“I grew up on video games.” That is one of those phrases adults say today and say it with pride. It’s right up there with “I remember when Saturday morning cartoons were good,” and “I got to see Kurt Cobain play live.” Alright that last one isn’t “technically true.” I’m old, but not that old. As I get older the thought of losing control of my memory and my mind in general are becoming more and more worrisome. But perhaps my life playing video games might have prepared my mind for old age better than others who hadn’t been afforded the luxury of a SNES for their sixth birthday.
It’s no secret that brains tend to stay healthier when they are challenged, especially as they age. Studies have shown that elderly people who engage in puzzles like Sudoku, crosswords, and other logic/challenging games tend to remain sharper than those who do not. The same may be true for video games. A new study coming out of Germany at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum points to gamers as superior in complex tasks and predicative abilities when information is limited. The data “…showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas that are relevant for learning.” Well, that sounds positive.
Dr. Boris Suchan, Sabrina Schenk, and Robert Lech were in charge of this study which began as far back as 2010. They sampled 17 volunteers proclaiming themselves as vigorous gamers, playing action-based games for more than 15 hours each week. The researchers had the volunteers perform a “weather prediction task” and simultaneously mapped the volunteers’ brain activity.
At the end of the study Schenk said, “…gamers are better in analyzing a situation quickly, generate new knowledge, and categorize facts – especially in situations with high uncertainties.”
This sort of data, say the researchers, points to increased activity within the hippocampus – the section of the brain responsible for learning and memory (among other things). The question then becomes, can we use video games to increase the strength of someone’s memory and learning capability? The answer is still an unknown, we don’t know all the facts. But I can say I feel a little bit more reassured having so much of my life with a controller in my hands.
Dementia and losing my memory are real fears of fine, I’ve seen the insane amount of anxiety and pain caused by the loss of one’s past, so until I hear otherwise I’m going to keep using my brain to solve the intricate puzzles in video games, gonna keep killing grunts as Master Chief, and I’m still going to keep losing horribly at Overwatch.
Look Ma! Gaming is important!