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The health benefits of gaming

by james wernich (GabeSA)  Posted Wednesday, July 03, 2013 12:50:00 PM

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If you have been reading articles on gaming sites lately, and of course news on more recognised sites then you would have read of the negative aspects of gaming. Government officials, mainly in the United States, have been bringing gaming to the forefront of negative media to blame for some atrocities happening in their country. Which does seems rather strange, considering that I have yet to read about such atrocities happening elsewhere. Perhaps it is because the USA has such a strong media presence.

 

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These Government leaders and officials are trying to put blame on an industry that probably does a little more good than its given credit for. I wrote an article not too long ago highlighting the social and economic benefits of gaming in our world today. However that is not the basis of this article. Rather I want to address what I feel are the benefits of gaming from a health perspective. I am not a doctor, nor have I done any medical research on the topic of the health benefits of gaming. I have in fact taken snippets of information from various sites I have found and compiled the more interesting facts that experts have identified in relation to this topic.

 

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An article written for an online publication called The Week by Danny Gallagher in March 2013 titled 7 Health benefits of playing video games reflected such benefits where actual research had been done on the topic. There were various studies compiled by recognised Universities in the USA on the benefits of gaming from a health perspective. The University of Utah released a study in 2012 showing how video games are “therapeutic for children with chronic illnesses, such as autism, depression and Parkinson’s”. According to their research, these children having being exposed to video games showed resilience, empowerment and a fighting spirit. Other such benefits included Improvement in preschoolers motorskills; reduction in stress and depression; games provide pain relief; gaming improves vision; it improves decision-making skills and it keeps people happy in old age.

 

The article goes more in-depth on each of the above points made but in essence one gets to understand that there has been serious research into gaming and the benefits of bringing it into your daily life. On another site called calmdowntom.com I read an article written in May 2011 where they highlight “Top 10 (Proven) health benefits of video games”. In this article there are video interviews from people that have experienced firsthand the benefits of playing games. In the article it attributes various genre of games as the positives in their article. Their positives stated in the article attributes gaming to weight loss in children; increased self-esteem; fitness; improved social skills; improved dexterity; stress relief; improved learning; and faster response times.

 

On the ABC News website, under their Technology Review page they too addressed the benefits of video games in an article written in December 2011, called, "The Benefits of Gaming."

 

Again they used reliable research in their article to address the benefits of gaming. Of course, once you start reading about this on one site, it becomes essentially the same across all sites that have addressed this topic. Now we all know that for every positive, another expert will come along and dispel such research and present their own facts to state the negatives of gaming. I agree on some facts for each side in relation to what gaming offers individuals. I can find the Pro’s and Con’s on each side of the proverbial coin.

 

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Here is my input on some of the benefits given:

 

  1. Gaming improves social skills – Yes and No. Why? There is a big difference in being socially skilled when dealing with someone face to face rather than verbally online. Although incredibly shy children or adults are more comfortable socialising verbally and so one cannot disregard the improvement such people will show in a social arena through this form of social behaviour.
  2. Gaming is attributed to weight loss – I don’t necessarily agree with this notion. The USA has the largest number of obese children worldwide. They consume more fast food than any other continent. Physical exercise is very important not only for weight loss, but for social adaptability as well. When you play a video game, especially one that requires interactive participation such as sports games on Wii for instance, you are playing it mostly as an individual, not as part of a team.
  3. Gaming improves stress relief – Maybe they aren’t playing online, because as a gamer, I shout and swear at my online counterparts. Perhaps because I am crap, but on the flip side, I love gaming. I agree to a point that gaming can indeed release stress, but again I reiterate that is may be dependent on what you play.
  4. Gaming improves self-esteem – I would ask the question as to how your self-esteem can be improved upon whilst gaming. Unless you are very good in gaming and lets face it I am not talking about whilst playing Single Player, any other person may be more inclined to feel less positive about their gaming skills when being annihilated online by thousands of other gamers. Of course, for the few that do find success in gaming, their self-esteem I am sure would be far higher.

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I suppose like many of the experts I can balance between the good and bad of gaming. For me personally, I love gaming. I have played every genre of gaming to see what I like, and as a true gamer I find solace in gaming. I can be swept away into the gaming world, and I have enjoyed the experiences I have gained. For me, it has been a huge benefit to game. I have joined clans, met great people, made some real friends, and socially interacted online and in person, and so much more. So for me, perhaps I am a “success” story when it comes to gaming. I feel very passionate when I read how gaming is blamed for the actions of violent children or teenagers. How so easily it can become a scapegoat where it is necessary to investigate other alternatives for such behaviour to prevent it from happening again. I feel as though no matter how many experts may argue for or against gaming, the outcome will always be the same! Gaming will be frowned upon by those that have either never played a game in their lives, or have no idea of their own social responsibility in their own lives in making a difference with their own children. I love to use the term, perhaps they are all “Fuddy-Duddies”.

 

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Another interesting article on the topic was written by a Dr. mark Griffiths who is a Professor of Gambling Studies in the Psychology Division of the Nottingham Trent University. His article, "The education benefits of videogames", highlights the same benefits, but is definitely worth the read.

 

Whatever your stance is on gaming, from a strong view point in the benefits of gaming and what it has offered to you on a personal level, to the person that would say that they prefer their children did not play games; it will always be a balancing scale. You are either in favour of it, or not at all. The benefits of gaming from my own experience has been really positive. Whether or not it has helped me medically, I can’t say because I have no such issues. Has it helped me in other ways? Yes it has. I believe in the power of gaming, but like everything else – it needs to be in moderation. Too much of a good thing, is not so good after all.

 

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

 

 

 



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