gaming-might-actually-reduce-stress-and-depressionNext time someone gives you grief for playing video games or for working in the video game industry, be sure to let them know that video games are not only epically awesome, but they have hidden health benefits as well.  People are often quick to judge ‘gamers’ and many parents often worry about their children’s health due to a lack of physical activity.  However, did you ever stop and think about the positive health benefits of playing video games?  According to the Yahoo! article 7 health benefits of playing video games written by Danny Gallagher, there are more positives than people may realize when it comes to playing games.

In a study released by The University of Utah in 2012, children with chronic illnesses such as autism, depression and Parkinson’s disease who played video games, specifically one that was designed for the study, showed signs of improvement in “resilience, empowerment, and a ‘fighting spirit’”.  Researchers believe that the reason behind this was the fact that the games evoked positive emotions as well as the built-in reward system which assisted the children in their daily battles and struggles.  Video games have also been referenced in helping improve preschoolers’ motor skills based off of research done by Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.  According to the study, the children who played interactive games had better object control motor skills than the children who didn’t.  So don’t sweat it if your little one loves to play games on your smart phone, it’s not always a bad thing!

In addition to benefits for children, video games have also been mentioned to help with issues such as stress and depression in adults.  Video games can be a good outlet for people who suffer from mental health issues such as stress and depression by allowing them to vent their frustration and aggression.  Games can also help with physical pain, due to the good old trick of distraction.  Psychologists at the University of Washington developed a game that helps hospital patients suffering from immense physical pain.  What’s the game you ask? Simple.  “Snow World” features a virtual reality artic world where the user throws an endless supply of snowballs at a series of targets.  This game was even used in military hospitals, where it was found to assist soldiers recovering from battlefield wounds, requiring less pain medication during recovery.

Remember how your Mom always told you not to sit so close to the TV when you were young because it was bad for your eyes?  Well, it turns out that’s not always the case!  For people with cataracts, first-person shooter games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty helped to improve their vision according to Dr. Daphen Maurer of the Visual Development Lab of Ontario’s McMaster University.  The improvement is attributed to these games fast-paced nature which requires the player to focus, helping to train the visually impaired in-order to see things more sharply.  The fast-paced nature of games is also great when it comes to decision making.  The split second choices that are required to play games successfully, often between virtual life and death, have been said to assist in decision making in the real world.  This discovery came from a study conducted by Cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Rochester in New York where they claimed that the process of taking in information about their surroundings and forcing a specific reaction was good for the brain.

Last but not least, video games have been attributed to keeping spirits higher in old age.  Researchers from North Carolina State University took a look at our aging population and came up with the conclusion that senior citizens, who played video games, even on a rare occasion, reported a higher level of happiness.

So, what did you learn today?  Video games are more than just cool characters, story lines and realistic environments.  They can actually be helpful to people both old and young, ailing or healthy.  So continue to play with pride!  And for you video game developers out there, you should take pride also, because your games can be helping people more than you know.