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Video Games: Worth it for Your Health?

The author plays a video game
The author plays a video game

It has been a longstanding tradition of adults to worry about the overuse of gaming as a leisurely activity. Their fears are not without reason, of course. While these are valid concerns, studies have also shown gaming can do good as well, often outweighing the potential concerns. Playing as much as 22 hours a week can even positively affect your cognitive abilities.

Many argue that video games can become an addiction, even causing you to lose interest in other parts of your life and creating self-control problems.  However, there is more to the truth; In a 2022 study conducted by Dr. Bader Chaarani from the University of Vermont, he compared 1278 “NVGs” (people who played 0 hours per week) and 800 ”VGs” (people who played more than 21 hours per week). According to the an interview with Dr. Chaarani himself, they concluded that “compared with NVGs, VGs were found to exhibit faster reaction times in measures of cognitive performance involving response inhibition and working memory and differences in fMRI BOLD signals in key regions of the cortex responsible for visual, attention, and memory processing.” In Layman’s terms, this means that the amount of blood and oxygen you get to your brain, two things necessary to even function, is increased when visually processing video games. This benefits your ability to distinguish different objects while multitasking with improved self control, allowing you to both absorb and recall information better with a stronger memory. Many jobs require the consumption and analysis of large sums of data, meaning improving these areas of your brain boosts your work, focus, and efficiency when doing tasks. Not only are games increasing your self control, but they also give you essential skills for your future.

Video games can also help the medical world. For example, study by Glenn Platt (PhD) from the University of Miami in Ohio states that videogames can help alleviate stress and anxiety, especially because of their ability to ward off isolation as you meet like minded people on messaging sites like Discord. This is contrary to claims that video makes people lose interest in real life, as this shows that gaming can be used to make friends to be excited about.

While supported by data, I don’t think you even need a study to find gaming’s main benefits. To me, gaming is a source of fun and community, forcing me to think in ways I might not instinctually. Anti-video game people also argue that games have even inspired kids to commit acts of violence in rare cases by desensitizing them to extreme forms of brutality, such as shooting or killing. What most adults don’t seem to realize is that videogames are not all bloody shoot em-ups. Tetris, for example, is a classic that requires the players to control the space the blocks take up through rotation and movement. Even games that are simple on the surface (such as Street Fighter) require an advanced knowledge of the controls and different moves in order for a player to succeed at them. Additionally, the graphics in the game are not realistic and the powers are fictional, meaning that violence translating to the real world is less the game’s fault and more in the mind of the player.

Ultimately, although there are reasonable and real negatives to video gaming, the many positive effects make gaming not only fun, but worthwhile when it comes to your health.

~ Dante Gutrecht, Opinion

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