It seems that every news source these days is extolling the dangers of video games on the people who play them. In that light, it is difficult to see how these games can have any long-term advantages. It turns out that they can, and it might not be the expected set of advantages.
Until very recently, video games were expected to apply solely to the younger generation, but new statistics are beginning to show the error in that assumption. Video games are no longer just a young man’s game. One of the largest segments of the gaming population actually includes the Boomer generation. Surprised?
Who Really Plays Games?
PopCap games recently did a survey on the average age of their users. What they found was surprising. Of the iPhone app game-players, nearly three-quarters of participants were over the age of forty, and of those, nearly half of participants were over the age of fifty. Not exactly to be expected, is it? Considering how many people have parents who cannot access the voicemail on their phone, these results are somewhat surprising. Apparently parents over the age of forty have no trouble accessing the app store on their phone. Maybe they only tell you that they are having trouble accessing their voicemail so that they do not have to call you back and can focus on their gaming.
In a similar vein, North Carolina State produced an observational study of 140 participants over the age of 60, with the average age of their participants being 77. In an unexpected twist, more than half of participants reported that they had picked up a controller recently, and of those nearly 40% of participants reported that they played games several times in a week. Even several retirement homes have adopted the Wii into their activities in order to give their residents the ability to play sports in a safe environment.
What are the Benefits of Video Games?
It turns out it is a good thing so many Boomers play video games. Among the forefront of these benefits is the strategy and complex problem-solving that the simulated atmosphere of a game presents. These problem-solving skills help improve the players’ cognitive skills and gives the brain a workout, keeping it engaged and active. Because of the nature of video games, new synapses in the brain are formed whenever a player learns something new. Since players are constantly engaged in an environment which teaches them new information, skills, or motion, the brain stays active.
In addition to the learning centres of the brain being engaged, several other benefits become apparent in Boomers who play video games. A study reported in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychology explains that a combination of playing games and exercise, as in the game Wii Fit, significantly decreases the risk of depression. A different study conducted in 2012 reported that men who play computer games postpone dementia by an average of 8.5 years.
More generally speaking, video games also improve memory, enhance quick-thinking, and improve hand-eye coordination. Additionally, multiplayer video games increase sociability and encourage cooperative playing which helps the players involve themselves in a community that in turn keeps the activity centres of the brain fully engaged.
All told, video games are not only for the younger generation. Because of the multiple health benefits they provide, Boomers who play video games are more likely to live better quality lives.
Mike is a freelance writer who enjoys combining his strengths and interests when it comes to writing. He is trained in health and medicine, yet enjoys playing video games. In fact, he even runs a blog dedicated to the PS3 blinking red light. Therefore, analyzing the mental health benefits of video games was a nice break from researching PS3 problems or weight loss tactics!