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With more purchases than books and movies put together, video games are popular amongst many. However, they do have their opponents. Gamers have long been stereotyped as unfit with a pasty complexion owing to hours spent in front of a screen rather than exercising in the outdoors. This unfair assumption has been less widely made in recent times, along with the fact that women are quickly catching up with men when it comes to who plays more computer games. However, even though gaming is widespread and the negative image of those taking part in the pursuit has been largely cast aside, this pastime still receives much criticism.

While a couple of decades ago it was only your mom who pointed out that you would end up with square eyes from video gamesif you didn’t reduce your screen usage, well known figures in the public eye are joining in on the debate. While the likes of Jack Thompson, Hilary Clinton and Fred Upton might have the law behind them, unfortunately, the arguments they use are not well informed.

It’s high time that the record was put straight, highlighting the benefits that regular gaming can bring…especially as there are significantly more of them than the yet to be proven negatives.

First things first, fitness video games bring some undisputable health benefits. While they might still be relatively new, they aren’t targeted at those who you might consider to be typical gamers. Potentially they can aid you in your attempts to work off excess calories and tone up, and there’s no denying that for a lot of people they offer a more enjoyable option than slogging it out at the gym. However, for the majority, they will do little to boost their overall fitness. The American Academy of Pediatrics, a respected journal, has reported studies that show children who take part in so called “exergames” are actually not fitter nor more active than their contemporaries who play what would be considered more traditional video games.

While it has been suggested that as far as vision gaming is detrimental to your sight, there is actually good evidence to support the fact that it can aid visual attention and acuity. Research conducted by the University of Rochester showed that gaming for a number of hours every day over the course of a month boosted scores on a standard eye test by as much as 20%. Those in favor of gaming have made the recommendation that the pastime be used in sight rehabilitation and to improve both night vision for driving and to help people with a lazy eye.

Pay Attention

Besides better visual attention, through playing video games attention can improve as a whole. The study carried out by the University of Rochester showed these games could have a potential role in heightening the attention needed by soldiers in combat, or indeed any other occupation requiring close attention. Students will be glad to know that they too can benefit. While they previously have been told that hours of gaming is doing little for their education, they’d be much better spending this time in the library, research suggests that gaming as a pursuit can aid reading in kids with ADHD. However, what’s it to say that gaming can’t help anyone who struggles with reading? This could make a real difference, as difficulty reading can hold people back in school, college and work. The scientific study to back this up was conducted using a favorite game, “Dance Revolution”, and reviewed their skills in reading; half were allowed to use this game a couple of hours each week, the rest weren’t. Although the level at which they were reading wasn’t dramatically altered within a month of gaming, the aspects of the test that ascertained focus and recall demonstrated improvements in the children who had used this game. This is significant, as in ADHD, focus and recall are usually impaired.

Students have yet more to benefit from gaming. A study in Sweden, where children enjoyed a game of World of Warcraft during class, demonstrated that not only did they attain a higher level on assessment, but by using computer games communication was more effective; this was particularly striking in those with the poorest social skills. Gaming helped to remove barriers that existed amongst students, allowing them to communicate with others during a game, including those they didn’t know very well; despite years in school, they had not been using this important skill previously. This is really good evidence to do away with the myth that gamers lack social skills; they’re likely to communicate far more than just venting their annoyance at their console. It’s not just students who enjoy video games; those who grew up gaming and are now adults in an array of occupations and with varying other interests, still get out the console in the evenings and at weekends. A study showed that surgeons could gain a great deal of benefit from gaming; laparoscopic surgeons who played “Trauma Centre” were able to improve the chance of successful operations by greater than one third.

Chronic pain is debilitating, but sufferers could look forward to gaming as a novel way to help them continue with their lives. Bryan Raudenbush, a psychology professor, reports that video games that center on sport or fighting, can significantly distract gamers pain is then less of an issue; while this allows many to better manage their pain, some are able to forget about it altogether. Gamers have known for long enough that their pursuit provides a sense of well being, but the ability for someone taking part in physical therapy or undergoing rounds of chemotherapy to enjoy snowboarding off piste in “SSX” can make a real difference to how they feel.

Video gaming doesn’t only help with physical pain; through gaming mental health problems such as depression can be eased. While you might mistakenly believe that the benefit comes from the release of anger and frustration you can achieve when playing the likes of “GTA Vice City”, evidence suggests there is more to it than this. Researchers have found that in the game “Bejeweled”, players with mental illness report improved mood and their heart rhythms also become more regular. There is also evidence that video gaming can help those who are mentally ill to relax and deal with pain when they struggle to tune out; this is a relevant finding, as there is an association between this state and suicide.

Don’t hold back in letting people know that you’re a frequent gamer and don’t let them say you should get out more to socialize. Instead use your excellent communication skills to persuade them to join you in a gaming session. How could they refuse? What else can offer them the chance to relax, lift their mood, boost their reading ability and even work on their surgical skills?

So Stick it, Jack Thompson

So, wave your consoles from the roof tops and the next time someone suggests that they need to talk to someone, not only can you make good use of your brilliant communication skills, you can also encourage them to join you in a gaming marathon, distracting them from pain, relaxing them, improving their mood, teach them to read and train them to be amazing surgeons – what more could you ask for?

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