Video Games Are Good For You!

IMG_3168Guest Blogger, Nicholas Maryan, is an awesome summer intern at Legacy Games.

I’ve played video games my entire life. My mom used to yell at me frequently for “wasting my time.” Yeah, I could have spent a few more hours a week studying my multiplication tables or actually reading that book for my report. Little did my mother know or appreciate that all that time I was working on other important skills.

As a result of playing games, my manual dexterity improved significantly, as well as my critical thinking, decision-making, and ability to type (imperative to efficiently writing papers and emails). In fact, as a result of playing World of Warcraft, I was top of my class in WPM as well as winner of my 5th grade spelling bee. Words like “pristine” and “ogre” were easy for me by that time. And years of playing adventure-based games enhanced my critical thinking skills, forcing me to constantly analyze where to go next (hint: always follow the enemies), strategize how to defeat bosses, or traverse difficult terrain. Games like Call of Duty, in which much of the time is spent playing against other live opponents, help develop quick decision-making skills by anticipating and reacting to others’ moves. Though the specific content (e.g., combat), may not be useful in the real world, the ability to process information quickly and with precision is a vital skill.

Research has shown that the act of playing video games can improve various skills the more people play. A few studies found that those who play video games develop improved visual attention strategies (i.e. multi-tasking) and are better at analyzing entire scenes and situations rather than one specific object.

Video games, particularly puzzle games, have been found to increase positive emotion, reduce anxiety, and promote overall relaxation. It goes beyond de-stressing as well. There are a slew of mobile games designed to exercise young children’s creativity, dexterity, vocabulary, math, and even cooking skills (just check out Toca Kitchen). These are benefits of the classic console, computer, and mobile games. But what about the new age of Augmented and Virtual Reality?

For those who are new to those terms, augmented and virtual reality are pretty similar. Virtual reality is a completely immersive experience (you have probably seen the headsets) which entirely takes over your visual and auditory senses. Augmented reality does exactly what it says it does, i.e., it augments reality. It imposes digital images onto the real world; the most pertinent example currently is Pokemon GO. Now you can catch “real life” Pokemon from the comfort of your own smartphone.

Since the franchise has been successful for twenty years, Nintendo has captured perhaps the largest age range of any other game in the market today (the nostalgic 30-&-up, down to young kids). The staggering usage numbers are great for Nintendo and the developer Niantic, but this revolutionary game also presents health benefits that could change the industry.

According to one study done by Oppezzo M. and Schwartz, D.L., (2014) participants who walked more, especially among nature, tended to be more creative in their flow of ideas. Another study done by Bratman, G.N. et al. (2015) looked into the effects of urbanization and mental health, and found that those who walk around in nature for an extended amount of time have less negative thoughts on average. Pairing that data with the ability to interact with a mobile video game can have endless positive effects, and learning opportunities. This is where Pokemon GO shines.

Of course, it has also encouraged some bad habits such as blindly walking around lost in your phone screen, resulting in folks falling in a pond, finding a dead body, and crashing cars. Of those who suffer from depression, some claim the app motivates them to get up and get out of the house. In fact, the other day a girl I went to high school with, who suffers from severe depression due to chronic pain, posted a Facebook status celebrating the fact that she finally had a reason to spend time outside.

This alone shows Pokemon’s true potential. No longer is AR seen as simply a more complex and innovative way to play games. It can be a new tool in fighting depression and other mental diseases silently undermining our society. Augmented reality done right can help encourage more interaction between the outside world and gamers of all types, including folks who suffer from mental illness.

As for video games in general, they aren’t all that bad. Video games can even be beneficial for children when used in moderation. I am excited to see what the future of video games holds. One thing I know for sure is that the future is bright, and full of pixels. Have I convinced you yet, Mom?

Nicholas Maryan is a Senior at Kenyon College and is studying Economics. He plans to graduate Spring of 2017. Hire him!