Benefiting from Games: Mentally, Physically and Emotionally

Did you know games can help you?

Medicine has been around for a very long time, and practicing medicine has taken many odd and dark turns in our history—from things like draining blood from someone's body before an amputation to drilling a hole in your head for any random symptom.  We've come a long way with science, and our ability to test theories and keep track of something as subtle as our brain waves is possible through decades of research.

These leaps and bounds in knowledge has lead me to my third and final entry into the importance of games and seeing the positive side of it. The first article is about negativity online and some of the charities that showcase the compassion of gamers. 

The second piece explains the importance of positive relationships when playing online or participating in forum discussions.  These challenges we've overcome in medicine and science have lead us to some pretty major developments and realizations about how gaming can do more than just entertain us.  Gaming is now reaching beyond just your living room, or in a handheld on the morning commute. 

This article takes a brief look at the scientific, educational, and medical benefits of gaming. 
"Let's just remember what we're doing is playing a game here, not saving lives."

After doing a little internet sleuthing, I was able to compile scientific evidence that games DO have a positive effect on our culture, society, education, and mental illnesses.  As I delved into this topic, there was an overwhelming amount of information available; it's definitely worth a look if you have the time. 

As we explore this third and final avenue, I hope we're able to find solace in the fact that games are good. Although there may be negative people (that's an understatement in some cases), the overwhelming positivity of the gaming community and culture is awesome— despite what some media outlets would lead you to believe. 

This is not to discount or to turn a blind eye to the abuse that some withstand while simply playing a game or in a forum asking genuine questions.  This is to celebrate those who unknowingly contribute to the overall good experience that has made gaming what it is today.

The ESA speaks out

First, we take a look at the Entertainment Software Association, the folks who have an official say in our products and experiences. On the ESA's homepage, they state that they work with "Electronic Arts, the Institute of Play, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Foundation to support the Games Learning and Assessment Lab (GlassLab)." 

The GlassLab "explores games potential to serve as a learning and assessment tools." This has launched SimCityEDU, which teachers use in tandem with the classroom to help realize true potential for city design and infrastructure.  The ESA has stated that the White House encourages the practice of using games to teach since November of 2009.  The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is a program to help encourage companies of all kinds embrace this idea of educating with games.  At this point in time, teachers and administrators are trying to encourage video game design courses as the curriculum to help with math and science studies alike. 

Knowing our children are playing educational versions of SimCity makes me tingle with nostalgia, as I, too, have spent hours in front of the tube playing it.  And to think of the games these kids will come up with for others to learn.

"...find solace in the fact that games are good."
What about Grandma?

Science has even shown us the direct benefits of gaming when we get old.  An article at the nydailynews.com states "...video games can help with memory..." as shown evident by "...improvements in memory function up to six months after playing..." This study was successfully done on people between the ages 60-85.  The patients in the study all had wires tethered to their domes and were given a specially developed game called NeuroRacer.

I find this to be rather encouraging as we begin to look at how games affect our brain and what that means for our everyday lives.  I do know that if at the age of 30, I'm this bad at remembering things, I'm glad they've already got this game under wraps. 

Learning to heal

Unfortunately, remembering things isn't the only thing that can change in our brain.  With millions upon millions of dollars being pumped into mental healthcare, I find that any help we may have is a leg worth standing on. 

Nextnature.net states there was a study done on several patients that required, again, the electrodes to be put all around their head--but this time the patients were just observed to see which parts of the brain did what.  The site states "...over a span of 13 weeks, 15 patients underwent neurofeedback sessions designed to enhance attention levels, while 15 others partook in sham sessions instead." 

Thus far there have been no outstanding finds aside from we now know which areas of the brain can and will successfully be stimulated by video games.  Hopefully that gives us a little window of opportunity to re-wire the way someone's brain may work, or even tell us why this happens.

The Benefits of Games

These three examples are just that: examples.  As we begin to build schools around video games, and begin to see the benefits of our kids learning how to design using math and physics engines, or heck, even building those very engines, I hope we start to see less prejudice from outsiders looking in.  I hope we are able to have more companies like GlassLab attempting to break down that barrier of entertainment to education, maybe something like 'edutainment' would be nice.

As we head into 2014 with our shiny new toys, some of us will be hanging on to our current gen just a little while longer.  Let's try to remember that what you do for fun may mean something completely different to someone else. 

Maybe you don't connect with Madden or Call of Duty the same as you would Gone Home or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, it doesn't make them any less of a game. Perhaps you don't want anything to do with that stuff and you just enjoy Candy Crush. Let's just remember what we're doing is playing a game here, not saving lives. How about we lighten up a bit, and high five a lot more. 

We are part of a silent movement to bring video games into modern medicine and schools.  To make learning so much easier, to help understand how our brain works, and even improving upon what we already know, all with our current hobby.  As long as we continue down this path of negativity it'd be hard to see these organizations committing to something with such a negative social stigma.  For now lets celebrate the good things that have resulted in applying video games to our lives.

What are your thoughts?  What positive way has gaming helped you?  Do you think "gamers" have a bad wrap and why or why not? Feel free to comment below.   

@Coatedpolecat

Published Oct. 29th 2013
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Correspondent
    I can't pick out a single thing where gaming has made my life better other than pure entertainment. It's both a distraction and something cool for me to get lost in, but I can't remember a time where it actually helped me.

    I always feel like a weirdo though because apparently I think way differently than most people and I don't understand why. Maybe I'm just too much of a simpleton?

    Lately gamers have a "bad rap". I honestly blame the internet. We used to be a small quiet cult that was shunned but now everybody's a gamer and more vocal than we should be maybe.
    I think the problem is that the happy gamers don't speak out nearly half as much as the unhappy ones. But I believe the happy gamers outweigh the unhappy ones.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    I think so to, the quiet majority if you will.

    Gaming has helped w some pain management for me, sometimes it's the best way to get my mind off it.

    It's also brought my wife n I together, and most importantly, they've entertained me. :)
  • Federico Senence
    Featured Contributor
    I'm really enjoying your articles and how you are trying to break down those barriers that gaming is bad or some sort of negative act that people should avoid. Truth be told when you look at every type of game out there, more people are gaming that what is believed. I just wish articles of this nature would get more attention to help shoot down stereotypes. Great work.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    well thanks. I wish they got more attention too. Not just my articles. Yours was great too. :)
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Great work on this series Greg! I know it was a ton of work, but I think it paid off. The evolution of the series was a nice touch.

    It was especially awesome to see the way you used the feedback features. Alexa and Tommy, it was great to see you step in with edits.

    Well done all around!
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    I enjoyed it. I hope it changes a few people's perception of gamers. And maybe a few less negative comments in the world. The positive responses from all three has been refreshing.

    I really found Alexa and Tommy's feedback and help very useful. First time I've used that feature, and it surely won't be the last. :)

    Thanks!
  • Tommy Roberts
    Featured Contributor
    Happy to help!
  • Tommy Roberts
    Featured Contributor
    Loved the read man! Some good points, keep it up.

    Can't wait for what you come up with next :)
  • Alexa Serrano
    Columnist
    Okay, now it's your turn to teach me something I didn't know. How did you do the quotes along the article? lol
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    hahaha. It's up there on the top row under the little font tab. It's "pullquote left" and/or "pullquote right". Glad there was an equal exchange at least. lol
  • Alexa Serrano
    Columnist
    Awesome! Haha, I've been wanting to do something like that, but figured there wasn't an option! :) Anyway, nice titles... "What about Grandma" :] Great!

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