Playing video games is good for your brain
Whether playing video games has negative effects is something that has been debated for 30 years, in the same way that rock and roll, television, and even the novel faced similar criticisms. Purported negative effects such as addiction, aggression, and various health consequences such as obesity and repetitive strain injuries tend to get far more media coverage than the positives.
However there is now a wealth of research which shows that video games can be put to educational and therapeutic uses, as well as many studies which reveal how playing video games can improve reaction times and hand-eye co-ordination. For example, research has shown that spatial visualization ability, such as mentally rotating and manipulating two- and three-dimensional objects, improves with video game playing.
To add to this long line of studies demonstrating the more positive effects of video games is a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Vikranth Bejjanki and colleagues. Their newly published paper demonstrates that the playing of action video games,the sort of fast-paced, 3D shoot-em-up beloved of doomsayers in the media, confirms what other studies have revealed, that players show improved performance in perception, attention, and cognition.
In a series of experiments on small numbers of gamers (10 to 14 people in each study), the researchers reported that gamers with previous experience of playing such action video games were better at perceptual tasks such as pattern discrimination than gamers with less experience. In another experiment, they trained gamers who had little previous experience of playing action games, giving them 50 hours practice. It was shown that these gamers performed much better on perceptual tasks than they had prior to their training.