Video games often get a bad rap. And video game addiction is looked at as a downright ugly condition. Usually scientific studies about video games focus on the relationship between simulated and real life violence. Media outlets love to use those stories. Video games are cast in a negative light and dismissed as massive time sinks with little to no redeemable qualities. Most gamers know there is more to it than that, and now there might be some evidence to help back up their arguments.
Thanks to research being done at the University of Utah and Chung-Ang University in South Korea, information is being gained about the inner workings of the brains of those suffering from video game addiction. While there are some potential negative implications, the strong connections that are made between parts of the brain of adolescents seeking treatment for Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is shedding light on the many ways that playing video games may actually be beneficial.
Scans of over 100 boys between the ages of 10 and 19 revealed a hyperconnectivity between different networks in the brain that wasn’t present in the control group. This hyperconnectivity may make the gamer more observant by allowing them to take in information, process it, and react to it faster than non-gamers. More importantly, these advantages could carry over into everyday life.
The researchers found strong connections between the parts of the brain responsible for processing visual and auditory information and the parts of the brain responsible for focusing attention on important events or significant items. After years of gameplay, gamers become quite adept at recognizing subtle differences and deviations from patterns. When faced with real life situations, this connection opens up opportunities to identify differences in sets of objects or draw attention to something significant when surrounded by clutter.
Improved Reaction Time and Decision Making
Connections are also developed between the visual and auditory parts of the brain and those responsible for decision making. The best video games are designed in a way that allows the gamer to learn the nuances of the game through subtle audio or visual cues. Whether it is a slightly glimmering object on a shelf in Assassins Creed, the sound of distant chainsaws in Resident Evil 4, or subtle clues that are voiced by the characters in the game, the brain is putting that information to work. Decisions are made, the body is readied, and the action commences.
Taking in Information from Multiple Sources Simultaneously
Quickly being able to process both audio and visual cues in a high-stress environment and to react accordingly is something with which most gamers can identify. Whether playing Call of Duty or Madden, Forza Motorsport or Fallout, gamers have to process massive amounts of information and stimuli. Learning to absorb and channel that information improves the gaming experience. It also helps with everyday situations from avoiding an accident while driving to analyzing and observing everyday processes.
Now for the Bad News of Video Game Addiction
While some of the increased connections between the various parts of the brain seem to have positive repercussions, the researchers also found that there are some negative possibilities. The boys with IGD showed similarities to people with neuropsychiatric conditions like schizophrenia. There were also similarities to people who have poor impulse control, which reinforces the belief that video games can be addictive. And like any other addiction, whether it is to drugs, sex, or television, it can have a profound effect on one’s health, life, and loved-ones.
Moderation in All Things
Moderation isn’t a bad thing. Often it is labeled that way, but it is the middle ground between abstinence and addiction. Playing video games can help keep one’s mind sharp. It can help focus cognitive skills and improve reaction time, but too much of a good thing can lead to problems in other parts of life.
Going to the gym and only working a particular set of muscles isn’t good for a person’s body. Playing video games and only exercising certain parts of the brain isn’t any better. It is important for the brain to unplug and to be used in different capacities. Not only does it help make video game players more well-rounded people, but it also helps keep their minds in shape as well.
This article was co-written by ArticleBunny