Health Benefits of Gaming (Yes, Really!)

benefits of gaming

As surprising as it may sound, the health benefits of gaming are a real thing. While gaming has gotten a bad rap over time, the practice can have positive effects on your brain—from increased social interaction to learning to solve complex problems. Gaming can be a legitimate way to boost your brain power.

Health Benefits of Gaming

Multiple studies over the years have demonstrated that the health benefits of gaming are a real thing. While it’s certainly hard to fathom that something so fun could have real health benefits, it’s true. Depending on the type of game, there may be some limited physical benefits, cardiovascularly speaking, but the bulk of the advantages are going to come from improvements in brain power, mood, stress relief, and focus.

Here are some of the positive effects found in the research:

Better hand-eye coordination—using the controllers at the rapid speeds required to successfully play many of today’s games requires excellent hand-eye coordination coupled with attention to detail and extreme focus. The more you play (practice), the better you get. And it won’t even feel like work since you’re having so much fun in the process.

Improvements in ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)—this condition can be mitigated by playing certain video games. Researchers say games aimed at improving ADHD help users focus on the task at hand to learn how to deal with distractions and complete tasks one at a time. These skills can then be applied to real-life situations as players learn to concentrate and pay attention to one thing at a time.

Boost brain plasticitystudies show that one of the big benefits of gaming is the ability to increase your brain matter. Because gaming requires such intense concentration, and you are rewarded for that concentration, your brain’s capacity for change and learning increases. This is called “brain plasticity.” So, instead of being mired in the same old ruts of thinking, routines, and processing, you are able to think outside the proverbial box and expand your horizons.

Stress relief—yes, the benefits of gaming include stress relief. Since many of the games require such intense concentration, they allow your mind to temporarily block out all other stressors. This can allow you to mentally relax (even if the game you’re playing is stressful).

Improved social interaction—while it may seem that gaming is largely an individual interest, often, you will play online with real-life opponents. This can foster a sense of teamwork and trust, as well as help you learn how to deal with conflict and difficult situations. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of meeting other people from around the world. These skills can often translate to better communication and relationships outside of gaming as well.

Gaming can be therapeutic—gaming can help children who are dealing with autism, depression, or chronic illnesses. As an escape from the realities of everyday life, gaming can provide the ability to feel positive and empowered. The more interactive the game, the better, as the rewards of doing well can cause a release of dopamine while allowing a safe environment to vent stressful feelings and anxieties.

benefits of gaming

When Is Too Much of a Good Thing Too Much?

While the benefits of gaming can be positive, too much gaming can become a negative if it begins to develop into an addiction. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is such a thing as “gaming disorder.” Gaming disorder is defined in the International Classification of Diseases, Revision 11 (ICD-11) as “a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

How much gaming is considered to be too much? Experts say ten or more hours of gaming per week can put you in danger of becoming addicted. If you start feeling overly anxious, socially withdrawn, or too revved up to sleep, it might be time to cut back on the gaming.

The takeaway here?

Set limits for yourself. If you notice you’re starting to seclude yourself or avoiding friends and family in your everyday life, it’s time to take a step back. Try limiting your gaming to three times a week or a certain period per day. And when you’re not gaming, walk away and enjoy alternative activities and interactions with others and in nature.

The health benefits of gaming extend to life skills way beyond the controller and the screen. The key is finding the balance between too much gaming and just the right amount to reap the rewards.