How playing video games affects your body and brain
Video games are by many measures one of the most popular and commonly enjoyed forms of entertainment of our time, yet there's a lot of controversy around them.
In the wake of tragic events like the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, political figures like President Donald Trump have declared they want to investigate links between video games and violence.
"I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts," Trump said after the Parkland shooting.
President Obama had similar questions after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Connecticut.
"Congress will fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds," he said at the time, also calling for policies that would ban the purchase of military-style weapons and improve background checks for firearm purchases (changes that could have an impact on gun violence).
Even the World Health Organization has considered adding "gaming disorder" to a list of mental health conditions, stating that problematic gaming behavior might cause problems in other areas of people's lives.
But many other people have pointed out that some types of games offer benefits, including the potential to improve people's ability to pay attention and process visual information.
For all of these reasons, people have lots of questions surrounding what science says about the effects of video games. Do games cause violence or aggression? Are they addictive? Are they healthy ways to relax and de-stress? Could they improve brain processing speed?
Similar questions have arisen after every new form of media appeared - including television, movies, pop music, comics, and even books.
Fortunately, there's a fair amount of research that about how video games affect our brains and bodies. Here are the most important takeaways.
Many kids and adults play video games — they're not just of interest to young men.
Some studies link playing violent games to slight increases in aggression — though aggression is not the same as violence.
The release of games like Grand Theft Auto doesn't seem to increase crime rates — and may do the opposite.
Many of the people involved in mass shooting incidents seem to be less interested in violent video games than their peers.
In the time period that violent video games have become popular, youth violence has declined.
Video games can't explain the US's outlier status in terms of gun violence.
Some researchers are concerned that excessive game playing could be a form of addictive behavior, though this is controversial.
Some games, especially involving shooters, are associated with improved visual processing abilities
In some studies, gamers show an increased ability to pay attention while filtering out distractions
It's not just vision — action games seem to boost hand eye-coordination for adults and kids
Studies show that the more time kids (and adults) spend in front of screens playing games or watching TV, the more likely they are to be overweight or obese.
Kids who play sports video games are more likely to play sports.
Researchers think video games could improve problem-solving capacity
There are also links between video-game playing and creativity.
Playing games can help people relax, feel better, and trigger positive emotional responses.
Researchers have used video game technologies like virtual reality to help people recover from PTSD, get over phobias, and learn to manage drug addiction.
The psychological effects of video games might vary depending on how much you play.
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