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Video games have always gotten a bad rap from the national media. Over the years, they’ve been blamed for acts of violence, increased aggression, and they’ve even been accused of being one of the causes of obesity. What the media rarely discuss is the fact that video games may actually be good for our mental health and there are studies to back it up. Below are just a few of the reported benefits of being an avid gamer.

Gaming May Boost Children’s Learning and Social Skills

For starters, playing video games may boost children’s learning, health, and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play published by the American Psychological Association back in 2013. “Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression, and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” said lead author Isabela Granic, Ph.D., of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. “However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed.” Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem-solving and school grades the following year.

Gaming Increases Cognitive Skills

A study published by the American Psychologist also found that playing video games may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception. A meta-analysis also discovered that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. “This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Granic said. It’s also important to note that enhanced thinking was not found by playing other types of video games like puzzles or role-playing games.

Online Role-Playing Games Have Social Benefits

There have been many studies about the social interaction benefits of video games, but one study about CyberPsychology and behavior of MMORPGs found extremely positive results. 912 self-selected MMORPG players from 45 countries participated in the study, and the players were found to be highly socially interactive with the opportunity to create strong friendships and emotional relationships. The study showed MMORPGs can be extremely social games, with high percentages of them making life-long friends and partners. The study also concluded that virtual gaming might allow players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality, and age. And not only that, but MMORPGs also offer a place where teamwork, encouragement, and fun can be experienced.

3D Video Games Could Increase Your Memory

A study conducted by the Journal of Neuroscience back in 2015 asked a third of the study participants to play Super Mario 3D World for two weeks, a third to play Angry Birds, and the rest to play nothing at all. “Because of their engaging experiences and enriching 3D virtual environments, the same video games that have been played for decades by children and adults alike may provide our brain with meaningful stimulation,” the researchers wrote. The participants who played Mario ended up doing better on follow-up memory tasks, while the others showed no improvement pre- and post-gaming. “Video gamers who specifically favor complex 3D video games performed better,” the researchers concluded.

These are just a few of the potential mental health benefits of playing video games, and with the ongoing development of VR gaming, who knows much more psychologically beneficial gaming might become in the near future. One thing is for sure; you should play video games as soon as you’re done reading this article. You know, for your mental health.

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