Video Games Are Helping Us Learn

High school is a lot of work. Students with busy academic and extracurricular schedules often find it hard to set aside leisure time. The free time that they do have is spent in different ways, but a common yet controversial method of relaxation is playing video games. The topic of video games brings up mixed reactions in parents, teachers, and students; however, video games are a valuable use of free time as they afford many benefits to players.

Many parents and teachers believe that these games, due to their addictive nature, will detract from time that should be spent on academic studies. Upper Division Physics teacher Andrew Vandenberg, however, recognizes that some video games can have a positive effect. Vandenberg said that while many games can be a “waste of time,” there are “useful games that can be beneficial, as long as they are taken in moderation.”

Students have varying views as well. Sophomore Jack Goldfield said that video games simply “distract […] and take time away from school,” while Freshman Rohan Singh said that they “can have educational value” and are also good stress relievers. When taken in moderation, video games have an established positive effect, but playing them in excess has the potential to be harmful.

When playing certain video games, players are required to actively engage their  minds. The actions of an opponent require quick decision making and sound judgment. A study by the Iowa State University Department of Psychology found that video games support a high level of emotional processing, cognitive control, and social decision making. Furthermore, when players are required to see small nuances in a puzzle game or a stealth unit in an action game, it improves their visual acuity. A University of California study of car crash victims shows that video game players are less likely to crash than those who do not play video games due to increased perception and the ability to see better at night. Video games also require cognitive action, demanding that players read their opponents’ actions and respond to them preemptively, much like the game of chess, already established to be beneficial for the mind.

Video games are also beneficial due to their function as a stress reliever, a by-product of their immersive nature. A study by the East Carolina University Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies reported, “Changes in EEG (Electroencephalography) recorded in this study support the hypothesis that playing a CVG (casual video game) of your choice can improve your mood and decrease your stress.” Because video games are so immersive, a player can often become lost in them, temporarily unmindful of the outside world. While this is sometimes perceived as a negative effect, it is actually positive. The ability of video games to make someone temporarily forget about the problems they’re facing in the outside world make video games perfect tools to relieve stress and induce relaxation. These games also improve  players’ moods, making them more pleasant to be around and thus increasing positive social interaction.

While the tough academics at Berkeley can certainly cause some stress in students, video games are a great way to take a break and relax. In small doses, this short respite can be beneficial, but everything should be taken in moderation, and video games are no exception.