The good side of video games

This is a post hanging out in drafts (in outline form) from 2011!  A lot of the things mentioned below were new back in 2011…

People commonly malign video games as being a waste of time (too much screen time) or that they cause violence.

That violence thing is often used as an example for “correlation is not causation”.  If people who play video games are more violent, that doesn’t mean that video games cause violence.  It could be reverse causality– people who are more violent seek out violent video games.  Or it could be omitted variables bias.  Men are more likely to play violent video games and men are more likely to be violent.

In fact, video games can be used to prevent violence.  Biofeedback is awesome.

Video games can have other beneficial effects.

Other benefits of video games:

Here’s some savings games for kids.  (We didn’t link to the one from 2011, so who knows what we were talking about then…)

Video games have been shown to improve cognitive health for older adults.  There has been a lot more work since the 2009 study that we linked to.

Videogamers are better at attentional tasks-– since 2011, there’s been a lot of work at understanding to what extent and why!

Video games can increase persistence.   We wonder if they also affect goal striving and perfectionism.  Certainly with #2’s kid it seems like video games have helped decrease the need to get everything right the first time.

There’s some optimal level of video game playing… we’re not hitting it!  (Maybe #2 is… she’s cold turkey on no video games, not even wordle, because she gets easily addicted and neglects the rest of her life.)

Do you think video games have improved or harmed your life?

8 Responses to “The good side of video games”

  1. Omdg Says:

    We love video games. Great family bonding and treatment for anxiety.

  2. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I loved video games when I played them but I preferred to watch as I got older. JB would love to play more, we just don’t have time for them. I wonder if it would make sense to start with something like a handheld or if it’d be better to do a console, that study suggests I should get a console thing!

    • Debbie M Says:

      Some I prefer to watch and some to play. Some of them I’m happy for other people to do the slogging and then I just watch the cool parts. Or they show me how when you turn up the blood volume, your enemies can lose way more blood than they have, etc. But others I want to get in there and do things my own way.

  3. Debbie M Says:

    On video games and violence, I’ve wondered if playing video games distracts violent people from real life violence. I’ve also wondered if writing horror distracts gruesome people from actually doing gruesome things.

    On video games and cognitive health, per, one study showed that Scrabble really only makes you better at Scrabble. Just like lots of kinds of exercise mostly only help you do that exact thing. Still, better than letting the whole brain melt into uselessness.

    On increasing persistence–this relates to me. It took me a long time (I was in grad school!) to realize that just because you don’t get something right the first time doesn’t mean you can’t do it. (I mean, obviously I knew that as a baby and toddler, but then lost that knowledge somehow.) It was from watching a friend trying to unlock my trunk with no key. I had the key; he just wanted the challenge. And later I read accounts of people complaining about bad service, getting an unhelpful response, and then continuing with a crazy amount of additional back-and-forth exchanges and then actually getting a helpful response. As a result, I now know that I generally err in the direction of quitting too soon (rather than the direction of banging my head on the wall uselessly), so whenever I wonder whether I should just quit, I’m pretty sure I know the answer!

    On well-being, I think it’s cool that video games help old people be happy. I’ve read about religion and pets helping, but I don’t want those. (Friends also help, and I do like those.)

    The improved balance part is interesting. I’ve started to suspect that worsening balance is actually due more to foot problems than muscle atrophy, partly because a survey of people at my last craft night showed that most of us have hilariously bad balance when we first get up in the morning. (I’m on the older end at age 59.) It’s like our feet have to warm up first. And we do all have various different foot problems. (I’ve been trying to figure out how to warm up some safer way than stumbling to the bathroom, and all I’ve come up with is to just stand still for a few seconds before taking off.) But one of your articles implies that actually moving around more does make a difference.

    That’s weird that playing video games with your friends isn’t as good as playing video games with your parents (if you’re a girl, anyway, and perhaps only playing with your dad). I wonder if boys would get the same results playing with their moms. [Um, “who wants to shoot their own kid?” Lots of parents? Let’s just say my mom gleefully skewered me on her sword to offer me to her god last time we played the board game Betrayal at House on the Hill, and she is a very loving parent and one of the nicest people I know (who *normally* doesn’t like games that make you be mean).]

    I have occasionally tried to use things I’ve learned from video games in real life. Like one time I had these organizational charts and realized I could use similar strategies in real life.

    I didn’t let myself play video games until I retired, and it’s a good thing I didn’t because I do let them take more time than I should (except Wordle!). They are fun, they do help me want to get up in the morning, etc. However, if I could put even half that energy into important things, that would be good.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      I don’t play video games, but my husband and sons do. They are happy and well adjusted.

      However, I can comment on this: ” I’ve also wondered if writing horror distracts gruesome people from actually doing gruesome things.” I am part of several fiction-writing communities, and I can tell you that horror writers are the nicest, most welcoming, most awesome people among all writers. I believe it is because horror writers deal with their shit through art, but I don’t actually think they have more darkness than others, they just choose not to hide from it or pretend it’s not there. Joe Hill (an accomplished horror writer, and also Stephen King’s son) says that horror isn’t about extreme pain, it’s about extreme empathy. The horror community is much more welcoming and open-minded than literary fiction or sci-fi/fantasy communities, who both tend to take themselves very seriously.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Thank you xykademiqz! I am so happy to hear that!

        I’m actually crying. Thank you. (See, sometimes it’s good to tell people they’re wrong on the internet!)

  4. First Gen American Says:

    My personality is too addictive to play, so I abstain. Maybe that’s why Wordle is such a hit because it limits your play time. The other 3 are all gamers. My husband is one of the most productive people I know and he plays daily.

    I often have very violent dreams about people trying to kill me. Instead of running away, I always fight back. I often wondered if there’s an evolutionary element here where we were required to be violent to survive and that manifests itself in weird places, hence the video games and horror..

  5. teresa Says:

    Mostly no because of the addictive getting-sucked-in thing. I guess I play a number of word games right now (wordle, quordle, a daily crossword, and the solo parts of words with friends)- all of which kind of limit what you can do at one time.
    I like beat saber but rarely play it because I end up playing for hours every. time.
    And I find old scroller type games (like early NES Mario etc) and some of their newer spinoffs relaxing but don’t have a console or emulator at the moment.

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