In the digital era, both children and adults have been looking to video games for entertainment more and more often. The number of players getting involved, even when looking at a single game alone, can be staggering; for example, as of June 2018, the popular video game Fortnite had more than 125 million players worldwide. But the elephant in the room is an important question about the effects of this time-consuming activity: Is playing video games ultimately beneficial or detrimental to our mental health?

Is Playing Video Games Beneficial to Our Health? How?

These video games, believe it or not, might be more than just a way to pass the time; they can also have a variety of positive effects on your psychological health, both cognitively and emotionally:

Cognitive Health

Certain video games may actually benefit your overall psychological health by exercising parts of the brain that may otherwise go ignored. Just as in sports, a fast reaction time is needed for certain video games, meaning that playing these games can be a means of developing this psychological skill. Reaction time, however, isn’t the only psychological benefit you can gain from playing video games. Your attention span and ability to focus may be improved as well, depending on the type of video game played.

It’s not just action-oriented games that improve your cognitive functioning. Certain puzzle games can also provide you with advantages, especially games that require a high level of spatial reasoning and awareness.

Emotional Engagement

In addition to single-player games that can build up your cognitive function, multiplayer video games can be great for emotional development as well, especially for younger players. Multiplayer games often require cooperation and coordination to reach a defined goal, which strengthens the ability to work with others. This skill is one that can be difficult to teach, and so children playing video games that encourage cooperation like this can be incredibly beneficial for their overall emotional wellbeing.

Even single player games can contribute to emotional development, despite not providing direct interaction with other players of the game. Many narrative-style adventure games work to tell a story, similar to movies, books, and other forms of popular media. However, the extra level of direct interaction with video games encourages an additional level of empathy. This helps players of video games like these to develop a stronger sense of empathy for those in the world around them, not just for the characters on their screen.

Are There Drawbacks? What’s the Damage?

Not everyone believes that video games are so beneficial, however. Many critics of this new entertainment medium believe that the violence of certain video games may have detrimental effects on the development of younger children. While there may be some evidence that suggests violent video games may not be the best for younger children, overall, studies suggest that video games do far more good than harm, giving people an emotional outlet and means to develop certain cognitive skills.\

As this newer form of entertainment continues to rise in popularity, more and more people will have the opportunity to benefit from the chance to develop their cognitive skills. Between building psychological skills and developing emotional intelligence, video games have the potential to be incredibly useful tools for developing mental health and overall wellness.

*Joe Slepski is the Digital Marketing Manager at GameFly. In addition to digital marketing, Joe is the creator of the Joe on Joe podcast, a weekly foray into the cartoons of our youth.