Video games is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy of our country. The money it moves grows year by year, and in 2020, driven by confinement and the need to stay at home, its turnover increased 18% compared to the previous year: it climbed to 1,747 million euros.
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This is what the Yearbook of the Video Game Industry in Spain, published in April by the Spanish Association of Videogames. The document highlights that the number of users is also growing: there are already 15.9 million, the 47% of the population between 6 and 64 years old. In addition, there are more and more female players: 46% of the total.
Beyond these figures, in general video games have always had a certain bad press, which accuses them of many negative effects: sedentary lifestyle, isolation, anxiety, depression, problems in school performance, addiction, violent behaviors, etc.
Indeed, the American Psychological Association has pointed out –and recently ratified– that there is a link between violent video games and aggressive behaviors, although there is insufficient evidence that this could be a direct cause of criminal violence or delinquency. I mean, at least some of those risks are real.
But at the same time, video games also have benefits. Numerous scientific studies have investigated this question and found many positive effects of this practice in people of different ages. Some of the most important are described below.
1. They contribute to emotional well-being
One of the most recent works, published in February this year by scientists at the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, indicates that the love of video games is associated with a small increase in the feeling of affective and emotional well-being.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed, among other things, the feelings of autonomy, affinity, competence and enjoyment of the players. And they drew attention to the fact that many of the studies that emphasize the possible negative effects of video games only work with the answers offered by those players, and not with less subjective data, such as the time they dedicate to this activity, the type games, etc.
2. Improve brain and cognitive health
The Gray matter In the hippocampus – one of the areas of the brain most directly linked to memory – it increases and benefits in adults (both young and old) who play three-dimensional platform video games, such as the famous Super Mario 64, from the Nintendo company.
To that conclusion a study carried out in Canada, which also compared the effect of these games with that of listening to music, and found that, at least in this sense, the former produced better results.
And even job from the University of Iowa, in the United States, had revealed that video games favor the “cognitive training“In middle-aged and older adults, by exercising” visual processing speed. “That is, video games function as a kind of mental gymnastics to keep the brain young.
3. They help fight depression in older adults
In 2015, a study in Australia revealed that certain games that can be played in groups (such as bowling available for the Nintendo Wii console) are a good contribution to alleviate sadness, loneliness and depression in nursing homes, and increase the feeling of support and the sense of belonging towards the place where they live.
In addition, “active video games”, those that are not controlled only through a remote control but that require movements of other parts of the body (arms, legs, etc.), such as the aforementioned bowling, also have other benefits , as will be seen below.
4. They are related to creativity and intelligence
Children who play video games the most have a greater creativity than those who do not, even those who do use other devices or technologies, such as computers, mobile phones or the internet. This was established by scientists at the University of Michigan, after to study data from 491 twelve-year-old boys and girls.
For their part, experts from the University of York, in the United Kingdom, they found also a relationship between intelligence and fondness for a type of video game known as multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA). The best known of those games is called ‘League of Legends’.
It is important to clarify that none of these works affirms that playing video games improves creativity or makes you smarter: they only point out a link between both. In any case, perhaps future works can find a causal relationship.
5. They are useful against dyslexia and “lazy eye”
A study carried out by Basque scientists – published by the journal ‘Nature’ in 2017 – concluded that action video games stimulate the capacity for visual and reading attention in difficult situations, which could be of great help to combat dyslexia.
Among the conclusions of the article, the specialists of the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, based in San Sebastián, point out that in the future problems such as dyslexia could be treated through computer programs that combine visual attention training with the characteristics of action video games.
Moreover, there are also scientific evidence that videogames “induce plasticity in the visual system of adults with amblyopia. “That is, people with the so-called” lazy eye “or” lazy “, a problem that reduces the visual capacity in one of their eyes.
Therefore, these audiovisual entertainments could be beneficial in this regard as well. Of course, this is not a treatment against the problem: those who suffer from it should go to a specialist so that he or she indicates the most appropriate measures to be taken.
6. Reduce pain and anxiety in pediatric treatments
Scientists from Australia last month published a meta-analysis of 34 studies that analyzed the consequences of surgical interventions and other medical treatments performed on children.
The work concluded that the use of video games offers benefits: both to reduce pain in minors and to reduce anxiety levels in children themselves and their caregivers. Therefore, they can be part of these treatments as a way to Improve Life Quality from the patients.
7. Promote physical activity
The “active video games”, also known as ‘exergames’, are those that involve various movements of the body, which makes them much less sedentary than normal video games. In their own way, they also promote physical activity.
There are several studies on its effects, which have proven that they are beneficial for physical health of young people, which has positive effects physical and psychological for older adults they live in residences, which can relieve depression and even that help the mental health of University students.
However, these works also point out that ‘exergames’ do not serve as a substitute for physical activity recommended (walks and other exercises) to avoid sedentary lifestyle and ensure good general health.
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