Your Brain on Video Games

In a presentation she gave in June of 2012, Daphne Bavelier (a brain scientist) shared her interest in making the brain smarter, better, faster, and stronger through video games. If you are like many people, you think of children when you hear the words “video games.” However, Bavelier points out that the “average age of a gamer is 33.” I’m not sure how or when the number was determined, but according to Blizzard, producer of several online games, more than 10 million people with credit cards subscribe to the hugely popular online game, World of Warcraft. According to Activision, producer of several online games, “one month after the release of Call of Duty, the game had been played for 600 million hours.” I am inclined to believe that children are not the only players of video games.

Negative Ads About Video GamesMany of the stories that appear in the news blame video games for the problems and violence in society. Social problems and violence existed long before the internet existed and long before video games were even possible. I agree there are problems and there is too much violence and destruction in the world, but video games are not causing the problems.

According to Bavelier, the typical video game, in reasonable doses, has many positive impacts on our behavior. The benefits can be quantitatively measured in the lab and many of the myths about video games can be scientifically proven false.

  • Myth #1: Too much screen time makes you eyesight worse. When the vision of people who don’t play video games is compared to the vision of people who play video games between five and 15 hours per week, the people who play video games had better vision.
  • Myth #2: Video games lead to attention problems and greater distractibility. Studies show that people who play video games have a higher attention to detail than people who do not play video games. As such, the video game players can resolve visual conflict faster than those of us who do not play video games.
  • Myth #3: Video games do not teach any real-world skills. On the contrary, people who play video games can track objects more successfully than people who do not play video games. Tracking is an extremely important skill for motor vehicle drivers who need to track other drivers, people crossing streets, and children playing.

Bavelier concludes her presentation with the following two points:

  • Different video games affect the brain differently. Each game affects cognition, perception, and attention differently.
  • General wisdom, such as myths, carries no weight.

Questions

Regardless of whether or not you have a brain injury, would you like to improve your cognition, perception, and attention? Which deficits would you like to erase? If you do not play video games, what is holding you back? If you play video games, which video games work best for your recovery? Which other myths about video games would you like to discuss? What other detriments of video games should have been discussed?

Thank you to Daphne Bavelier, TED Talks, and YouTube for sharing the information used in this post.

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