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Dated: Jan. 31, 2013

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Everyday we are in contact with sensationalist media that don’t have a goal of giving us answers to our questions, it is to confuse us and impress us: video games are either too good or to bad for our mental development. Which of these claims is true, or maybe even both of them, or perhaps the truth is somewhere in between? The magazine "Nature" interviewed six leading world experts from the area of neuropsychology and stated their opinions in an article called "Brains about video games". We should say that these are not the people who give their private opinion, but experts that study this area for a long time, with the goal to prove or to disprove the hypothesis and wide spread stereotypes about video games.

They asked to point the positive effects of video games first. They all agreed that video games can help in developing some qualities, but only in healthy people. Of course, when we talk about healthy people and those who are not healthy, we should point out that the not healthy ones are, besides the mentally ill and people with behavioral disabilities, are also video game and Internet addicts.

Between a Game and Addiction

In scientific circles, the term addict is used very carefully, at least when it is talked about video games and the Internet. Instead of that they rather use ’’excessive computer use’’, for things that are not of a business, academic, educational, informational or artistic sort. That are mostly blogs, games, porn content and social networking. An addict is only a person who has serious behavioral dysfunctions and the incapability of a normal life in a social environment and some mental disorders, like depression. The change in behavior is not necessary, but the damage it does to ones social life.

There has been a lot of talk about how much time spent on Internet and video games is excessive. Experts that study this area mostly think that the time itself is not much of a factor, but the linking to the virtual world and its influence on ones real life.

Game addictionWe are not talking about pathological cases, but how games affect peoples health, especially the youth because they don’t have a defensive shield developed that protects them against bad influence. A person uses every event to enrich his experience, so if he spends too much time playing video games, that will affect his psychomotor skills drastically. Because of that it is important to ask ourselves, what kinds of games do we play? If we play social games, that will improve our social skills. If we play games that aim to create something, we will develop our creativity. If we play aggressive games, that will improve... our implementation of aggression.

Positive Influences

A few studies have shown that video games improve the visual spatial orientation, visual perception, acceptance of different tasks quickly, object tracking and quickly making the right decisions. The experimenters mostly complained about methodology after these studies. The differences in the capabilities of the gamers and the not gamers didn’t always have to be the effect of the games, but maybe the reason they played games in the first place. There is no way to tell how much the differences are in the cognitive skills that motivated somebody to play video games or not. Maybe the high motoric capabilities and the affection towards video games have a connection, and then we draw the wrong conclusion out of that.

One of the later studies has shown that persons that played video games that have some sort of orientation, show better results in on screen navigation, but there is no difference in real world navigation between gamers and non gamers. Even though this is true, many professions demand good on screen navigation like air traffic controllers or architects. All in all, there is a lot of evidence that video games improve our cognitive capability to some degree, so in a lot of military bases cadets are being encouraged to play video games.

When it comes to social games, a few studies in Japan, America and Singapore have shown interesting results. They state that the effects from these games are rather short term than long term. People who play these games show a higher willingness to cooperate with people around them for a short while.

Tomorrow read part II...

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