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I sank deeper into the couch cushion and slowly exhaled before setting the controller down on the cushion next to me. I feel the same type of euphoria and relief when I have finished an intense and satisfying book, only this time the story had been an arduous, often mind-bending first-person puzzle-platform video game (aka Portal 2). Usually I hate puzzles…because I suck at them!

Some people would say that the hours I spent working through the multiple levels in all 9 chapters was a waste of my valuable time (and they wouldn’t be completely wrong), but a growing body of research has discovering that video games, when played in moderation, can in fact have a positive effect on gamers. A study published in 2003 demonstrated that action gamers playing at least 4 days a week, 1 hour per day, were better than non-gamers at quickly “processing complex information, estimating numbers of objects, controlling where their attention was focused spatially, and switching rapidly between tasks”. More recent studies also show that video games may improve vision and make people more empathetic, helpful and cooperative.

Video games can provoke powerful emotions like curiosity, optimism, pride, and cooperation with other players to achieve a common goal. I’m very competitive. I get frustrated more easily than I used to. And between you, me and the guinea pigs, I ranted in frustration and anger more than once when I couldn’t figure out what to do…or I couldn’t do what I knew I was supposed to do…or the batteries died in the controller at the worst possible moments! Thank goodness for avid gamers who posted cheats on Youtube. There were quite a few “woo hoos” as well (that usually sent the guinea pigs into a frenzy because they thought that loud yelp meant treats for them)!

I seriously doubt that there will be any positive “spill-over” effects in the real world as a result of playing the game, like greater empathy or better vision. I’m already a super multi-tasker – I’m a Mom. However, I’m excited that an antiquated broad like me, whose first video game was Pong, made it all the way through Big Guy’s complex game all mostly on my own. It’s not Mud Hero which was by far a greater achievement, but I’m still proud of the fact that I persevered to the bitter end. Mostly I’m secretly proud of the fact I wasn’t bested by my 8 year old (who plays obsessively and finished the game 3 nights ago). I actually enjoyed whispering in his ear at bedtime that I had finished the game too…maybe I need to join the more than half a billion people worldwide playing online games at least an hour a day to learn more about compassion…or maybe I should just finish painting my kitchen already…what do you think?

 References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-mcgonigal/video-games_b_823208.html

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/why-video-games-may-be-good-for-you.html

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130826-can-video-games-be-good-for-you/1