This article was originally published on December 27, 2018. Some updates have been made to reflect more recent research and industry developments.
Is it possible that video games can actually help our brains? What researchers have discovered may change our future relationship with some medical treatments.
Ever since their invention, there have been debates and stigma over the impact video games have on brains. On one side, you have the fact that people are sitting stationary for a long time, which is detrimental to their overall health. (But any one of us with an office job can relate to that.) On the other side, there’s the idea that video games can be used as a tool to help train and improve our brains.
So… are video games bad for you?
There’s no doubt that video games have taken over the world of entertainment. The video game industry is larger than the movie and music industry combined, with over two billion gamers across the world. In 2020 alone, the gaming industry reached $155 billion in revenue, with predictions that by 2025 it will reach $260 billion. 1
With all of this growth though, questions have continued to arise about the cognitive and physical health impacts gaming can have. Are video games harming our brains? Do we need to worry about any health risks? How much is too much gaming?
In this great video from WIRED, senior producer Peter Rubin, took a deep dive to answer some of these questions. Talking with researchers and doctors, and testing his skills against a pro gamer to see what the actual effects video games have on our health. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the results he came up with… and I definitely wasn’t anticipating where video games may take us in the future.
You can find more of Peter Rubin’s work for WIRED by clicking here! He’s even written a book, Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life, that explores these topics if you want to take an even deeper dive.
Conclusion: Video games are not bad for you!
So, no, gaming will not rot your brain, but like anything, unless you’re a professional gamer, it’s really not recommended you spend hours of time gaming daily. Like anything, moderation is key to keeping a healthy balance and maximizing the positive impact gaming can have. It’s also key to remember that the cognitive benefits of gaming are dependent on the type of game being played. 3 So, not all games are created equal when it comes to their cognitive benefits.
With the potential positives of gaming now well researched, the fascinating world of gaming’s use in medicine is now starting to blossom. Exciting advances toward using gaming as a way of creating custom treatments, and even training the medical community are well underway.
Really? Video games as medicine?
Some of the most interesting advancements in video gaming are coming from researchers working towards developing games that can enhance our everyday brain use and can be prescribed to be used to “support treatment of brain disorders such as ADHD, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more” 4. They’re aiming to build a new type of treatment that doesn’t involve chemicals (most prescription medications have uncomfortable side effects) and makes it an experience that’s unique to each patient.
The Verge shows us how this new “digital medicine” works with a trip to Neuroscape, a center working to integrate technology and neuroscience!
“We strive to make treatments that are not just engaging, but captivating to the point that, in the moment, patients forget they are taking medicine.
Our prescription digital medicine is delivered through creative and immersive action video game experiences to keep patients engaged and immersed in the treatment. Our products leverage the fun, deep engagement, and rewards that make games incredibly compelling but, unlike typical video games, this personalized gameplay experience is engineered with adaptive algorithms designed to treat a disease or disorder.”6
Sounds pretty good, right? If you’d like to learn even more about Akili Interactive, Project EVO, and its applications, head on over to their site by clicking here.
So where do we go from here?
As they said in the first video, fairly serious injuries can occur from playing video games too often. Just make sure you go outside, stretch, engage with other humans face to face, and you should be fine. So go on, keep exploring new virtual worlds, and look forward to a real world where we’re prescribing video games as medicine! (Seriously, who doesn’t want a noninvasive treatment?)
Oh! And did you know that virtual reality is already being used in hospitals?
Learn all about it in this following article:
Why Some Doctors Are Using VR Instead of Anesthesia!
Could virtual reality be a form of medicine? For patients who are using VR to help manage their pain and discomfort during minor surgery, it already is! Take a look at the amazing way this technology, originally popular for gaming, is getting a new life in hospitals.Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
Stay open to new possibilities!
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”—Albert Einstein
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- Beattie, Andrew. “How the Video Game Industry Is Changing.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 19 Dec. 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/053115/how-video-game-industry-changing.asp. ↩
- “Testing Gamer vs Non-Gamer Brains: How Do Video Games Affect You? | WIRED.” WIRED, YouTube, 25 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=duxWYK-UEiU. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018. ↩
- Nuyens, Filip M., et al. “The Empirical Analysis of Non-Problematic Video Gaming and Cognitive Skills: A Systematic Review – International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction.” SpringerLink, Springer US, 20 June 2018, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11469-018-9946-0. ↩
- Goode, Lauren. “Prescription Video Games May Be the Future of Medicine.” The Verge, The Verge, 25 July 2017, www.theverge.com/2017/7/25/16019760/prescription-video-games-brain-next-level-video. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018. ↩
- Verge, The. “Prescription Video Games.” YouTube, The Verge, 25 July 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS_HDxQxxqw. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018. ↩
- “Science & Technology.” Akili Interactive, www.akiliinteractive.com/science-and-technology. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018. ↩