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Games are Good for Your Health: Three Ways to Boost Your Brainpower

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Games, especially those of the virtual variety, are good for your health according to the experts. From mobile games like Candy Crush to RPGs and casino games, more than 1.2 billion people lose themselves in a virtual world for at least an hour each day and, despite what people used to think, it can actually benefit our health.

Not convinced? Let’s take a look at what the science says:

The Dopamine Effect

The most obvious health benefit of playing games is the dopamine effect. According to Dr Mark Griffiths, video game players experience a rush of dopamine into their brain’s striatum which results in a wave of positive emotions.

On a basic level, when you play a mobile game such as Angry Birds or Candy Crush, the feelings of fun and excitement you experience are enough to make you smile. Everyone loves being happy, so this prompts us to play the games more as we learn that a quick session on our phone can be fun.

Cultured Rat Hippocampal Neuron

Cultured Rat Hippocampal Neuron” (CC BY 2.0) by  ZEISS Microscopy 

On a biological level, dopamine also helps to motivate us. After studying the effects of dopamine on the human brain, neuroscientist John Salamone found that rats with high levels of dopamine would go for larger piles of food that were harder to reach. In contrast, rats with lower levels of dopamine would go for smaller piles of food that were easy to reach.

What Salamone concluded was that in cases where dopamine levels are low, humans and animals are less likely to work for things. This translates into video games as we’re often determined to play a certain level in Angry Birds until we complete it. From this we subconsciously learn this behaviour/response dynamic and, therefore, become more motivated to solve tough tasks in real life.

Better Decision Making Skills

Decide

Decide” (CC BY 2.0) by  mattwi1s0n 

Since the turn of the millennium the iGaming industry has gradually grow in popularity. Worth around $41 billion annually, the industry allows players to ante-up in games as diverse as slots, blackjack, poker and bingo.

One of the benefits of betting online is that you can use real money which, in terms of health benefits, requires players to weigh up their risks and rewards (because we value money as a precious commodity).

For example, Pokies.com offers a safe and secure gaming platform for real money gamers, but the site itself won’t tell players how much to spend. While it will offer a myriad of betting limits on games such as Starburst or Gonzo’s Quest, players must learn how to manage their money if they want to become a long-term winner.

Going through this process (technically known as bankroll management) teaches players how to manage risk and reward (i.e. mathematical concepts such as EV and ROI). Transferring these skills to real life, online bettors actually learn to make more effective decisions in all situations by comparing the relative costs and overall benefits.

Better Spatial Resolution and Visual Processing

Eye

Eye” (CC BY 2.0) by  Haylie Jaed 

According to research cited by Forbes, gamers that enjoy first-person shooters such as Call of Duty can develop better spatial resolution and visual processing skills. In a series of controlled tests, players were shown to have faster and more accurate attention allocation.

Because Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty puts players in a high octane world where reactions, timing and stealth count, avid players are essentially on edge each time they load up the game. While there are some negatives associated with playing so-called “violent” games for long periods of time, the benefits for our mental agility can’t be ignored.

Indeed, according to research, first-person shooters can create “measurable changes in neural processing efficiency”, which basically means a player’s brain is able to process large packets of information faster than the average person.

As you can see, playing games can actually be more beneficial to your health than you might expect. Whether it’s casino games, mobile games or classic console game, it appears to be the case that improving your health doesn’t have to be boring after all.

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