If you grew up with a Nintendo 64, the original Xbox or an early PlayStation, you probably remember being told video games were a waste of time, and that they would probably rot your brain. Imagine the shock many parents must be facing all these years later, as they learn that not only are video games not evil, but they are also actually good for you on many levels.
The benefits of playing video games don't just extend to school-aged children, either. Here are just five ways playing video games can benefit both health and development, no matter your age:
1. Brain Growth
First and foremost, it is believed that playing video games can actually make you smarter. Researchers have found that certain video game activity enhances brain flexibility. This means that players have a greater capacity to learn.
Other research into action games has shown that players were able to develop more advanced attention to detail and better spatial skills. This enhanced cognitive function by producing greater and more efficient neural processing, as well as better performance in terms of pattern recognition.
2. Better Overall Health
The release of the Nintendo Wii game system -- and later Xbox 360 Kinect -- was somewhat of a revolution in gaming. The Wii system brought motion control into game play, which involved players going through the physical actions of bowling or playing tennis.
Tests measuring heart rate found that the activity was just as beneficial as some fitness center exercises. These systems can now be found in many living rooms, hospitals and retirement homes.
3. Improved Eyesight
Did your parents ever warn you that you may "go blind" from spending too much time playing video games? But there's good news: While we do tend to blink less frequently while playing video games, researchers from the University of Rochester determined that gamers who played action games tended to have better vision than those who played different sorts of games.
The thinking is that the eyes get more of a workout with these games, thanks to the fast-changing environments in them.
4. Social Benefits
When many people think of gamers, they picture an anti-social guy, sitting alone on his couch for days at a time while lost in cyberspace. This is a modern fallacy.
Today's video games help players build confidence. They encourage teamwork and collaboration through multi-player sequences, and are believed to have a positive impact on fighting depression.
5. Advanced Learning
Video games are increasingly being used in learning environments, with both children and adults. The most popular game on the planet, Minecraft, has now become an advanced architectural training tool. It is used in schools and summer camps to teach architecture, but it is also used as a CAD tool by companies for business purposes.
Modern video games are nothing if not complex, ambitious and challenging. The games that are played today are a far cry from the archaic titles of the 1970s.
Today's games have become an important part of our culture, and their design provides players with a host of benefits (aside from just the entertainment factor). Considering that there are over 1.2 billion gamers across the planet, it's refreshing to learn that a popular pastime for both children and adults is having a positive impact, both physically and cognitively.