Video Games, Once Demonized, More Regularly Utilized For Positive Health Benefits
from the life-is-a-game dept
For decades now, video games have been largely demonized by a certain segment of the population that probably were annoyed when great evils like jazz music and chess were also demonized. Video games, say this group, make kids lazy and fat, degrade social skills, keep them from going outside and hitting each other with sticks or something, and also make them all violent school shooters. That many of these same charges were levied on such horrible activities as chess, Dungeons & Dragons, or any of the other moral panics we kicked off appears to be lost on most everyone. Video games are evil, full stop.
Until they’re not, of course. And, fortunately, the tide continues to turn as more and more people play video games more and more. Already we’ve seen studies suggesting that gaming can actually be a very healthy activity, even for children. But not just for children. Gaming can also, according to a new study, be beneficial for older folks when it comes to combatting depression.
Playing video games might look like a fun way to spend an afternoon. “They get addicting,” said Laurie Featherstone, age 60, who lives in Millcreek. But it can also be so much more.
“When you go to someone like me and say, ‘I’m depressed,’ you expect me to say, ‘Well, you should take some medicine or you should go to therapy.’ So we’re really proposing a third, very odd option to patients,” said Shizuko Morimoto, a University of Utah population health sciences professor.
Morimoto, a neuroscientist, treated Featherstone with video games designed to target the cognitive control center of the brain which malfunctions in depressed patients.
Morimoto ran several clinical trials with patients of depression between the ages of 60 and 85. The games were developed specifically to combat malfunctioning parts of the brain that lead to depression, so, no, this isn’t Grandma mowing people down in Call of Duty. But that isn’t really the point, as video games have been demonized beyond just shooters or violent games. But like anything else, a tool, or video game, can be good or bad depending on how you use it.
One is a word game; the other, a gardening game. “Flowers are growing and you’re tapping on watering buckets and you’re shooing away bugs and you’re looking at the weather,” he said.
But there’s much more going on behind the colorful flowers. The better you get at the game the harder it becomes. It also charts your progress, giving vital feedback and improving care.
Featherstone said it’s an intense workout. “It felt like I’d gone out and ran you know, a 5K race and but with my brain,” she said.
The NIH has offered a $7.5 million grant to expand this study into a much larger population. The point here isn’t that all video games are good for you, or that all of them are bad for you. Either assertion is self-evidently stupid. The point instead is that there is nuance to all of this and blanket policies or grand statements devoid of that nuance are silly.
Are video games good for you, or bad? It depends, but we can now say for sure that the most panicked among us are wrong.