Okay maybe we were overreaching with the title of this article but neither of the two premises are false. Yes, entrepreneurs, successful businessmen, artists and sportspersons all play video games, some even go as far as calling themselves gamers. And, yes video games are beneficial in their own way and under particular limitations. However, the question is whether the two statements can be related. Does the love for video games have anything to do with the success of these athletes and businessmen? Or is it sheer coincidence. Let’s find out…
In a recent survey conducted by ESRB, video games are growing in their popularity with nearly 67% of all US households engaging in gaming for at least eight hours each week!
There have been studies or rather observations conducted that suggest, gaming can actually help you become smarter, grow in your career and land that dream position or job. All this can be a lot of temptation to hunker down and blast through hours of Call of Duty, simply in the name of professional development but first, let’s investigate a little further.
Yes, there is a long list of famous individuals who are also high-profile gamers and their lifestyle or their life choices can make it seem as if gaming is a major part of their success but let’s be honest about this. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg game but if that’s all they did we would not know their name! Basically, they love gaming but they understand they have a business and life to run and that’s what makes them successful. By the way, did you know that Mark got hooked to programming in general when he wrote a video game as a child?
What is undisputable is that because of such athletes, entrepreneurs and entertainers, the gaming industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. However, now there is some science behind this growth and the positives of the industry too.
Granny Doesn’t Appreciate Gaming
How many times have you read some puff piece online bashing gaming and gamers in general because they are screwing up their lives? I for one have found several instances of such ridiculous posts, probably from grannies who never really got the chance to enjoy gaming as kids! Dear granny, let me tell you, science now backs the idea that gaming helps grow grey matter in the brain.
In a study from Germany conducted in 2013, it was shown how playing Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes, two months, every single day led to an increase in grey matter. Need more evidence granny? Well then how about the British Study that suggests strategy games like Starcraft can actually help improve the flexibility of the brain or that people who suffer from stroke, mental illness and autism can see improvements if they have regular gaming sessions?
This doesn’t mean that we should all start pushing our elderlies towards gaming or introduce Call of Duty to a three-year-old! No, just because something might work doesn’t mean it works across the entire spectrum. Not without concrete evidence at least and that is where gaming and science have to begin merging. There is unfortunately no proper backing of these findings and until more independent research is conducted with control environments and other necessary scientific precautions, appropriate conclusions cannot be reached.
The Naysayers And Haters Unite
There is always another side to a story and while I don’t personally support the views or conclusions drawn by the other side, it is worth exploring before saying no.
Video games deter productivity and development. Some entrepreneurs, artists and scientists believe that video games damage gamers by exposing them to violence. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, video games today do include a lot of violence and the most successful titles usually have to do with bloodshed and gore. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t titles released each year or even every month for children and teenagers. According to the American Psychological Association, the link between rise in aggressive behaviour and violent video games cannot be refuted. Early exposure to violent video games can lead to decrease in moral engagement, empathy and even pro-social behaviour. The correlations are sound but are video games the only factors promoting such behaviour in teenagers or is there more to it? That’s my qualm with the findings.
The American Academy of Paediatrics looked through 400 different studies and confirmed a strong link between aggressive behaviour and violent media. The conclusion they gave is that the time spent gaming can be used to create businesses, pursue dreams and even build relations.
My Take On The Debate
Thus far, I have presented the two warring factions without any bias. Let me put forward my viewpoint. First, yes games that have gore should never be played by young children. This will desensitize them as they grow up and can hamper their emotional and moral development. However, it is wrong to correlate this data and finding with the rest of the age groups. After a particular age, the emotional compass and moral compass have both grown to a certain extent that cannot be significantly altered by any means other than something catastrophic.
Having said that, I believe that gaming does improve productivity and increase brain matter. Why? Well, when you game you let go of any stress or other nagging worry in your mind. Your brain is given breathing space to relax and enjoy the work it does. Because gaming requires all your senses and your reaction, it helps improve hand-eye coordination, recollection power and even decision making. Whether you game professionally or for leisure, gaming produces those funny brain chemicals that help soothe the mind and body. The only thing it doesn’t do is give you a full body workout and that’s something that you have to work on personally.
Don’t take my words, listen to what Jeremy Wilmer, a psychology assistant professor at Wellesley College says. All the research points towards several positive factors of gaming and the potential for growth. Yes, there are studies that prove the negatives but there are equal studies to suggest improvement in cognitive abilities or the ability of the brain to store, retrieve and process information.