July 25, 2016

I cannot believe that I am going to speak positively about video games, but I am.

In a thought leading article from the July 2016 Scientific American, Daphne Raveler and Shawn Green tackle the topic of "Are video games good for the brain?"

It is clear from their review of the research that people that "immerse themselves in the fast paced events of digital fantasy worlds derive significant cognitive benefits".

What happens during a fast paced game is that the brain has to learn to adapt to rapid shifts in scenery while assessing threat risk. This is brain training for human reaction time. The brain thus will start to grow new synapses to "muscle up" the part of the brain that deals with rapid neural processing. These changes occur in three major areas: prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex and the cingulate cortex. The effect is to have better sustained attention, better ability to switch focus between targets and a way to monitor your own behavior.

"The games create a rich environment in which new challenges keep arising, always pushing the players out of their comfort zone. Finally, the games also reward players on many different timescales: seconds(defeat a single enemy), minutes (finishing a single mission), hours (finishing a chapter or campaign), days (completing a full game) - all of which promote planning across different time horizons."

When tested, video gamers outperform control non-gamers in rapid assessment tasks.

What is clear so far is that it is unnecessary to play for hours and hours to achieve these effects. Short daily play (1-2 hours) achieves the same beneficial effects as long overuse play does.

What is also clear from many other newsletters is that moderation is key in all things. Playing excessively is not good and getting out in nature is critical.

Boiling it down: At the Magryta house we have strict rules around gaming. 1) No gaming or TV time during the school week. 2) Summer time and weekends are 1-2 hours as long as reading, chores and attitude are in line with the family rules. (we do slip a little during parties and holidays) 3) Playing games is a privilege and not a right. Our children are very clear on the reality of rights and privileges.

My son is smiling from ear to ear as he reads this newsletter over my shoulder. He saw the cover of the article called "Better Brains From Games" and was drawn in like a flea to a cow patty.

Brain Games,