For those of us who enjoy playing video games, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced putting in hours or even days into our favourite game. Playing video games can mean many things to us, but when a game can border on addiction, it begs the question: What do video games do to our brain?
Now, before referencing Neuroscientific studies and saying words like 'hippocampus' and 'visuospatial', I thought I’d start simply. So I asked the Gamify team to just tell me how they feel when they play video games, as well as if they thought it benefited their brain’s functions.
My reason for doing this was because, at the end of the day, we can stack up research papers and come to various conclusions but if we ignore how we’re feeling in everyday language, we might miss the point.
To be clear, none of us are neuroscientists. But the results were insightful and interesting when compared to the vast studies that have been undertaken to better understand this question. Overall, and at no surprise, our team felt a positive association toward playing video games; experiencing sensations of happiness, immersion, and entertainment to name a few.
When it came to whether or not they felt video games benefited their brains, the majority of the team responded positively, but with a caution of moderation. An interesting perspective highlighted that whilst video games could benefit our brain's function, they could potentially represent a form of dissociation - distracting us from more important tasks in life.
What studies have to say
In 2017, a team of neuroscience researchers collected and summarised results from 116 scientific studies to get to the bottom of our question. Their findings were published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Their research aimed to not only observe if playing video games affected our brain’s activity but to also see if it had any impact on the brain structure. Their studies indicated an effect on both.
For example, the study indicated that playing video games increased the size and competence of areas of the brain responsible for visuospatial skills (that’s a person’s ability to identify visual and spatial relationships amongst objects).
Where gamers and volunteers followed a video game training plan, there was evidence that the right hippocampus was enlarged.
It was also noted that whilst our attention, visual, and motor skills can also benefit from video games, they can equally result in addiction, where moderation was absent.
We know by now that a lot of people enjoy playing video games. To some it’s a fun activity when they get some spare time, to others it’s a full-time job. From another perspective, video games present some promising medical benefits as we age.
With evidence to show that video games can even benefit sustained memory in players aged from 60 to 85, our conclusion here at Gamify is that video games can be a powerful tool in our human development.
To read more about this topic, we wrote an entire article about it which I’ve linked right here.