Arnab Mazumder, Under-graduate student
Bachelor in Engineering, Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore, India
The recreational activities of the current generation are evidently distinct from forgoing generations by virtue of their access to a virtual playground. Gaming has turned into an exceptionally popular leisure activity with a colossal user. Games are relied upon as a means of temporary diversion from life’s routine hassles and stress. Amidst the wave of COVID-19, the amount of time spent on gaming is substantially multiplying. Here is an attempt aimed to shed light on the relationship between video gaming and gamers’ psychological functioning.
How pragmatic is the impact on brain?
Playing video games has an impact on how our brains perform and on its structure. Studies showed that playing action games improve visual attention to the periphery of a screen (1). Additionally, the action games can improve adults’ abilities of contrast sensitivity (2). Some suggested that games requiring teamwork help people to develop and upgrade collaboration skills (3).
Figure 1: Depicting brain structures for representation purpose (Image courtesy: Vasilisa Tsoy / Shutterstock)
The frontal lobe part of the brain (figure1) that plays a role in attention, is found to be more functionally efficient in gamers compared to non-gamers(4). Gaming was reported to be associated with an increase in the size and competence of parietal lobe, which is responsible for visuo-spatial skills. Those individuals who inculcated on a gaming plan for a specific period were found to have enlarged right hippocampus (4).
Internet gaming disorder
The adverse aftereffects of addictive gaming cannot be overlooked. Lately, the professionals have attempted to broadcast several claims about gaming underscoring the potential dangers of excessive gaming.
Obsessive gamers showed functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system similar to those seen in other addicts. The structures associated with feeling of pleasure, learning, and motivation were found to be altered (4). In addition, gaming was linked to negative consequences; obesity, negligent, compromised academics. Irrespective of the gaming duration, violent games were reported to trigger aggressiveness (5,6).
Figure 2: Change in MRI signal to show activity in the rostral video game while playing violence game (Image courtesy: K. Thomas and D. A. Gentile(6))
Players accustomed with violent gaming showed lower activity in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, whereas those used to low-violence games displayed higher activity (figure 2). The difference cited above suggests that gamers who often play violent games may be desensitized to aggression and violence.
Gaming and memory
A recent study found that playing 3-D games could boost the formation of memories. Participants were allocated in two groups of 2-D gamers and 3-D gamers. After playing for 30 minutes/day for 2 weeks, they were given memory tests that engaged brain’s hippocampus. The 3-D group significantly manifested a hike in memory performance by 12%(7).
Strategy gaming, in particular proclaimed improved brain function among elderly people (8) and might be protective against dementia and Alzheimer’s (9). Evidences also suggest that gaming may be viable for treating depression, improving memory in adults with mild cognitive impairment (9).
Since the research in gaming is still in its infancy, the thoughts regarding the impact are ambiguous. Scientists are still scrutinizing the gaming influences on different areas of brain. Video games are a powerful form of entertainment. Nevertheless, a game is good or bad is not definite, perhaps the game themselves cannot have an impact it depends on the gamer’s reaction.
- C. S. Green and D. Bavelier, “Action Video Game Modifies Visual Selective Attention,” Nature 423 (2003): 534–537.
- R. Li, U. Polat, W. Makous, and D. Bavelier, “Enhancing the Contrast Sensitivity Function through Action Video Game Training,” Nature Neuroscience 12 (2009): 549–555.
- R. Hämäläinen, T. Manninen, S. Järvela, and P. Häkkinen, “Learning to Collaborate: Designing Collaboration in a 3-D Game Environment,” Internet and Higher Education 9, no. 1 (2006): 47–61.
- Palaus Gallego M, Muñoz Marrón E, Viejo Sobera R, Redolar Ripoll D. Neural Basis of Video Gaming: A Systematic Review.
- C. A. Anderson, “An Update on the Effects of Playing Violent Video Games,” Journal of Adolescence 27 (2004): 113–122.
- C. A. Anderson, A. Sakamoto, D. A. Gentile, N. Ihori, A. Shibuya, S. Yukawa, M. Naito, and K. Kobayashi, “Longitudinal Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression in Japan and the United States,” Pediatrics 122, no. 5 (2008): e1067–1072.
- Kurtzman L. Training the Older Brain in 3-D: Video Game Enhances Cognitive Control. University of California San Francisco.
- Souders DJ, Boot WR, Blocker K, Vitale T, Roque NA, Charness N. Evidence for narrow transfer after short-term cognitive training in older adults. Frontiers in aging neuroscience. 2017 Feb 28;9:41.
- Khan S, Peña J. Playing to beat the blues: Linguistic agency and message causality effects on use of mental health games application. Computers in Human Behavior. 2017 Jun 1;71:436-43.