrast to what most scholars believe, playing video games has more educational, social, health and mental benefits. Individuals coming together to play games either competitively or cooperatively engage in more beneficial social interaction than those who do not play games and spend most of their time sleeping. In healthcare, some game models help in fighting diseases such as cancer and mental illnesses. In the sphere of education, video games can make the students think critically and gain interest in some careers such as finance engineering and architecture. Overall, I believe video games to have more benefits than limitations as long as they are utilized correctly.
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