Video Games Are Not a Waste of Time

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I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I love video games. I’m a grown man, with a wife and bills and responsibilities, but I still make time on a regular basis (I’m not going to admit how often, lest my advisors read this) to fire up Halo 4, sign on to Xbox Live, and jump into the fray with hordes of teenagers and fraternity brothers in virtual battle. I once had to have my wife hide a game (the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion; if you’ve played, you know how addictive it was) from me so that I’d take a break from playing - and she still married me!

The fact that I’m embarrassed by my love of gaming suggests that I don’t think of it as a meaningful activity, and that’s a little bit true: I don’t play video games to better my life; rather, I play them when I’m bored, or procrastinating, or just in need of an escape. But research over the last decade has shown that playing video games can have a positive effect on important perceptual and cognitive skills, and may even help kids with developmental disorders.

To start with, a 2003 study out of the University of Rochester showed that playing video games - in particular, action video games, like adventure games or shooters - can improve visual attention. This is pretty intuitive: action games usually have a lot of rapidly moving images on the screen, so you need to develop your ability to focus if you want to succeed at the game. Remember Duck Hunt? If you weren’t paying attention, you missed the ducks, but if you kept playing long enough, eventually you developed a hypersensitivity to the smallest bit of movement on the screen.

In 2010, the same team at Rochester published a new paper showing that action video games can improve gamers’ ability to make “probabilistic inferences” (also known as statistical learning), which is a fancy way of saying that gamers are good at detecting patterns. Again, this makes intuitive sense: video games are programmed to be full of rhythms and patterns, and identifying those patterns is often a key to gaming success. This study had a twist, too. Gamers turned out to be better at generalizing their learning across domains than nongamers, meaning that if gamers demonstrated their expertise at pattern detection on a purely visual task (identifying which way a group of dots was moving on a screen), they were better at using that expertise on a separate auditory task (identifying which way sounds were moving across different speakers).

Both the Rochester studies showed that playing video games can have a positive effect on perception and learning in adults, but what about kids? A study from a team in Italy earlier this year found some very intriguing effects for gaming in kids with reading disabilities. Researchers found that as little as 12 hours of action game playing (in this case, the Wii game Rayman’s Raving Rabbids) significantly improved kids’ reading abilities across a variety of domains, from reading speed and accuracy to nonword reading. Keep in mind that the game the kids played had nothing to do with reading.

This is a big deal! Kids love video games. If that love of video games can actually help with a reading disability, then that opens the door for a whole range of new treatment opportunities to improve reading skills. I don’t suspect that this will lead to dedicated “video game time” for elementary school children, but you never know.

Despite all this research, I still feel guilty about gaming too often. There was a time when I viewed a place atop the Halo leaderboards as a badge of honor, but that time has passed. Still, it’s nice to know that gaming does have some benefits outside of bragging rights among your buddies. I imagine that when I become a parent, there might be a day when I ask my kids, “Did you do your homework?” and they respond by showing me their latest high score.

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Comments

I think video games are waste of time, at least for me. When I want to start doing something that takes time (a new song, for example, I'm a song writer), I escape from it by playing video games. And if anything, it is a waste of time! I would not have to waste my time, but playing addicts. Then it becomes annoying. I'm trying to stop my gaming, but it's hard. Simply playing is pain in the ass for me. Most likely it is a nuisance to others, I think.

I agree with you Jim. As a video player myself, I also find it hard sometimes to resist the temptation of playing, especially when I actually do nothing. I believe that books are not the only way to acquire and make your brain active; video games have merit, too. I have a friend whose also addicted to video games, but look at him now a professional architect, knows how to cook, fast reflexes and has 2 lovely children. As what other people think, video game should not also be blame for violence, there is no proven link between video game violence and real-world violence. Video games are just wrongly judged by people, that's the sad truth.

As a 25 year old adult, I totally agree. I love playing video games especially the onces thay engage and capture you in there twisted little (well huge) world. Rpg games to be exact. Only problem.. is the cost of a new game. Thats why I rent all games that I decide I will not be keeping for multiplayer use

Of course video games have merit, all pending on what you are playing of course. Video games can be extremely educational, and stimulate the mind! People will always be against video games, as they see the violence part as a reason we all go out and kill! Lol

These are simply excuses. Nobody who pays video games gets anything out of them except pleasure. I'm not saying they're bad. Video games are a great form of pointless entertainment, as is partying, watching sports, etc. The difference is, it's a LOT easier to isolate yourself and waste more time with your gaming. It can have a lot of negative consequences. No successful person or CEO out there will tell you that they play games to pass the time. They don't have enough time as it is.

Video games is good only for

Video games is good only for those who are trying to brain wash you and for those who are already brain washed. I've played video games for 10 years and apart from addiction I didn't get any differences. No improvements in memory or attention, on the contrary, poorer memory, inability to focus and brain desensitization, depression, apathy and so on.. they want you t play video games so you would become vegetable, they need your money not your mind.. they don't want you to read or learn, you are simply slaves, eat sleep work, play. That's it. Fooling ourselves that it's the right lifestyle because you are too weak to change anything. REPEATING one more time it don't give you any of these advantages, just a bunch of disadvantages.. My grades,body, social skills, memory, relationships, overall mood improved, after quitting video games, anxiety and depression is lost also, I'm not that easy irritable now, Compared to League of legends players for example. Most of you will try and deny these arguments due to lack of will, it;s easier to keep the same habits even though they are ruining your lives than use your will and change something tfor better.

stfu you judgmental dick hole

Just because you abused games and tr acted your life like it didn't matter doesn't mean that's what everyone playing games does. Just because it took you quitting something you enjoyed to realize, doesn't give you any reason to assume everyone else is as much of [n idiot] as you are.

I wish my wife can understand

I wish my wife can understand that video games is not a waste of time. I'm here working in Saudi Arabia there is no Cinema or anything that is fun to do here in Saudi Arabia, so i bought PS3 and Ps4 and last december I bough XboxOne but the sad thing is i dont have time to play. I have time but everytime I turned on my console i somehow feel that my wife is not ok with it, i have a 1 year old baby, which i take care even if my wife is around but still she doesnt give me time to play,... the only day i can play video games is on friday on our day off at night 12am to 5am i will wait for my wife to sleep., I do this because i dont want to argue with my wife because of video games,

As a 25 year old adult, I

As a 25 year old adult, I totally agree. I love playing video games especially the onces thay engage and capture you in there twisted litAs a 25 year old adult, I totally agree. I love playing video games especially the onces thay engage and capture you in there twisted little (well huge) world. Rpg games to be exact. Only problem.. is the cost of a new game. Thats why I rent all games that I decide I will not be keeping for multiplayer usetle (well huge) world. Rpg games to be exact. Only problem.. is the cost of a new game. Thats why I rent all games that I decide I will not be keeping for multiplayer use .

free mahjong

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