How To:

8 Reasons Why You Should Be Playing Even More Video Games

Although your friends might roll their eyes every time you talk about playing Clash of Clans, Call of Duty, or Candy Crush Saga, your excessive gaming habits might actually be making you healthier than everyone else.

I've got your attention now, right?

Read on for 8 insanely good life-improving reasons to keep gaming online, or, for all of you kid gamers out there, 8 reasons that'll get your mom off your back for good.

Reason #1: Your Brain Will Literally Get Bigger

Moms around the world may think that spending significant time on the PlayStation rots your brain, yet according to scientists, playing video games regularly will directly increase the size of your brain.

Recently, Super Mario was the focus of a study conducted by Simone Kühn, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Adult participants played the game for 30 minutes each day for an eight-week period. When compared to those who didn't play any video games, the Super Mario gamers developed increased grey matter.

This brain may look small, but that's just because it's only one hemisphere. Image by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

What makes grey matter so important? That mushy, literally grey tissue is home to the cell bodies of our nervous system. When there's more grey matter to go around, we become better at controlling our muscles, our speech, and our emotions.

Kühn's research showed that grey matter increased the most in players' right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex, and cerebellum—areas that are in charge of important functions like spatial navigation, the formation of memories, strategic planning, and motor skills.

The different parts of the brain and what they do. Image via The Independent

Interestingly, Kühn's study also found that your love of gaming can be beneficial on its own. Those who were most excited to play a few rounds of Super Mario exhibited the greatest and most pronounced brain growth.

So, the next time you're stuck at work, anxiously counting down the hours until you and your games are reunited, take a little comfort in the fact that you're growing your brain.

Reason #2: They Can Teach You Everything

Your parents might have hated all those hours you spent on your Sega console growing up, but all those hours you logged gaming taught you more than you know.

Video games, with their unique worlds, varied rules, and unusual teaching methods, can teach you just about anything.

Pick and choose your weapon. Any will do, even a smartphone. (PS: These are actually soaps.). Image via Firebox

Though "practice makes perfect" is a phrase that many people believe incites learning, playing rounds of Halo or Minecraft with your friends can be an equally great way to learn.

The different games you play all feature different rules, processes, and strategies, and, as a result, each time you pick up a new game, you're required to learn the ropes. While experienced gamers might have a better grasp of which buttons perform actions in various games, there's still a learning curve in which players subconsciously learn what the game requires.

The more you put your brain to work learning new rules, tricks, and techniques while attempting to master a game, the more you'll learn overall. After all, nothing makes a strong student better than learning continuously.

Reason #3: You'll Develop a Flexible Brain

Did you know that every time you turn on your gaming console, you're giving your brain a workout? Regular video game action helps your brain become more flexible and adaptable.

Not exactly this kind of flexing, but you get the point. Image via Shutterstock

Dr. Brian D. Glass and a team of researchers at Queen Mary University of London and University College London measured individuals' cognitive power after playing two computer video games: StarCraft and The Sims.

StarCraft, which requires a significant amount of strategy and memory to play, made players faster and more accurate when completing tasks that required brain flexibility. Those who played The Sims, on the other hand, didn't hone their mental skills at all.

(1) Get smarter with StarCraft. (2) And dumber with The Sims. Images via Blizzard Entertainment, EA

Gaming your way to a flexible brain doesn't mean your grey matter will help you pull off a crane pose in yoga class. Rather, your brain will become sharper and better at strategy. Your cognitive flexibility, as Glass defines it, is your ability to adapt to different tasks quickly. Those whose brains are most flexible are able to easily switch back and forth between tasks, and typically solve problems by thinking of multiple ideas simultaneously.

Those hours spent carefully developing strategies online are applicable to your everyday life. Playing StarCraft and other similar games increase your ability to make quick decisions and learn from mistakes. Remember, you can only master the splits if you stretch on a regular basis—your cognitive flexibility works the same way, so hop on your computer or gaming console and play for a while.

Reason #4: They'll Improve Your Reading Ability

If you're someone who's always disliked reading, video games might actually help you become more interested in books. Particularly helpful for those who have a hard time focusing their attention, spending some quality time gaming can get you focused.

If only reading was "this" easy. Image by Gillian Blease/WIRED

Perhaps most impressively, video games can have a great effect on those with dyslexia. Though the jury is still out within the scientific community regarding the exact neurocognitive cause of dyslexia, video games have recently been found to hold a possible cure.

In a study conducted by a group of Italian researchers, children who played just 12 hours of action-based video games saw a huge improvement in their reading abilities. Out of all other game types, those featuring a heavy dose of action helped young, dyslexic readers better than an entire year of tutoring and training. The study's participants could read faster and paid better attention while doing so.

While you might not face the challenges of dyslexia, your brain will still benefit from an increase in focus. Video games train our brains' attention system with their quick bursts of action. While playing, we constantly shift our attention to various changes on the screen before us, responding to audio and visual cues.

These kids improved their reading time by 0.39 syllables per second. Image via Telegraph

If you're looking to improve your brain's attention span, spend some quality time with an action-based game. Both your ability to focus and your reading abilities will improve as a result.

Reason #5: You'll Be a Happier Person

Turning on your gaming console could provide relief from your bad mood better than talking out your feelings with a friend. Through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), video games can help players retrain their brain and eliminate negative thinking.

Playing a fantasy game helped teenagers beat their depression, according to a study conducted by a group of researchers from New Zealand. The researchers developed a video game that led players through a world in which they literally battled and destroyed their unhappy thoughts.

This is exactly how every family should be. Image via Shutterstock

After playing for a few hours each week, 44 percent of participants were cured of their depression, while 66 percent felt their symptoms were reduced by at least 30 percent. Only 26 percent of those who met with a therapist and talked out their feelings rather than jumping into the virtual world overcame depression.

Video games have also been shown to improve the overall emotional well-being in senior, so it's important no matter what age you are.

Even old people can benefit from video games. Image by Anne McLaughlin/North Carolina State University

While you might not struggle with the symptoms or signs of depression, everyone needs a mood boost now and then. Cure your Monday blues by playing a video game you love, and your mental state will literally be transported to a different world. While fantasy worlds were best for those suffering from depression, your favorite action game will help you release your emotions just as well.

Reason #6: They Improve Your Eyesight

Go ahead, stare at your TV screen all day: as long as you're playing action-based video games, you'll only improve your eyesight.

Fast-paced action games are best for improving vision. Image via Shutterstock

Thanks to their unexpected bursts of action, varied perspectives, and careful details, first-person shooter video games are an easy fix for poor vision. As you train your focus on the playing field before you, sudden changes in the nonstop action require you to focus your eyes carefully if you want to catch the details. When your eyes have to adapt quickly, the muscles become stronger to accommodate these new needs.

Can't stand shooting bad guys while gaming? Don't worry, your vision will still become sharper and clearer. Gamers with 20/20 vision find their eyes improving with normal play of any game.

Reason #7: You'll Get More Done at Work

Tuning out distractions and getting down to work is easier if you enjoy what you're hearing in the background. Listening to the soundtrack of your favorite games while working will make you more productive, and, of course, make you a more pleasant employee.

This is not exactly what I mean by getting more done at work. Image by star5112/Flickr

The unique soundtracks of video games not only make you happy—they also remind you of those difficult-to-earn achievements you've unlocked. These enjoyable reminders of all the fun you've had gaming encourage your brain to release dopamine, which makes you happy. That happiness spills over into your work, increasing your productivity, accuracy, and speediness at work.

Reason #8: They Reduce Stress

You most likely already know how great it feels to express your rage in a Black Ops battle, but did you know that each round you play helps you relieve stress?

A study by Texas A&M psychology professor Christopher Ferguson measured the effects of violent and non-violent video games on players. After completing a task designed to make them angry, the participants played either a non-violent game, violent game, or nothing at all. Those who gamed with violent video games were calmer and in better moods than those who didn't play.

It may look painful, but this is actually relieving stress. Image via Crave Online

Turn on the most violent game in your collection if you need to blow off steam. Immersing yourself in a vicious, good-versus-evil game helps you to express any angry, negative feelings through gameplay—which is definitely better than screaming at your roommate. You'll not only feel less stressed, but also be better able to control your mood.

According to Ferguson, letting your hostility out in a virtual world helps you manage your emotions in reality. When playing online, you're free to express all of the angry feelings you wish, without harming others.

Start Reaping the Benefits... Now!

Before you consider spending less time in front of your TV, remember how beneficial gaming is for your entire body. Not only will you be in better spirits, but you'll also live a healthier life. Now go ahead, pick up your controller and spend a few hours with your favorite games!

Cover image via Firebox

1 Comment

I need to tell my wife about this.

Share Your Thoughts

  • Hot
  • Latest