We are always reading articles or listening to interviews from experts telling us to reduce the screen time that we allow ourselves and children to have while been caught up in the latest game online.
After all, in a pandemic, there isn’t much else to do but introduce yourself into the world of gaming as you aren’t supposed to be socializing.
For children, a sensible balance between video gaming and physically playing outside with friends is important for healthy development. But gaming shouldn’t be the most important thing for adults either. It ought to be a leisure time to be consciously enjoyed for fun. But what does gaming actually do to us, is gaming good or bad?
Is gaming good for the brain or is it bad?
There are many quite contradicting opinions on whether gaming is good or bad.
On the one hand, there are studies that come to the conclusion that video games enlarge areas of the brain that are important for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic thinking, and fine motor skills. Computer games are also helpful to counteract the breakdown processes in the brain of older people.
On the other hand, there are studies that claim that just one hour of computer games a day over a 6 month period is enough to reduce brain volume. There are also studies that show that gaming can have a negative effect on dealing with emotions and on decision-making.
You just have to search the web a bit with terms like “why gaming is good for you” and you will get many results that are either pro or con. But if you start reading through a couple of papers of recent research you notice that they tend to conclude that the positive effects of gaming on the brain predominate.
Gaming and Esport sharpen the mind with mental stimulation which is associated with giving you a better memory. In this way, you are constantly keeping your mind active.
And actually, everything that stimulates the brain is good for us and increases the gray matter in our brain.
What is Gray Matter?
The brain as a whole is often referred to as gray matter. If you look closely, it’s made up of its network of nerve cells, neurons, synapses, axons, and so on. All information that we perceive with our senses is processed here. Our consciousness is also hidden somewhere in the entirety of the gray matter.
The more you challenge the gray matter, that is, tasks and challenges, the more connections between all those nerve cells have to be made in order to cope with these new tasks.
So, there you have it as to why gaming is good for your brain and body.
What can gaming do to your brain?
Well, what gaming does to your brain depends much on the type of game you are playing. Complex video games pose a number of challenges for the brain. You have to get to know the game, learn new commands and instructions, and all of this has to be coordinated between eyes and hands and all this has to be executed at the right moment so that succeed in the game. So gaming is not that easy it can be quite challenging.
Gaming and Esport can enhance your memory as these games lead to structural changes in your brain as well as increasing the size of some regions or functional changes like activity in the areas responsible for attention or visual-spatial skills in your brain.
This can also include developing complex problem-solving skills and promoting social interaction through online gaming. I have seen this with my own children who love to play Minecraft creating and building houses whether they are underground or above ground. The extent of detail in creating their houses takes skill and imagination.
This game allows you at the beginning of your gaming session to create your own vision of what you want which can exclude selecting MOBS making the game safe and not encouraging violence at all but opening your mind to build and create different homes or worlds.
Interestingly enough, popular games can slow down your aging and give a great boost to the brains of older people.
For those of you who are 55 years and older, games such as Super Mario can help prevent mild cognitive impairment and even Alzheimer’s disease!
Gaming improves cognitive abilities like increasing visuospatial cognition, mental rotation, attention and overcoming cognitive limitations.
What is Cognition?
This is “the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the five senses”. Read more
That is exactly what is required of esports professionals and pro gamers. And not only cognition is important but also a kind of anticipation. The situations to react to in modern video games happen so quickly that there is actually not enough time for the brain to process the visual information and react accordingly.
So in order to be successful, the brain must anticipate what is going to happen in the game. This foresight is developed through long and repeated games, which leads to the brain anticipating what needs to be done and corresponding action long before the actual stimulus was given.
Such skills are needed in all sports where extremely fast reaction times are required to be successful. The best example is table tennis. If the opponent hits the ball then you have to react extremely quickly to hit that ball back.
If the processing of what needs to be done would only start at the moment when the ball was already flying towards us, the time for the brain to see, calculate what to do, and execute accordingly would not be sufficient.
The brain analyzes the entire situation, the movements of the opponent, and calculates in advance where the ball will fly before the ball has left the opponent’s racket. Link
Esports Professionals and pro gamers are the smartest people with high IQ’s. To improve your IQ in gaming and Esport you need to train the areas of your brain to thoughtful activities, new skills, and keeping your brain active.
Facts About Gaming
The video game industry is experiencing incomparably higher growth than many other industries. In 2021, the global gaming industry is expected to have a turnover of well over 100 billion dollars.
Over 600 million people are part of the global esports community. About 250 million are playing, over 300 million are watching esports tournaments.
Professional esports players earn base salaries of up to US $ 300,000 annually. There are also lucrative sponsoring and advertising contracts from large companies and gaming chair manufacturers. The professional Twitch.tv streamer “Ninja” has confirmed that he earns over 500,000 US dollars a month, according to the 27-year-old in an interview with CNBC. Link
Gaming is very affordable which is the reason for the industry booming. There are many games that you can download for free that only require a smartphone. Consoles and laptops are also quite affordable for most people.
The average game player is 37 years old.
The number of people over the age of 50 years who play games is equal o the number of people under 18 years. This is great for gamers as it allows people of all ages and from all over the world to connect with one another.
As gaming is growing many students have started careers in this field which has become very competitive. You can earn good money if you study to become a game designer or a game developer.
I would have thought that as a gamer you would be an introvert but in fact, it is just the opposite. Gamers are more outgoing, are active, and more valuable as consumers.
As a gamer, you are not socially isolated especially with social media gamers who have built communities in and around their games.
If you are a gamer you are more than likely to do well in a test or exam as your brain is more active in regions linked to learning and memory.
The best esports professionals perform 600 finger movements per minute in some games.
Gaming and esports is great for mastering controls and you need to be able to successfully apply each one throughout the games. Spatial awareness and timing is key to keeping your mind active and your hand and fingers coordinated.
It has been found that action gamers where reflexes, reaction time, and hand and eye coordination are challenged, provide tangible cognitive advantages that help us in everyday life.
Action games also help with multitasking while 3D games can improve the functioning of the hippocampus which is the part of your brain involved with learning and memory.
Gaming can also aid in mental agility and enhance strategic thinking.
Dr Marc Palous, Ph.D. explains “ people who were avid gamers before adolescence, despite no longer playing games performed better with working memory tasks, which require mentally holding and manipulating information to get a result”
Myths About Gaming
- Can gaming make you dumber?
Most people think it rots your brain making you stupid.
This is not true. Games can’t make you physically dumber, it can increase other behaviors that seem to make you dumb like not listening when spoken to as you are caught up in the moment of your game.
- Only kids are gamers
This is not true. The average age of a gamer is 37 years old.
- Video games are pointless and a waste of time
Everyone has something they enjoy whether it is music, sport, dancing or movies.
Something loved or liked by one person may not necessarily be loved or liked by another.
- Violent games are making children aggressive.
The cause of teen violence can be boiled down to bad parenting and not what kids play.
Some great parents land up with violent kids. We aren’t sure what causes teen violence.
- Video gaming is not good for the brain
On the contrary, video gamers have seen increased responsiveness and above-average hand-eye coordination. Video games stimulate your brain and encourage creative solutions and adaptations.
- Games only have negative themes and such as violence and sex
A lot of games evoke a very positive message. They have an underlying story.
Why do you still need to take a break from gaming?
- Taking a break from gaming helps your body and mind recover. In doing this you can come back more refreshed. Short breaks can improve your levels of focus and motivation.
- You will be more productive after a break. It increases your creativity which is important as this allows you to see problems or challenges in new ways.
- It can improve your learning. Short breaks can help with memory functions. The brain rests and reviews ingrained information which helps when you are learning a new gaming skill.
- Breaks aid in recovery and reduce decision fatigue. You will be able to make better decisions in critical situations in a game because you will have a full mental tank of energy.
When To Take Breaks
Take a break every 50 – 90 minutes of gaming.
Breaks should be at least 6 minutes long but ideally, 15 – 20 minutes is better for you.
If you are really stressed out during a game then your breaks need to be longer. Remember you are playing to have fun!
Types Of Breaks
- Walking – taking a walk not only increases the body’s well-being but also stimulates the oxygen exchange and will boost your brain. Walking outside for even 5 minutes improves creativity and puts your mind in a restful state. Take the time to appreciate the weather, birds, and other surroundings you have. Keep in mind your game indoors and it’s important to appreciate other things too.
- Meditation – This is a great way to clear your mind and calm you down. Meditation strengthens the prefrontal cortex; this is the part of the brain that lets you choose how to respond to stress. Find a quiet place to sit and relax
- Take a nap – A 20 – 30-minute nap can be very beneficial to gaming performance. Just tilt back your gaming chair and take a power nap. It gives you a mental boost with improved alertness and energy. Set an alarm to wake you up. It won’t do you any good to sleep longer as you will wake up groggy and not as refreshed as you thought you would. That’s why it’s called a power nap.
- Socializing – Take time off to talk to friends and family. Catch up on some news they have to share with you and engage in the conversation. If you are a younger gamer, go outside and play a game with your sibling or friends where you live.
Socializing will improve your health and well-being.
While we all know that it is hard to pull ourselves away from a game where we are excelling, it’s important to take rests as we get so caught up in the moment.
Resting between gaming is where real growth occurs whether physically or mentally.
You will get more out of your gaming and grow as a better player and be happier and healthier.
I have put my mind at ease to see that gaming and esports are not bad for you and that you can develop skills, coordination, concentration, and many other qualities by being a gamer. The best quality is that you can learn to solve tasks which can influence you in your schooling and working career.
Gaming and esports are here to stay and we need to embrace the gamers we come into contact with and not put them down by saying it’s a waste of time.
Sources and more info:
The Effects of Video Games on the Brain brainandlife.org/articles……
Does Video Gaming Have Impacts on the Brain ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6826942/
Video Gaming Can Increase the Brain’s Ability to Focus news.uark.edu/articles/40981/….