Why Video Games Are Good for You

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Why Video Games Are Good For You|
Playing With the New Generation|
Beverley Corey|

How video games can make you smarter2
Providing an outlet for stress and aggression3
Influences on business and career choices4
Cooperation and social interaction in gaming4

“Currently there are more than half a billion people worldwide playing online games at least an hour a day -- and 183 million in the US alone.” (McGonigal, 2011) There is an extensive anti-game lobby that believes video games promote violence, anti-social behaviour, and zoned-out teenagers. However, there is ample evidence to support my theory that video games have been unfairly maligned. In this paper I will examine research and anecdotal evidence to illustrate why video games are good for you. How video games can make you smarter

Since the late 1980’s occupational and physical therapists have been using video games to treat both physical and cognitive problems. They not only improve skills such as attention and working memory, but also fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. These benefits are transferable to real life. (Steffens, 2009) “The brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells.” (Michelon) This happens whenever we learn something new. According to Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, "It seems that there is a lot more plasticity you can induce by playing video games than by training people with more classical methods.” (Steffens, 2009) In “Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter”, Steven Johnson suggests that the mind explores games the same way one conducts science experiments. This is done by exploring rules and determining what works. (M.Steffens) Playing video games myself, and with my children, I have experienced this first-hand. Together we learned to use a systematic approach to “beating a level” by finding the right path and combination of moves by trying different tactics and making increasingly more appropriate decisions. I have personally experienced the phenomenon of tangential learning. James Portnow has written about this subject, noting that games can introduce players to ideas that they may not have otherwise encountered. This leads to curiosity, which sets the groundwork for learning (J. Radoff) Playing “Animal Crossing” and “The Sims” introduced my daughter to the idea of budgets and value, and became a jumping off point for our discussions about good monetary habits. MMORPG’s (Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games) don’t make education their core purpose, but there is evidence that people do learn new things they might never have, just by playing these games.(J. Radoff) In fact, in a dissertation written after conducting research in the province of Nova Scotia, Matthew White noted that ““RPG use and self-efficacy were significantly positively correlated.” He concluded that, “Couple the voluntary mass consumption of these products withthe demonstrated link between their use and academic self-efficacy, and truly beneficialoutcomes may be indicated.” (M. White)

Dr. James Rosser, Jr. is the Director of AMTI and the Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery at Beth Israel Medical Center. Using virtual reality to help train surgeons, he found that, “Subjects who in the past played video games for more than three hours per week have a 37 percent reduction in errors when performing laparoscopic surgery, and accomplish their surgical task 27 percent quicker, than their non-video game playing counterparts.” (Web-site)

These examples illustrate the learning potential of gaming, both for children and adults. Conventional wisdom tells us when it comes to our brains, we must “Use it or lose it”. Video games provide a unique way to develop...
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