What are the health benefits of video games? Whether they claim games are making us anti-social, violent or just plain fat, the mainstream media loves to demonize games and make us feel guilty about playing. The truth though is that there are many legitimate health benefits to our hobby, and here are a few of them.
It’s certainly painful where you’re on a 24 kill streak and get sneakily taken out by some camping mofo, or when you lose online to some racist, sexist, homophobic moron on Xbox live. Games can also help relieve pain as well as inflict it though.
For those suffering from depression or another mental disorder, video games offer a way for them to relax and cope with the pain during the wee hours of the night when it's hard to turn off their brains. Video games are also reported to help those suffering from chronic pain because it distracts them and reportedly builds up their pain tolerance.
Of particular interest is the recent work done with virtual reality games. For those that don’t remember the early 90’s, virtual reality was a stupid pair of goggles you put on your head that we all thought would make you enter a game world like in The Matrix, but actually made you feel sick and bump into things. Nonetheless Jeffrey I. Gold, Ph.D. said "Virtual reality produces a modulating effect that is endogenous, so the analgesic influence is not simply a result of distraction but may also impact how the brain responds to painful stimuli."
That’s science-talk for "totally kicks pain's ass."Games That Can Help:
While formerly a purely sedentary pastime, video games have recently become the equivalent of the angry drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. They bark instructions at us such as: "Jump," "Run on the spot," "Sing, "Dance," "Do press ups," "Play drums," "Stretch," and "Throw a controller into a flat screen TV." And how do we react to these instructions? We obey them, of course! Like we do with any Space Commander asking us to wipe out a race of insectoid bio-aliens, or an Elven lord asking us to free the Kingdom of Nonsensia, we, as gamers, are programmed to do as we are told.
The benefit of this unthinking obedience is that it can make us engage in positive activities. We follow instructions so well that we will even leave the comfortable womb of our sofa ass-groove and physically sweat. We will exercise, real exercise, if incentivized to do it by a game. Decades of TV documentaries have warned us about the dangers of heart disease, but it's games like "Dance Central," "Warioware Smooth Moves," and "Wii Fit" that have actually make us use our atrophied limbs for something other than shoveling food and lifting a remote. Sure, we don’t all play these games, but the people who do (and who take them seriously) see real world benefits. You know, little benefits, like living ten years longer.Games That Can Help:
It would be hard to imagine anyone who managed to improve their physical condition through gaming wouldn’t also see an increase in their self esteem. If you’re a 200 pound couch gorilla and "Wii Fit" helped you slim down enough to buy clothes from a non-specialist store, then it’s a fair bet that you probably feel a whole lot better about yourself.
But gaming self esteem benefits can come from more than just physical improvement. In her book, Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal highlights several key studies showing that gaming actively makes us better people by raising our self esteem.
In her own case, McGonigal was able to get over crippling neurological and emotional problems by making a game out of her own recovery. She has gone on to proselytize the benefits of social and team work in games, making us all better at communicating, working together, and developing our confidence and self esteem. Sure, she then went on to popularize the truly awful term "gameification," but at least she’s giving us all a good excuse when our moms/partners/wives/starving pets tell us we play too many games. We’re not just playing games, we’re re-establishing our self worth.... by shooting dudes in the face.
Games That Can Help:
The only problem with the explosion of exercise games is the horrible terms that have been coined by researchers to describe them. I mean, "exergaming," and "exertainment?" Seriously?
Despite the icky-ness of these terms, games such as "Wii Fit" have made it semi-feasible to become fit and healthy without having to venture outside. This is a huge benefit to gamers who stereotypically fear the things that exist in the outside world like sunlight, human interaction, and those confusing but intriguing individuals we know as "females."
Games That Can Help:
My Fitness Coach
EA Sports Active