The Week recently outlined the seven health benefits of video games, many of them mental and emotional. In addition to the physical benefits that improved motor skills and vision, a University of Utah study discovered:
Kids who played certain games, including one designed just for the study, showed signs of improvement in "resilience, empowerment, and a 'fighting spirit.'" Researchers believe the games' ability to act on "neuronal mechanisms that activate positive emotions and the reward system" helped improve kids' demeanors as they faced the daily challenges of their illnesses.
Video games can also reduce stress and depression:
2009's Annual Review of Cybertherapy and Telemedicine included a study that found that gamers who suffered from mental health issues such as stress and depression were able to vent their frustration and aggression by playing video games — and showed a noted improvement. The study hypothesized that games gave certain "Type A" personalities time to relax in "a state of relative mindlessness" that allowed them to avoid reaching "a certain level of stressful arousal" as they tried to relax.
These benefits are similar to those enumerated by Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, as I explained in The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games:
Role-playing games are actually quite beneficial, including sublimation of aggression, the encouragement of "imagination, creativity, reading, group cooperation, social interaction, and the benefit of mutual assistance even with diverse racial perspectives" (Gygax 1989:150).
Additionally, video games help improve decision making skills:
Most video games require fast reactions and split-second decisions that can mean the difference between virtual life and virtual death. Cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Rochester in New York found these games give players' brains plenty of practice for making decisions in the real world. Researchers suggest that action-oriented games act as a simulator for the decision-making process by giving players several chances to infer information from their surroundings and forcing them to react accordingly.
Beyond educating players on the details of history or the theories of the future, Fine (1983:62) also listed other acclaimed attributes derived from role-playing games, including the ability to synthesize information, decision-making, leadership, and role-playing as a skill. Role-playing is by its very nature a teaming activity, which requires both decision-making and leadership for the team to be successful. Role-playing as a skill is better described as empathy, the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes to help understand them. Child psychologists, adult counselors, and business people all use role-playing as a teaching tool to help understand a different viewpoint, and fantasy role-playing can help in much the same way.
For the full list see The Week.
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