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Can Playing Videogames Be Good For You?

The videogame industry is massive and getting bigger every day. A report from Gartner that pegged revenues for the global videogame market  – mobile, social, PC and console — at $93 Billion in 2013, up from $79 billion.

Candy Crush is one of many examples showing the cultural and financial impact of just one game.

Gaming brings benefits? Yes!

Yet even as the debates around the value of videogames persist, anecdotes as well as hard data from research scientists and universities are providing more evidence that gaming brings benefits. Pop culture theorist Steven B. Johnson explored this in his 2005 book, “Everything Bad is Good for You.

“Modern video games are challenging,” said Johnson in an interview with NPR. “Try to play them with your kids, [you’ll find] thinking, problem solving, pattern recognition. There’s a lot of mental labor going on. Every minute of every videogame that’s ever been made you have to make decisions.”

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21 billion hours of game play every week

Game designer Jane McGonigal thinks gameplay could actually help save the world.

“According to my research at The Institute For The Future, I believe that if we want to survive the next century on this planet, we [as a global population] need 21 billion hours of game play every week,” said McGonigal in a recent Ted talk.

The collaborative skills that come from gameplay in ‘Worlds of Warcraft’ can have potential real world benefits by simply believing that you can participate in any activity with hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously is positive for the human race, according to McGonigal.

“Playing a game together actually builds up bonds and trust and cooperation,” she said. “And we actually build stronger social relationships as a result.”

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Putting more focus on the argument are studies shown that gameplay improves vision.

Daphne Bavalier

Brain scientist Daphne Bavalier discovered that gamers are actually able to resolve small detail in the context of clutter and that gamers are better at being able to resolve different levels of gray. That makes a difference between seeing the car in front of you and avoiding the accident, or getting into an accident.

Bavalier is leveraging her research findings to develop games for patients with low vision, and to have an impact on retraining their brain to see better.

Increased creativity

A recent study by Michigan State University showed that playing videogames increased creativity in a select group of 12 year olds. The study looked statewide at 491 boys and girls who were 12 years old, using the Torrance test for Creativity, which is a basis for constructing a multidimensional measure of creativity.

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Results from the study showed that children who played videogames scored higher on every measure of creativity in the Torrance test. This is in contrast to seeing no creativity increase from general computer use, Internet use or cell phone use.

Taken in isolation, any one of these pundits, scholars or studies could be dismissed as pro-game advocates, but evidence they present increasingly supports the argument that playing videogames has redeeming value.

Videogames may not be a wholesome, nutritious meal for the mind, but it’s tougher for parents to call them junk food and a complete waste of time.

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