The benefits of action-style video games
I’ve long been a believer in the role of video games as a tool rather than mere accessory for escape. The purpose of games is obviously the latter, but that doesn’t exclude the former. Just like television and movies, there are unintended consequences that are both positive and negative. While there is a somewhat valid fear of negative stimuli resulting in negative behavior, we often ignore that all of the information recognized by our senses is processed through the brain and can feed or exercise it.
Roger Dooley at Neuromarketing has an interesting article up about the positive benefits of video games. When people think of the positives of games, they usually default to Tetris or similar puzzle games, if not the more contemporary games on the Wii. Very rarely do they consider anything else in a positive light, least of all action-style games. A study from a year or two ago revealed that first-person action games can lead to improved visual acuity. One can be made more aware of his surroundings by playing a little bit of Team Fortress every night. How about that?
The part in the article that really intrigues me is the fact that Dooley reports that the regular engagement provided by video games is enough to reduce cognitive decline. Other sorts of brain stimulation are appropriate for the task of keeping a brain spry, but the gaming format is more likely to keep people coming back for more.
What pleases me the most about all of this is that the scientific community is unraveling that video games are a tool that can be used to positively affect the brain. Stimulation and visual acuity are surely just the start, but I am certain that full acceptance will come if the experiments with PTSD and games result positively. Once games show that they can heal as well as hone, greater import will be granted to games research and the role of games in culture will be expanded just a tiny bit more. That’s more than enough for me.