“You don’t still play a lot of those videogames, do you?”
This was the question my grandfather asked me several weeks ago over dinner, quite literally out of the blue. As a child, both my cousins and I spent a lot of time at Grandma and Pop’s house, where we would often turn their finished basement in to an arena for Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart.
My grandfather may not have necessarily came right out and said it, but you could hear the hint of disdain in his voice. What he wanted to say is, “Are you still playing games? What a waste of time.”
Most gamers have had this conversation at one point or another, usually with a family member who’s out of touch with the hobby.
As such, I don’t blame my grandfather for feeling the way he does. Plenty of people his age hold similar views, which really comes as no surprise. Mainstream media organizations love to weave stories of how the past time has led to an increase in violent tendencies from today’s youth or point the finger at them when discussing America’s obesity epidemic. More often than not, they are depicted as the epiphany of a waste of time and genuinely bad for you, so it is only natural that those outside of the gaming community think of them in a negative light.
I find this to be especially sad though, because games also can be incredibly beneficial, especially for the older generation.
It may be hard to imagine that there even exists this community of ancient gamers – those above the age of 63, but I assure you that they are real, and they are living richer, fuller lives as a result of their gaming habits.
Over the years, videogames have been found to offer several health and wellness benefits for older folk. Numerous studies looking at the ways gaming affects old people have been conducted, many of which have turned up positive results – especially in regard to the brain.
A study conducted by researchers at North Carolina University found that adults with poor cognitive focus or spatial abilities showed signs of improvement after playing complex strategy games for two hours a day over so many weeks. Games such as World of Warcraft, cognitively complex and visually engaging, were noted as being the most beneficial, as the style of gameplay requires one to exercise a wide range of cognitive abilities.
Scientists at the University of California found that games are actually capable of altering the brains neural network, resulting in a reversal of the negative signs of aging. Games that require a fair amount of multi-tasking have been found to improve both working memory and sustained attention. The study also found that signs of improvement remained present nearly 6 months after the experiment had concluded.
Believe it or not, games have even been found to have physicial benefits for old timers. A 2015 study published in “The Journal of Gerontology” found that games that required fast decision-making and visual attention could improve older gamers walking capabilities. Adults who played videogames for just three hours a week, over the course of 10 weeks, saw significant improvements in walking speed and overall balance. The study concluded that games could help to further assist other fall prevention tactics.
Games also can also help senior citizens fight off negative emotions and onset depression. Several reports discussing the affects that computers have on human behavior have found that in regard to the older crowd, those that played games regularly performed better on measures of well- being and emotional reaction. A report entitled, “Successful aging through digital games: Socioemotional differences between older adult gamers and non-gamers,” concluded that those that did play videogames regularly appeared livelier than those that didn’t, were more social and open to conversation, and were intellectually quicker than those who did not.
While I do agree that there are certainly other past times that people of all ages would benefit from engaging in – reading, writing, exercise and the arts being at the top of my list – I don’t think it’s necessarily right to write off video games as something unquestionably bad.