Forbes recently published a list of 4 reasons why videogames can lead to positive health effects (mostly for children but it can be applied to adults as well)
1. The Cognitive Benefits of First Person Shooters
2. Call It Motivation Not Addiction
3. Control Your Emotions
4. How To Be A Social Butterfly
For number one the article states that the brain function of a gamer while playing is the equivalent to the brain function of a non-gamer trying to solve a problem. Except obviously the gamer is probably using this level of brain function more often and for longer periods of time than a non-gamer. This means that gamers are able to use their brains more efficiently and are able to solve problems faster and with less brain effort than non-gamers.
The second reason relates to the work of Carol Dweck who makes a distinction between an ‘entity theory of intelligence’ and an ‘incremental theory of intelligence’. These theories concern how people develop their identities. Dweck claims that when children develop an ‘entity theory of intelligence’ they assume a fixed identity for which they are praised- this can be damaging in the long term because children feel pressured to keep consistently with one identity they developed at an early age. On the other hand ‘incremental theory of intelligence’ means that a children may be praised for their efforts or skills but not identify with these as personality traits. Videogames apply the ‘incremental theory of intelligence’ to players. Forbes claims this keeps users in a ‘motivational sweet spot’. Because players are constantly rewarded for their efforts and skills it keeps them motivated to continue playing. This transfers through to real life as a positive trait in terms of learning to be motivated at school or work or in social situations.
The third reason I think is a little multidimensional- on one hand (as I stated in my last blog post about male representation in games)- I think the representation of the male emotional spectrum is pretty dangerous for children for to be absorbing as an expectation of masculinity. I don’t believe many games are an accurate guide for emotional intelligence. However, this article makes the point that videogames are good for teaching us to control our emotions in terms of frustration levels. I’m sure many of us have lost our tempers at certain games and have had to get up and walk it off. But, in spite of this we learn that the only way to complete the game is to calm ourselves, return to play and try again…and again…and again. This is another good skill that can carry across to real life about remaining positive, collected and self-affirming.
And of course number four- unfortunately gamers have the stereotype of being anti social. I’m not a gamer but my friends who are gamers seem to spend more time with other people than most others I know- whether its online or offline. For children playing MMO games, this leads to ‘prosocial’ behaviors and the tendency to want to help others. I also believe that gaming is a good way to build relationships especially with those who may be separated by an age gap. I work sometimes as a Nanny and the 12-year-old and I probably get along best when I’m playing xbox with him (or attempting to), same goes for my super antisocial 15 year old cousin. Thank god for gaming!