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.

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Comments on “Video Games, Once Demonized, More Regularly Utilized For Positive Health Benefits”

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Anonymous Coward says:

A testimonial to the effectiveness of video games

I have a happier outlook on life than most. I trace it back to when I got high score on Polybius in the local arcade. Admittedly, I don’t remember exactly how that got me my first job, but the Denebians pay their translators very well indeed.

The Denebians? Oh, they are very real, but don’t believe the rumors about the Arcturans. Why do you bring them up? What have you heard?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

That recurring thing TAC talks about where people just slap a label on things rather than deal with them as different things.

Sex education will lead to kids having all the sex!!!

So lets teach them nothing & refuse to spend money on any program that even THINKS about mentioning condoms.

I mean it makes sure that the Maurry Show has a waiting list of guests to find out who is the daddy and destroy the myths that some men can’t make girls, that being hit in the nuts as a teen doesn’t make you sterile for life, and yes you can make a baby that dark.
Meanwhile (IIRC) I think it was in Colorado they gave kids easier access to the tools and education and OMG they stopped having unintended kids & the STI rates went down.

Everything new at some point has been the one thing that will turn children into demons… article about pastor decrying teddy bears as they will make little girls less girlie

The true downside of research like this is the GQP take which will use this research to PROVE that violent videogames can rewire kids into serial killers without souls.

No I don’t think a 10 yr old should play Postal, but then I don’t have a 10 yr old so my opinion doesn’t really matter and even if I had a 10 yr old I let play Postal its my decision.
From the same crowd refusing to wear masks screaming muh rights, but insist on having the right to veto your decisions about procreation, sex, what your child can do… is the push to put clerks in jail if a child buys a rated M game.

Not all video games are bad, not all video games are good…
Just like not all Republicans are death cult supporters, but most of them lack the spine to disagree…

PaulT (profile) says:

"One is a word game; the other, a gardening game"

Call me cynical, but it sounds like they tested out crosswords and other word puzzles (which I believe have already been proven to help fight depression) and a version of Animal Crossing, one of the most popular games on the Switch and something that millions played over lockdown. Is this something that really needs $7.5 million to study as if it’s a new idea?

I’m sure there’s reasons, and you’d probably want to be recommending something not tied to an existing commercial if you’re using it clinically, it just seems a little strange that this is being framed as if it’s not something that’s been studied before.

Also, note: the link to KSL above goes to a 403 forbidden error for me. I’m not sure if that’s a problem with the site overall or just a hamfisted attempt at region locking.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not sure about the word game, they offered no example of that game play. They did show parts of the gardening game & it was not animal crossing.

Their goal isn’t just to fight depression, they are working to retrain a portion of the brain so they obtain longer term benefits. They are pursuing this because the medications don’t seem to work as well in older patients.

In the grand scheme of things 7.5 seems rather cheap for them to define how the benefits can be tweaked given the aging population in the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

And like with weed it’s brought a group of people who will evangelize and overstate the benefits while denying any risks exist. The amount of vitriol you’ll get on certain sites for acknowledging that a small but consistent group of people develop issues with both those things is a rather disappointing denial of reality.

I’m sure some 14 year old on reddit printed out this study of 60 to 85 year olds playing a game developed for research out to show their parents why 60 hours a week of Warzone is perfectly reasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Said 14 year old really wouldn’t need to. You just need to look at all the old people on their phones playing Candy Crush, Farmville or any of their endless casual clones on their mobile phones.

"Video games bad" is a hill that the older generations have not been able to die on for quite some time now, and it’s an increasingly indefensible position.

ECA (profile) says:


What we had int he past, is Activity.
We had all kinds of things to keep kids busy. Even taking them to work with us.
NOW? You cant even take your 12 year old farm kid, out to drive farm equipment.
This country has had an employment problem since the Civil war. So they came up with Child labor laws, Age restrictions, retirement age, and so forth.
But even Now, retired people have to work because of the costs of living, and living longer.
Kids used to be able to work on farms at age 12, now its 16. But where are all those WHITE field workers?
Automation has taken over allot of jobs. Corp ideals that people will travel 20 miles, because they all have cars, rather them goto a local store.
Malls were great idea, in that you could have Main street(where all the business was long ago) spread around into Pockets, so local people could shop, all went away.
What happened to recreation halls? Boys/girls club? the YMCA? And all the social groups, elks, eagles, moose, Odd fellows, others?
Strange idea is that the Gov. has problems and decided that it was easier to break up the groups.

silentsceu says:

Compared to the past, it is not too much to say that today’s games are too easy. Not only about the strength of the Boss or general enemy, but also about completing a task, the steps needed to go to the next level. Today’s games only introduce boring tasks over and over again like increasing the difficulty, the boss will be stronger, and anyone can complete it with patience.

Think back to the time you spent finding enough keys in Prince of Persia, running around to defeat the three-headed monster in Half Life, diving back and forth to open a portal in Tomb Raider. .. At that point, what you need is time, patience, intelligence and a little creativity. Today, playing the game is simply rushing to an already open door, killing the enemy, and so on. Not to mention, in the internet age, if you find a "secret" in a certain part, you just need to Google and quickly find all the things you need.

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