Can Mario enhance your life? Featured Image

Playing computer games are for kids… Aren’t they?…

Well it may surprise you that more people play computer games over the age of 36 than they do between the ages of 18 to 35.

Being a gamer in my youth and trying to get at least some gaming done in recent years, I decided to look into something many people suspected for a long time. Do playing computer games enhance your life?

There are many gamers out there that have been shouting this for a long time and some friends and I can attest, that while regularly playing certain games, reaction speed and cognitive function seems to increase. Is this just our imagination or is there something more to this?

Research now shows that there are many benefits to playing games and perhaps on a much deeper level…

Do playing computer games increase reaction speeds?

Yes they do. In a study called ‘The virtual brain: 30 years of video-game play and cognitive abilities’ they found that hand to eye coordination and reaction time of the participants did improve. This happened regardless of whether the subjects had intensive play or casual play. In fact, military leaders know this and recruit the top players from around the world to operate drones in warfare.

Do computer games help us lead more meaningful lives?

Jane McGonigal PhD in her book, ‘Super better’ outlines studies and extensive personal work to finding that in the right circumstances, games can increase happiness, reduce anxiety, make you mentally more resilient and enable you to overcome negative thinking through the act of constant progression in a game. This is especially effective when someone has an illness which leaves them house bound and enable to participate in their everyday activities. The very action of progress, small wins and forward thinking, helps program the mind to being more positive and in line with progress in real life.

Games make you smarter?

Certainly seems so. A study titled ‘playing super Mario induces structural brain plasticity’ proved that game playing stimulates neurogenesis (growth of new neurons). This can potentially be used to fight degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The bottom line.

Like anything in life, moderation is key. Research shows that playing games can directly influence you positively. However getting carried away and locking yourself in for the winter with Skyrim (an intensely immersive game), will certainly have many negative consequences. 20 minutes to an hour a day has been shown to be optimal for positive results.

Anyone for a PS4 this Christmas?

Rupert Hambly