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What benefit is there to playing highly repetitive games?

What benefit is there to playing highly repetitive games?



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I quite enjoy playing games which requires many repetitions of the level in order to get right. These games are often constant-speed scrolling obstacle-course type games where the player must navigate obstacles correctly to finish the level. Often many of repetitions of the level are necessary. For example, geometry dash (not affiliated with them at all, I promise!).

I often wonder if there are any benefits to playing these games. I know that the repetitive nature creates neural pathways in the brain, but I don't think this newly developed ability is going to be used outside of one game in particular.

A friend of mine mentioned that perhaps these games would improve neuroplasticity, and some research indicates that certain types of games do have cognitive health benefits, (for example, in older adults). However, I haven't been able to find any information about this type of game in particular.

Do these types of repetitive games have any neurological benefit outside of an improved ability to play a particular game?


Lumosity has a research section that explains how their repetitive games help in day-to-day activities. They claim it's peer reviewed, although all of the papers are published to their site.

However, Science based medicine had this to say about a study with games similar to Lumosity…

This one study, of course, is not definitive. It is possible that more training is needed before significant benefits are seen. Perhaps video games are more effective because they are more engaging and players will spend more time playing.What this study shows, however, is that products sold as brain training games had no documented benefits after six weeks of use.

Putting this study into the context of the overall research, it does make us more cautious about concluding that there are general cognitive benefits to brain training games or entertainment video games. Benefits are likely to be closely related to the specific tasks involved in training, and not transfer to unrelated tasks.

But there is already enough published evidence showing visual tracking, multitasking, and executive function benefits from action and strategic video games respectively that this study will not be the final word. When there is conflicting research, more study is needed.

This study is most applicable to brain training products, and shows that the marketing claims for these products are not justified. There is very unlikely to be any benefit, or any specific advantage, to “scientifically designed” brain training applications. For now, you are better off just playing a video game.

So, more or less, there isn't any information suggesting that these repetitive "brain games" actually help develop skills outside of learning to play the game better.


Video games and health

Although playing video games is one of the most popular leisure activities in the world, research into its effects on players, both positive and negative, is often trivialised. Some of this research deserves to be taken seriously, not least because video game playing has implications for health. 1

One innovative application of video games in health care is their use in pain management. The degree of attention needed to play such a game can distract the player from the sensation of pain, a strategy that has been reported and evaluated among paediatric patients. One case study reported the use of a handheld video game to stop an 8 year old boy picking at his face. The child had neurodermatitis and scarring due to continual picking at his upper lip. Previous treatments had failed so the boy was given a hand held video game to keep his hands occupied. After two weeks the affected area had healed. Controlled studies using both randomised controlled trials and comparison with patient's own baseline measures show that video games can provide cognitive distraction for children during chemotherapy for cancer and treatment for sickle cell disease. 2 - 5 All these studies reported that distracted patients had less nausea and lower systolic blood pressure than controls (who were simply asked to rest) after treatment and needed fewer analgesics.

Video games have been used as a form of physiotherapy or occupational therapy in many different groups of people. Such games focus attention away from potential discomfort and, unlike more traditional therapeutic activities, they do not rely on passive movements and sometimes painful manipulation of the limbs. Video games have been used as a form of physiotherapy for arm injuries, w1 in training the movements of a 13 year old child with Erb's palsy, w2 and as a form of occupational therapy to increase hand strength. w3 Therapeutic benefits have also been reported for a variety of adult populations including wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries, 6 people with severe burns, 7 and people with muscular dystrophy. w4 Video games have also been used in comprehensive programmes to help develop social and spatial ability skills in children and adolescents with severe learning disability or other developmental problems, including autism w5 w6 children with multiple handicaps (for example severely limited acquisition of speech) w7 w8 and children with impulsive and attention deficit disorders. w9

However, there has been no long term follow-up and no robust randomised controlled trials of such interventions. Whether patients eventually tire of such games is also unclear. Furthermore, it is not known whether any distracting effect depends simply on concentrating on an interactive task or whether the content of games is also an important factor as there have been no controlled trials comparing video games with other distractors. Further research should examine factors within games such as novelty, users' preferences, and relative levels of challenge and should compare video games with other potentially distracting activities.

While playing video games has some benefits in certain clinical settings, a growing body of evidence highlighting the more negative aspects of play—particularly on children and adolescents. These include the risk of video game addiction, 8 ,9 (although the prevalence of true addiction, rather than excessive use, is very low 8 ) and increased aggressiveness. 10 There have been numerous case reports of other adverse medical and psychosocial effects. For instance, the risk of epileptic seizures while playing video games in photosensitive individuals with epilepsy is well established. 11 ,12 w10 w11 w12 Graf et al report that seizures are most likely to occur during rapid scene changes and when games include patterns of highly intense repetition and flickering. 12 Seizures and excessive or addictive play do not seem to be linked directly, however, as occasional players seem to be just as susceptible.

Other case studies have reported adverse effects of playing video games, including auditory hallucinations, w13 enuresis, w14 encopresis, w15 wrist pain, w16 neck pain, w17 elbow pain, w18 tenosynovitis, w19-w22 hand-arm vibration syndrome, w23 repetitive strain injuries, w24 peripheral neuropathy, w25 and obesity. w26-w28 Some of these adverse effects seem to be rare and many resolve when the patients no longer play the games. Furthermore, case reports and case series cannot provide firm evidence of cause and effect or rule out other confounding factors.

On balance, given that video game playing is highly prevalent among children and adolescents in industrialised countries, there is little evidence that moderate frequency of play has serious acute adverse effects from moderate play. Adverse effects, when they occur, tend to be relatively minor and temporary, resolving spontaneously with decreased frequency of play. More evidence is needed on excessive play and on defining what constitutes excess in the first place. There should also be long term studies of the course of video game addiction.


Jean Piaget: Theory of Play

Jean Piaget was a highly influential Swiss biologist and psychologist who developed a controversial model of child development and learning—Jean Piaget Theory of Play—based on careful observations of his own three children. Today, although his theories are much expounded, they are also heavily criticized, and despite the fact that he undoubtedly made a massive contribution to the field of child psychology, many of the conclusions he drew from his observational work are now deemed to be incorrect.

The model for Jean Piaget Theory of Play was based on his experiments and observations of children playing. He recognized the differences between physical and symbolic play and he believed that play provided a relaxed environment where learning took place more easily, although he stressed that play was different to learning, as cognitive development required a combination of assimilation and adaptation whereas play was assimilation but not accommodation.

Piaget’s work was based around the concept that there are four developmental stages. He based all of his theories on experiments, plus observations relating to the development of his own three children. His four-stage theory of child development was seen as a ladder that children climbed as they gradually increased their knowledge of the world around them.

Piaget based his theory on the idea of mental “maps” that allowed a child to build cognitive structures as they responded to their experiences within the physical environment and moved on from the simple reflexes of birth to the development of complex mental activities.

As the child develops, their experiences are measured against the mental map they have constructed. Repeat experiences are easily assimilated into the existing map, whereas new experiences upset the equilibrium and cause the child to alter their cognitive map to reflect the new experiences. Over time, the cognitive structure becomes more complex and more effective.

The central basis of Piaget’s theories on child development was based around the insight that children think in a fundamentally different way to adults: children are not just limited by less knowledge and experience—their thought processes are actually completely different. Today, even though many psychologists have criticized various aspects of Piaget’s work, this central insight has remained intact.

Sensory-motor: between birth and 18/24 months, infants only have an awareness of the sensations experienced by their bodies, and they explore the world through taste, touch, and sound. One observation he recorded from this stage in a child’s development was that a child does not know an object still exists when it is out of sight.

Pre-operational: between 18/24 months and 7 years, children are able to process images, words and simple concepts, but although they have the tools of thought, they are unable to make use of them.

Concrete operations: between 7 and 12 years of age, children are able to manipulate objects and symbols, but only if they are a concrete concept. Abstract operations are still challenging, although a child can solve mathematical equations using numbers as well as objects by this stage.

Formal operations: from the age of 12, children begin to think as adults do and are able to understand more complex and abstract concepts such as morality and the future.


2 THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND THE “GAME”

Many critics attribute its popularity to the “right timing.” As Khan ( 2020 ) stated in The New York Times, the success has been partially attributed to its release during the COVID-19 pandemic, with players seeking a sense of escapism in their self-quarantine at home. Indeed, New Horizons could not have come at a better time. Or rather, we can just consider the game world as the “La-la land,” a sort of escape that has captivated in our fantasies with the world in the grip of the epidemic or, it plays an unexpected role to provide comfort and social connection in a time of isolation and struggle. Therefore, it is not hard to discover the two main psychological success behind this phenomenon: first, it captures people's instinctive to escape from realistic difficulties and their yearning to chase a peaceful and harmonious life then, it satisfies people's unwillingness to be lonely and their deep inner desire for the social interaction to get rid of the loneliness.


Video Games Can Be Used as a Therapy – Here’s How

Video games are bad and violent, right? Who knows what depths I might sink to as a result of shooting all those buffalo when I was playing Oregon Trail back in the day? Except that’s not quite how it works in reality.

The research on violence and video games is a lot more complicated than that, but one trend is clear: Video games have a lot of potential uses as part of therapy. One study suggested that playing Tetris in the few hours after a traumatic event might reduce flashbacks from a traumatic event.

Another study found that some people with learning disabilities found that gaming increased their performance on attention tasks.

Even Grand Theft Auto has its benefits. When older adults played the game regularly, they were able to maintain more cognitive functioning than non-gamers, which has the potential to make them safer drivers (a little counter-intuitive when you think about the content of the game, but OK.)

Some companies have taken therapeutic gaming to a completely new level by designing games that are intended to help people develop coping strategies for dealing with mental illness. In some cases, the research has even included input from people who have a mental health diagnosis, to make sure that the game is as useful for them as it’s intended to be.

None of them would be a good replacement for therapy, and they aren’t intended to be, but in between sessions or when you’re on a waiting list, they might help.

Here are a few of the games that have been designed to help manage depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems:

  • Depression Quest – This is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.
  • Night in the Woods – The game helps players develop coping skills for depression and anxiety as they play the character Mae, a woman who dropped out of college and returned to her hometown to find that everything looking a bit darker and scarier.
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Beautiful graphics, and it teach coping skills for psychosis (for example, schizophrenia) through the eyes of a Celtic warrior named Senua, who is attempting to save the soul of her lover.
  • Gris – A serene and elegant game with no violence, that shows how the main character, a young girl, slowly learns to cope with grief and loss through puzzles and skill-based challenges.
  • Celeste – A story-based video game that helps players develop skills for coping with depression and anxiety as the main character battles her own inner demons as she tries to climb a mountain.
  • Sea of Solitude – The main character, Kay, becomes monster as her loneliness, anger, and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness take over. The game helps her develop insights and skills for recovering from these feelings,

These games typically aren’t long plays, but some of them have absolutely spectacular graphics. If you’re looking for a new way of developing coping skills and interacting with a character that understands your experiences, these might be worth trying.

Aimee Daramus, PsyD is a psychologist based in Chicago, Illinois.

Disclaimer: Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only. Materials on this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on this website. Read our full disclaimer here.


Other behavioral tricks that keep us playing

  • The Near-Miss Effect: The illusion that because you were close this time, you have a higher chance of winning next time. This phenomenon is commonly found in gambling, when a random event, like a blackjack hand or roulette spin, puts you close to winning. Games don’t want you to give up, so they generally give near-misses rather than catastrophic failures.

  • Variable rate reinforcement: Another gambling concept that has made it to video games is that our brains actually respond more strongly to uncertain rewards than to certain ones. A certain reward of five gold at the end of a level is way less exciting to us than a random chance at getting anywhere from one to ten gold. That’s the principle behind loot boxes as well: as long as we’re rewarded with something good on a fairly regular basis, we’ll keep buying them because that pattern of behavior typically gets rewarded.

  • Relative deprivation/aspiration: Feeling like you don’t have as much as other people is a downer, but it’s also a motivator since it gives you something to work towards. If you see someone else in Minecraft with a huge amazing house and a lot of cool equipment, you know exactly what it is you want, and you’ll keep playing to get it.

  • Loss aversion: Obvious fact: humans like to win and hate to lose. But a game with no stakes generally isn’t much fun – we thrive on achievable challenges. According to research by behavioral economist Richard Thaler, humans prefer a pattern of large rewards all at once, but small losses spread out over time, even if the amounts are the same in the end. If you want to keep someone playing a game, you have to make sure that their brain is happy with the way the rewards are being distributed. Every rage-quit is another lost player.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Board Games

Those old board games collecting dust on the top of your closet could be key to keeping your mind active and healthy while social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. Board games entertain and bring people together through competitive and cooperative game play. Some of the most popular board games are: Monopoly, Chess, Checkers, Life, Clue, Scrabble, Mancala, and many more. However, board games offer a lot more than just entertainment. In fact, these games beneficially impact health in multiple aspects at any age.

The Health Fitness Revolution team wishes you good health and is working hard on providing health information to make your stay at home a little more enjoyable. Here are the Top 10 health benefits of board games:

  • Have fun and feel good: One of the side effects of playing board games is laughing. Laughing has been shown to increase endorphins, those are chemicals that bring up the feeling of happiness. Sharing laughter and fun can promote empathy, compassion, and trust with others.
  • Family time: Sitting down with family with no interruptions may feel like an impossible thing in your home, as everyone has different schedules which pushes them to opposite directions. But playing games with your kids, or with your friends, is a perfect way to spend time together and build learning skills at the same time. Playing a board game after a family dinner is an excellent way to get closer to your family while strengthening your family bond.
  • Memory formation and cognitive skills: Allowing your kids to play a board game helps them practice essential cognitive skills like problem-solving. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex especially benefit from playing board games. These areas of the brain are responsible for complex thought and memory formation. Board games help the brain retain and build cognitive associations well into old age too.
  • Reduces risks for mental diseases: One of the primary benefits of playing board games is reducing the risk of cognitive declines, such as that associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your mind engaged means you are exercising it and building it stronger. A stronger brain has lower risks of losing its power.
  • Lowers blood pressure: Along with laughing and increasing your endorphins, they can help you lower or maintain your blood pressure. This release of endorphins helps muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which evidently will lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of artery damage, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Speed up your responses: Get yourself a board game like chess, checkers or monopoly, and in time you might be better at being able to find those hard-to-find car keys without having to look for then in the entire house. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada assessed two groups’ ability to search for and find an object their results showed that study participants who regularly played video games were far quicker at locating the target than those who didn’t play.
  • Reduce stress: You can always benefit from a healthy distraction like playing board games since it is an excellent way to kick back and relax. According to an online survey by RealNetworks, Inc., a casual games developer, found that 64% of respondents said they play games as a way to unwind and relax and 53% play for stress relief.
  • Grows your immunesystem: Research has shown that negativity, depression, and stress can reduce your ability to fight disease. Positive feelings and thoughts, like the laughter and enjoyment that always come with board games, prevent these effects by releasing some chemicals that fight stress and boost your immune system. A simple board game could give rise to the ‘survival genes’ and activate them in your brain, making the brain cells live longer and helping to fight disease.
  • Childdevelopment: Board games play a very important role in child health and brain development. Board games help children develop logic and reasoning skills, improve critical thinking and boost spatial reasoning. Encouraging children to play different types of board games can also increase verbal and communication skills while helping develop attention skills and the ability to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time.
  • Therapy treatment: Many board games require the use of fine motor skills to pick up or move pieces, actions that take both coordination and dexterity. Regular practice and activity improve these basic skills, which is important for children, people with mental or physical disabilities, the elderly and those recovering from accidents. Board games are very helpful when they are added to occupational therapy treatments, as well in places like classrooms for special needs to help improve muscle and nerve function over time.

Here are a few family fun games you can play at home. Click the images to see them on Amazon!


Healthy play, better coping: The importance of play for the development of children in health and disease

“Rodent studies support an important role of social play in the development of brain and behavior”.

“Children with a chronic disease are at risk for physical, social, emotional and cognitive problems”.

“Facilitating (social) play may improve the developmental outcome of chronical diseased children”.

“All children may benefit from knowledge about the impressive resilience of young patients”.

“Interactive technology/games can help patients to play with peers, fostering social inclusion”.


Video Games Play May Provide Learning, Health, Social Benefits, Review Finds

WASHINGTON — Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play to be published by the American Psychological Association.

The study comes out as debate continues among psychologists and other health professionals regarding the effects of violent media on youth. An APA task force is conducting a comprehensive review of research on violence in video games and interactive media and will release its findings in 2014.

“Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” said lead author Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. “However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed.”

The article will be published in APA’s flagship journal, American Psychologist.

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. “This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Granic said. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013. Children’s creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, including violent games, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cell phone, other research revealed.

Simple games that are easy to access and can be played quickly, such as “Angry Birds,” can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said. “If playing video games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider,” said Granic. The authors also highlighted the possibility that video games are effective tools to learn resilience in the face of failure. By learning to cope with ongoing failures in games, the authors suggest that children build emotional resilience they can rely upon in their everyday lives.

Another stereotype the research challenges is the socially isolated gamer. More than 70 percent of gamers play with a friend and millions of people worldwide participate in massive virtual worlds through video games such as “Farmville” and “World of Warcraft,” the article noted. Multiplayer games become virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group, the authors said. People who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively, a 2011 study found.

The article emphasized that educators are currently redesigning classroom experiences, integrating video games that can shift the way the next generation of teachers and students approach learning. Likewise, physicians have begun to use video games to motivate patients to improve their health, the authors said. In the video game “Re-Mission,” child cancer patients can control a tiny robot that shoots cancer cells, overcomes bacterial infections and manages nausea and other barriers to adhering to treatments. A 2008 international study in 34 medical centers found significantly greater adherence to treatment and cancer-related knowledge among children who played “Re-Mission” compared to children who played a different computer game.

“It is this same kind of transformation, based on the foundational principle of play, that we suggest has the potential to transform the field of mental health,” Granic said. “This is especially true because engaging children and youth is one of the most challenging tasks clinicians face.”

The authors recommended that teams of psychologists, clinicians and game designers work together to develop approaches to mental health care that integrate video game playing with traditional therapy.

Article: “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” Isabela Granic, PhD, Adam Lobel, PhD, and Rutger C.M.E. Engels, PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen Nijmegen, The Netherlands American Psychologist, Vol. 69, No. 1.

Isabela Granic can be contacted by email, cell: 011.31.6.19.50.00.99 or work: 011.31.24.361.2142


Contents

The Tetris effect can occur with other video games. [4] It has also been known to occur with non-video games, such as the illusion of curved lines after doing a jigsaw puzzle, the checker pattern of a chess board, or the involuntary mental visualisation of Rubik's Cube algorithms common amongst speedcubers.

The earliest example that relates to a computer game was created by the game Spacewar! As documented in Steven Levy's book Hackers: "Peter Samson, second only to Saunders in Spacewarring, realized this one night when he went home to Lowell. As he stepped out of the train, he stared upward into the crisp, clear sky. A meteor flew overhead. Where's the spaceship? Samson thought as he instantly swiveled back and grabbed the air for a control box that wasn’t there." (p. 52.)

Robert Stickgold reported on his own experiences of proprioceptive imagery from rock climbing. [3] Another example, sea legs, are a kind of Tetris effect. A person newly on land after spending long periods at sea may sense illusory rocking motion, having become accustomed to the constant work of adjusting to the boat making such movements (see "Illusions of self-motion" and "Mal de debarquement"). The poem "Boots" by Rudyard Kipling describes the effect, resulting from repetitive visual experience during a route march:

’Tain’t—so—bad—by—day because o’ company,

But—night—brings—long—strings—o’ forty thousand million
Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again.

There’s no discharge in the war!

Mathematicians have reported dreaming of numbers or equations for example Srinivasa Ramanujan, or Friedrich Engels, who remarked "last week in a dream I gave a chap my shirt-buttons to differentiate, and he ran off with them". [5]

Stickgold et al. (2000) have proposed that Tetris-effect imagery is a separate form of memory, likely related to procedural memory. [2] This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day, despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.

A series of empirical studies with over 6,000 gamers has been conducted since 2010 into game transfer phenomena (GTP), a broadening of the Tetris effect concept coined by Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari in her thesis. [6] GTP is not limited to altered visual perceptions or mental processes but also includes auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic sensory perceptions, sensations of unreality, and automatic behaviours with video game content. GTP establishes the differences between endogenous (e.g., seeing images with closed eyes, hearing music in the head) and exogenous phenomena (e.g., seeing power bars above people's head, hearing sounds coming from objects associated with a video game) and between involuntary (e.g., saying something involuntarily with video game content) and voluntary behaviours (e.g., using slang from the video game for amusement). [7] [8] [9]

The earliest known reference to the term appears in Jeffrey Goldsmith's article, "This is Your Brain on Tetris", published in Wired in May 1994:

No home was sweet without a Game Boy in 1990. That year, I stayed "for a week" with a friend in Tokyo, and Tetris enslaved my brain. At night, geometric shapes fell in the darkness as I lay on loaned tatami floor space. Days, I sat on a lavender suede sofa and played Tetris furiously. During rare jaunts from the house, I visually fit cars and trees and people together. [. ]

The Tetris effect is a biochemical, reductionistic metaphor, if you will, for curiosity, invention, the creative urge. To fit shapes together is to organize, to build, to make deals, to fix, to understand, to fold sheets. All of our mental activities are analogous, each as potentially addictive as the next. [10]

The term was rediscovered by Earling (1996), [1] citing a use of the term by Garth Kidd in February 1996. [11] Kidd described "after-images of the game for up to days afterwards" and "a tendency to identify everything in the world as being made of four squares and attempt to determine 'where it fits in'". Kidd attributed the origin of the term to computer-game players from Adelaide, Australia. The earliest description of the general phenomenon appears in Neil Gaiman's science fiction poem "Virus" [12] (1987) in Digital Dreams. The ending of The Witness resembles the Tetris effect, where the unnamed protagonist is taken out of the game's virtual reality and sees the game's puzzles in real-world objects.

In 2018, the term was announced as the name of a new Tetris game on the PlayStation 4 by Enhance. [13]


The Benefits of Video Games

( High-tech parenting writer Scott Steinberg, a professional keynote speaker and business consultant, is launching a new book series, "The Modern Parent's Guide," and a companion video show, "Family Tech: Technology for Parents and Kids." The following is excerpted from "The Modern Parent's Guide to Kids and Video Games," which will be free to download at www.ParentsGuideBooks.com in February 2012.)

Opinion by Scott Steinberg:

In addition to understanding the many real concerns that today's parents have with video games, it's also worth considering the benefits and positive aspects that contemporary interactive entertainment choices provide.

Certainly, many popular titles today are M-rated and intended for discerning adults, given the average age of today's gaming audience. But the vast majority of games can be played by a broad range of ages and still manage to be fun and engaging without resorting to foul language or violence.

"Games can definitely be good for the family," says the ESRB's Patricia Vance. "There's plenty of selection. Oftentimes I think parents feel that they're not because video games in the media are portrayed as violent, and hardcore games tend to get the lion's share of publicity. But parents also need to be comforted knowing that E for Everyone is by far largest category [of software]. Nearly 60 percent of the almost 1,700 ratings we assigned last year were E for Everyone, which means there's a huge selection of games available that are appropriate for all ages."

In fact, most video games do have quite a few redeeming qualities - even those with violent content. All games can and do have benefits for players, and in a number of different and sometimes surprising ways.

Educational Benefits for Students

A recent study from the Education Development Center and the U.S. Congress-supported Ready To Learn (RTL) Initiative found that a curriculum that involved digital media such as video games could improve early literacy skills when coupled with strong parental and teacher involvement. Interestingly, the study focused on young children, and 4- and 5-year-olds who participated showed increases in letter recognition, sounds association with letters, and understanding basic concepts about stories and print.

The key for this study was having high-quality educational titles, along with parents and teachers who were equally invested in the subject matter. That way kids could discuss and examine the concepts that they were exposed to in the games. Also interesting is the value that video games are proven to have even for very young players. A study by the Education Department Center further found that low-income children are "better prepared for success in kindergarten when their preschool teachers incorporate educational video and games from the Ready to Learn Initiative."

Older children such as teens and tweens can benefit from gameplay as well. Even traditional games teach kids basic everyday skills, according to Ian Bogost, associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and founder of software maker Persuasive Games. "Look at 'World of Warcraft': You've got 11-year-olds who are learning to delegate responsibility, promote teamwork and steer groups of people toward a common goal."

Games that are designed to help teach are having an impact on college-age pupils as well. Following a recent 3D virtual simulation of a US/Canadian border crossing, wherein students assumed the role of guards, Loyalist College in Ontario reported that the number of successful test scores increased from 56 percent to 95 percent.

Educational Benefits for Adults

Surprise: Adults can learn something and benefit from video games, too.

As mentioned earlier, research underway by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) indicates that video games can help adults process information much faster and improve their fundamental abilities to reason and solve problems in novel contexts. In fact, results from the ONR study show that video game players perform 10 percent to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than non-game players.

As Dr. Ezriel Kornel explains on WebMD.com, playing certain video games (e.g. Brain Age or Guitar Hero) can also improve hand-eye coordination, enhance split-second decision making and even, potentially, boost auditory perception. Just playing isn't enough, though, says Dr. Kornel. The key is that you have to be improving each time you play, because in order to improve you have to be learning.

"Anytime the brain is in learning mode," Kornel says, "there are new synapses forming between the neurons. So you're creating thousands of connections that can then be applied to other tasks as well."

Someday, a video game might even save your life, as games are already benefiting students and practitioners in the medical field too. A study published in the February edition of Archives of Surgery says that surgeons who regularly play video games are generally more skilled at performing laparoscopic surgery. In addition, according to Dr. Jeffrey Taekman, the director of Duke University's Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, "serious games and virtual environments are the future of education."

Besides offering medical students the ability to practice on patients (which is much safer in the digital world), simulations offer health care providers several upsides. Chief among them, Taekman says, are the abilities to make choices, see results and apply information immediately.

Beyond allowing for greater scalability and group collaboration than traditional classrooms, every decision made in a virtual world, he continues, can be tracked and benchmarked against best practices, then standardized or archived for others' review. "The traditional textbook will soon become passé," he suggests. "Gaming platforms will offer an interactive way for students to learn and apply information in context."

Improved Multitasking

Other carefully-designed studies have also shown that action video games can improve several aspects of brain activity, including multitasking. According to studies by Daphne Bavelier, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, video gamers show real-world improvements on tests of attention, accuracy, vision and multitasking after playing certain titles.

"If you think about it, the attentional and working memory demands of video games can be much greater than other tasks," says Michael Stroud, a professor of psychology at Merrimack College. "Consider Pac-Man as an example. In Pac-Man, you must navigate your character through a spatial layout while monitoring the separate paths of four additional objects (the ghosts), while keeping the overall goal of clearing the small pellets in memory, as well as keeping track of the remaining large pellets."

"Think about how this may apply to skills such as driving," he continues. "When you drive your car, you are faced with a constantly changing environment in the road, not to mention several other distractions that compete for attention that reside in the car. At the same time, you are attempting to navigate through the environment to reach a goal."

Social Benefits

Games with broad appeal that are easy to grasp can additionally help many families play together, and better bridge the gap between generations. Consider a title like hip-wiggling simulation Just Dance, which can have young kids dancing alongside their grandparents.

There are also many games that have positive social messages that encourage families to be a force for good. In a series of experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that participants who had just played a "pro-social" game in which characters must work together to help each other out as compared to those who had just played a "neutral" game (e.g. Tetris) were more likely to engage in helpful behaviors. Examples included assisting in a situation involving an abusive boyfriend, picking up a box of pencils or even volunteering to participate in more research.

So-called "serious games," specifically designed to teach and inform, are also having an impact on the world. Titles like the United Nations' Food Force teach kids about real-life issues, humanitarianism and the practical challenges facing governments and private organizations today. In the game, children must complete six different missions that reflect the real-life obstacles faced by the World Food Programme in its emergency responses. Other games, like Nourish Interactive's online Chef Solus and the Food Pyramid Adventure, teach kids about the benefits of healthy eating habits, while still more highlight pressing geopolitical and social issues, e.g. the Global Conflicts series.

Upsides can even extend into the physical world. Consider Facebook game Ecotopia. In summer 2011, players of the popular social game met a challenge from its creators and planted 25,000 trees in the game world in 25 days, leading the game's developer to plant 25,000 trees in real life.

Career Benefits

Future career choices for today's tots will no doubt be influenced by technology in a way that is difficult for many parents to imagine too. Skills learned and honed playing home console and video games, as well as mobile gaming apps, will undoubtedly be very valuable to students in the workforce of 2025.

As mentioned earlier, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) has proclaimed that kids need more, not less, video game play. They argue that video games hold the potential to help address one of America's most pressing problems - preparing students for an increasingly competitive global market.

"The success of complex video games demonstrates that games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change," the Federation announced in a 2010 report. "These are the skills U.S. employers increasingly seek in workers and new workforce entrants."

Games are increasingly being used to educate and instruct workers around the globe by governments, trade bodies and the world's largest corporations as well. From Cisco Systems' The Cisco Mind Share Game, which facilitates network certification, to the US Department of Justice's Incident Commander, in which emergency responders practice coordinating disaster relief efforts, the number of practical examples continues to grow. In fact, a recent study by the Entertainment Software Association found that 70 percent of major domestic employers have utilized interactive software and games for training purposes, and nearly eight out of 10 plan on doing so by 2013.

Going forward, in addition to polishing your resume and interview skills, who knows? You may even want to brush up on your button-mashing abilities.

Encouraging Cooperation and Teamwork

Many games today also emphasize the cooperative aspects of game play, in which two or more players need to work together in order to reach a common goal. For instance, games like Lego Star Wars or Kirby's Epic Yarn are enhanced by having players cooperate to solve in-game puzzles.

Massively multiplayer games such as LEGO Universe and Lord of the Rings Online further offer added depth, atmosphere and enjoyment by allowing players to band together and work as a team in order to complete certain quests or defeat especially tricky opponents. Game industry analysts such as DFC Intelligence actually predict that video game revenue will reach nearly $70 billion by 2015, thanks in large part to these online, cooperative, subscription-based games that can be played together. Small wonder top titles like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Titan (the next MMO from Blizzard, the company that created World of Warcraft) continue to resonate so strongly with millions worldwide.

Even the way that games are made can encourage teamwork. At Washburn University in Kansas, students study the game development process as a way to build teamwork and collaborative skills.

"It taught me to work in a group," said Washburn student Adam Bideau of the program in a recent interview with the Washburn Review. "Video games are not created by just one person and they require you to work well with others. You have to pool everyone's talents together in order to produce the required product."

Building Confidence

Researchers from McGill University's Department of Psychology have created and tested computer games that are specifically designed to help people enhance their self-acceptance. The researchers drew on their experience playing repetitive computer games and devised novel counterparts that would help people feel more positive about themselves.

Even games that aren't specifically designed to do so can still help kids feel a sense of achievement, based simply on the basic principles involved in what makes a good game. Through puzzles, exploration and discovery, players learn to succeed in ways that some researchers say our brains actually prefer. Most games are designed to introduce a concept, such as jumping, and then provide players with an opportunity to master it. Players are then free to explore and utilize and achieve success with this new skill, growing in self-confidence all the while.

Promoting Exercise

All parents know that kids need a healthy combination of physical and mental exercise. Happily, today's motion-controlled games for Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect, Nintendo's Wii and Wii U, and Sony's PlayStation Move help kids get both kinds of workouts at the same time.

Better yet, people of all ages are finding them a more approachable way to stay physically fit. While many shy away from exercise because they see it as an activity that isn't enjoyable, organizations like the American Heart Association now cite, and even recommend, video games as a fun and entertaining way to enjoy physical activity.

Upsides of active play are considerable too. A study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine of 39 Boston middle-school children who played with six different interactive gaming systems found that the games "compared favorably with walking on a treadmill at three miles per hour, with four out of the six activities resulting in higher energy expenditure."

Organizations supporting individuals of all ages and interests are additionally using active games to help get people up and moving. Nursing homes, cruise ships and even after-school programs all now employ active video games in some form to help stimulate both the mind and body.

The good news: People seem to be enjoying active play more than ever. Healthy diversions such as Wii Fit and Zumba Fitness continue to be some of the most popular and best-selling games year in and out.

Group and Social Play

Video games can also have some very important effects on family relationships, and deserve to be thought of as something that can - and should - be played together.

It's always seemed obvious to families that activities like playing board games, make-believe, or even making music together could strengthen the family bond. But many parents view video games as a solitary, sedentary, time-wasting activity, when the truth is that video games have in fact emerged as a viable option for family game time that can potentially offer great benefits to families who are willing to enjoy them together. You won't be alone if you do decide to take the plunge either. According to the ESA, 45 percent of parents play computer and video games with their children at least weekly, an increase from 36 percent in 2007.

Families that embrace playing video games as part of their everyday life are likely to find themselves enjoying a greater sense of cohesion and communication than families who still view video games as an idle, meaningless and solitary pursuit. As a result, it's small wonder that so many in this day and age are putting away the cards and dice and turning to high-tech alternatives for modern family game nights.

Moving, thinking, cooperating, helping, learning, empathizing, growing, seeing the world from other perspectives… video games can help kids and families do all these things and more. So talk to your friends, do the research and seek out games that your family likes to play and that you as parents are comfortable with, then consider making play a part of your regular routine. Chances are, you won't just have a great time - you'll also make lasting memories and connections with your kids while doing so.


Video games and health

Although playing video games is one of the most popular leisure activities in the world, research into its effects on players, both positive and negative, is often trivialised. Some of this research deserves to be taken seriously, not least because video game playing has implications for health. 1

One innovative application of video games in health care is their use in pain management. The degree of attention needed to play such a game can distract the player from the sensation of pain, a strategy that has been reported and evaluated among paediatric patients. One case study reported the use of a handheld video game to stop an 8 year old boy picking at his face. The child had neurodermatitis and scarring due to continual picking at his upper lip. Previous treatments had failed so the boy was given a hand held video game to keep his hands occupied. After two weeks the affected area had healed. Controlled studies using both randomised controlled trials and comparison with patient's own baseline measures show that video games can provide cognitive distraction for children during chemotherapy for cancer and treatment for sickle cell disease. 2 - 5 All these studies reported that distracted patients had less nausea and lower systolic blood pressure than controls (who were simply asked to rest) after treatment and needed fewer analgesics.

Video games have been used as a form of physiotherapy or occupational therapy in many different groups of people. Such games focus attention away from potential discomfort and, unlike more traditional therapeutic activities, they do not rely on passive movements and sometimes painful manipulation of the limbs. Video games have been used as a form of physiotherapy for arm injuries, w1 in training the movements of a 13 year old child with Erb's palsy, w2 and as a form of occupational therapy to increase hand strength. w3 Therapeutic benefits have also been reported for a variety of adult populations including wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries, 6 people with severe burns, 7 and people with muscular dystrophy. w4 Video games have also been used in comprehensive programmes to help develop social and spatial ability skills in children and adolescents with severe learning disability or other developmental problems, including autism w5 w6 children with multiple handicaps (for example severely limited acquisition of speech) w7 w8 and children with impulsive and attention deficit disorders. w9

However, there has been no long term follow-up and no robust randomised controlled trials of such interventions. Whether patients eventually tire of such games is also unclear. Furthermore, it is not known whether any distracting effect depends simply on concentrating on an interactive task or whether the content of games is also an important factor as there have been no controlled trials comparing video games with other distractors. Further research should examine factors within games such as novelty, users' preferences, and relative levels of challenge and should compare video games with other potentially distracting activities.

While playing video games has some benefits in certain clinical settings, a growing body of evidence highlighting the more negative aspects of play—particularly on children and adolescents. These include the risk of video game addiction, 8 ,9 (although the prevalence of true addiction, rather than excessive use, is very low 8 ) and increased aggressiveness. 10 There have been numerous case reports of other adverse medical and psychosocial effects. For instance, the risk of epileptic seizures while playing video games in photosensitive individuals with epilepsy is well established. 11 ,12 w10 w11 w12 Graf et al report that seizures are most likely to occur during rapid scene changes and when games include patterns of highly intense repetition and flickering. 12 Seizures and excessive or addictive play do not seem to be linked directly, however, as occasional players seem to be just as susceptible.

Other case studies have reported adverse effects of playing video games, including auditory hallucinations, w13 enuresis, w14 encopresis, w15 wrist pain, w16 neck pain, w17 elbow pain, w18 tenosynovitis, w19-w22 hand-arm vibration syndrome, w23 repetitive strain injuries, w24 peripheral neuropathy, w25 and obesity. w26-w28 Some of these adverse effects seem to be rare and many resolve when the patients no longer play the games. Furthermore, case reports and case series cannot provide firm evidence of cause and effect or rule out other confounding factors.

On balance, given that video game playing is highly prevalent among children and adolescents in industrialised countries, there is little evidence that moderate frequency of play has serious acute adverse effects from moderate play. Adverse effects, when they occur, tend to be relatively minor and temporary, resolving spontaneously with decreased frequency of play. More evidence is needed on excessive play and on defining what constitutes excess in the first place. There should also be long term studies of the course of video game addiction.


The Benefits of Video Games

( High-tech parenting writer Scott Steinberg, a professional keynote speaker and business consultant, is launching a new book series, "The Modern Parent's Guide," and a companion video show, "Family Tech: Technology for Parents and Kids." The following is excerpted from "The Modern Parent's Guide to Kids and Video Games," which will be free to download at www.ParentsGuideBooks.com in February 2012.)

Opinion by Scott Steinberg:

In addition to understanding the many real concerns that today's parents have with video games, it's also worth considering the benefits and positive aspects that contemporary interactive entertainment choices provide.

Certainly, many popular titles today are M-rated and intended for discerning adults, given the average age of today's gaming audience. But the vast majority of games can be played by a broad range of ages and still manage to be fun and engaging without resorting to foul language or violence.

"Games can definitely be good for the family," says the ESRB's Patricia Vance. "There's plenty of selection. Oftentimes I think parents feel that they're not because video games in the media are portrayed as violent, and hardcore games tend to get the lion's share of publicity. But parents also need to be comforted knowing that E for Everyone is by far largest category [of software]. Nearly 60 percent of the almost 1,700 ratings we assigned last year were E for Everyone, which means there's a huge selection of games available that are appropriate for all ages."

In fact, most video games do have quite a few redeeming qualities - even those with violent content. All games can and do have benefits for players, and in a number of different and sometimes surprising ways.

Educational Benefits for Students

A recent study from the Education Development Center and the U.S. Congress-supported Ready To Learn (RTL) Initiative found that a curriculum that involved digital media such as video games could improve early literacy skills when coupled with strong parental and teacher involvement. Interestingly, the study focused on young children, and 4- and 5-year-olds who participated showed increases in letter recognition, sounds association with letters, and understanding basic concepts about stories and print.

The key for this study was having high-quality educational titles, along with parents and teachers who were equally invested in the subject matter. That way kids could discuss and examine the concepts that they were exposed to in the games. Also interesting is the value that video games are proven to have even for very young players. A study by the Education Department Center further found that low-income children are "better prepared for success in kindergarten when their preschool teachers incorporate educational video and games from the Ready to Learn Initiative."

Older children such as teens and tweens can benefit from gameplay as well. Even traditional games teach kids basic everyday skills, according to Ian Bogost, associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and founder of software maker Persuasive Games. "Look at 'World of Warcraft': You've got 11-year-olds who are learning to delegate responsibility, promote teamwork and steer groups of people toward a common goal."

Games that are designed to help teach are having an impact on college-age pupils as well. Following a recent 3D virtual simulation of a US/Canadian border crossing, wherein students assumed the role of guards, Loyalist College in Ontario reported that the number of successful test scores increased from 56 percent to 95 percent.

Educational Benefits for Adults

Surprise: Adults can learn something and benefit from video games, too.

As mentioned earlier, research underway by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) indicates that video games can help adults process information much faster and improve their fundamental abilities to reason and solve problems in novel contexts. In fact, results from the ONR study show that video game players perform 10 percent to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than non-game players.

As Dr. Ezriel Kornel explains on WebMD.com, playing certain video games (e.g. Brain Age or Guitar Hero) can also improve hand-eye coordination, enhance split-second decision making and even, potentially, boost auditory perception. Just playing isn't enough, though, says Dr. Kornel. The key is that you have to be improving each time you play, because in order to improve you have to be learning.

"Anytime the brain is in learning mode," Kornel says, "there are new synapses forming between the neurons. So you're creating thousands of connections that can then be applied to other tasks as well."

Someday, a video game might even save your life, as games are already benefiting students and practitioners in the medical field too. A study published in the February edition of Archives of Surgery says that surgeons who regularly play video games are generally more skilled at performing laparoscopic surgery. In addition, according to Dr. Jeffrey Taekman, the director of Duke University's Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, "serious games and virtual environments are the future of education."

Besides offering medical students the ability to practice on patients (which is much safer in the digital world), simulations offer health care providers several upsides. Chief among them, Taekman says, are the abilities to make choices, see results and apply information immediately.

Beyond allowing for greater scalability and group collaboration than traditional classrooms, every decision made in a virtual world, he continues, can be tracked and benchmarked against best practices, then standardized or archived for others' review. "The traditional textbook will soon become passé," he suggests. "Gaming platforms will offer an interactive way for students to learn and apply information in context."

Improved Multitasking

Other carefully-designed studies have also shown that action video games can improve several aspects of brain activity, including multitasking. According to studies by Daphne Bavelier, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, video gamers show real-world improvements on tests of attention, accuracy, vision and multitasking after playing certain titles.

"If you think about it, the attentional and working memory demands of video games can be much greater than other tasks," says Michael Stroud, a professor of psychology at Merrimack College. "Consider Pac-Man as an example. In Pac-Man, you must navigate your character through a spatial layout while monitoring the separate paths of four additional objects (the ghosts), while keeping the overall goal of clearing the small pellets in memory, as well as keeping track of the remaining large pellets."

"Think about how this may apply to skills such as driving," he continues. "When you drive your car, you are faced with a constantly changing environment in the road, not to mention several other distractions that compete for attention that reside in the car. At the same time, you are attempting to navigate through the environment to reach a goal."

Social Benefits

Games with broad appeal that are easy to grasp can additionally help many families play together, and better bridge the gap between generations. Consider a title like hip-wiggling simulation Just Dance, which can have young kids dancing alongside their grandparents.

There are also many games that have positive social messages that encourage families to be a force for good. In a series of experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that participants who had just played a "pro-social" game in which characters must work together to help each other out as compared to those who had just played a "neutral" game (e.g. Tetris) were more likely to engage in helpful behaviors. Examples included assisting in a situation involving an abusive boyfriend, picking up a box of pencils or even volunteering to participate in more research.

So-called "serious games," specifically designed to teach and inform, are also having an impact on the world. Titles like the United Nations' Food Force teach kids about real-life issues, humanitarianism and the practical challenges facing governments and private organizations today. In the game, children must complete six different missions that reflect the real-life obstacles faced by the World Food Programme in its emergency responses. Other games, like Nourish Interactive's online Chef Solus and the Food Pyramid Adventure, teach kids about the benefits of healthy eating habits, while still more highlight pressing geopolitical and social issues, e.g. the Global Conflicts series.

Upsides can even extend into the physical world. Consider Facebook game Ecotopia. In summer 2011, players of the popular social game met a challenge from its creators and planted 25,000 trees in the game world in 25 days, leading the game's developer to plant 25,000 trees in real life.

Career Benefits

Future career choices for today's tots will no doubt be influenced by technology in a way that is difficult for many parents to imagine too. Skills learned and honed playing home console and video games, as well as mobile gaming apps, will undoubtedly be very valuable to students in the workforce of 2025.

As mentioned earlier, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) has proclaimed that kids need more, not less, video game play. They argue that video games hold the potential to help address one of America's most pressing problems - preparing students for an increasingly competitive global market.

"The success of complex video games demonstrates that games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change," the Federation announced in a 2010 report. "These are the skills U.S. employers increasingly seek in workers and new workforce entrants."

Games are increasingly being used to educate and instruct workers around the globe by governments, trade bodies and the world's largest corporations as well. From Cisco Systems' The Cisco Mind Share Game, which facilitates network certification, to the US Department of Justice's Incident Commander, in which emergency responders practice coordinating disaster relief efforts, the number of practical examples continues to grow. In fact, a recent study by the Entertainment Software Association found that 70 percent of major domestic employers have utilized interactive software and games for training purposes, and nearly eight out of 10 plan on doing so by 2013.

Going forward, in addition to polishing your resume and interview skills, who knows? You may even want to brush up on your button-mashing abilities.

Encouraging Cooperation and Teamwork

Many games today also emphasize the cooperative aspects of game play, in which two or more players need to work together in order to reach a common goal. For instance, games like Lego Star Wars or Kirby's Epic Yarn are enhanced by having players cooperate to solve in-game puzzles.

Massively multiplayer games such as LEGO Universe and Lord of the Rings Online further offer added depth, atmosphere and enjoyment by allowing players to band together and work as a team in order to complete certain quests or defeat especially tricky opponents. Game industry analysts such as DFC Intelligence actually predict that video game revenue will reach nearly $70 billion by 2015, thanks in large part to these online, cooperative, subscription-based games that can be played together. Small wonder top titles like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Titan (the next MMO from Blizzard, the company that created World of Warcraft) continue to resonate so strongly with millions worldwide.

Even the way that games are made can encourage teamwork. At Washburn University in Kansas, students study the game development process as a way to build teamwork and collaborative skills.

"It taught me to work in a group," said Washburn student Adam Bideau of the program in a recent interview with the Washburn Review. "Video games are not created by just one person and they require you to work well with others. You have to pool everyone's talents together in order to produce the required product."

Building Confidence

Researchers from McGill University's Department of Psychology have created and tested computer games that are specifically designed to help people enhance their self-acceptance. The researchers drew on their experience playing repetitive computer games and devised novel counterparts that would help people feel more positive about themselves.

Even games that aren't specifically designed to do so can still help kids feel a sense of achievement, based simply on the basic principles involved in what makes a good game. Through puzzles, exploration and discovery, players learn to succeed in ways that some researchers say our brains actually prefer. Most games are designed to introduce a concept, such as jumping, and then provide players with an opportunity to master it. Players are then free to explore and utilize and achieve success with this new skill, growing in self-confidence all the while.

Promoting Exercise

All parents know that kids need a healthy combination of physical and mental exercise. Happily, today's motion-controlled games for Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect, Nintendo's Wii and Wii U, and Sony's PlayStation Move help kids get both kinds of workouts at the same time.

Better yet, people of all ages are finding them a more approachable way to stay physically fit. While many shy away from exercise because they see it as an activity that isn't enjoyable, organizations like the American Heart Association now cite, and even recommend, video games as a fun and entertaining way to enjoy physical activity.

Upsides of active play are considerable too. A study reported in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine of 39 Boston middle-school children who played with six different interactive gaming systems found that the games "compared favorably with walking on a treadmill at three miles per hour, with four out of the six activities resulting in higher energy expenditure."

Organizations supporting individuals of all ages and interests are additionally using active games to help get people up and moving. Nursing homes, cruise ships and even after-school programs all now employ active video games in some form to help stimulate both the mind and body.

The good news: People seem to be enjoying active play more than ever. Healthy diversions such as Wii Fit and Zumba Fitness continue to be some of the most popular and best-selling games year in and out.

Group and Social Play

Video games can also have some very important effects on family relationships, and deserve to be thought of as something that can - and should - be played together.

It's always seemed obvious to families that activities like playing board games, make-believe, or even making music together could strengthen the family bond. But many parents view video games as a solitary, sedentary, time-wasting activity, when the truth is that video games have in fact emerged as a viable option for family game time that can potentially offer great benefits to families who are willing to enjoy them together. You won't be alone if you do decide to take the plunge either. According to the ESA, 45 percent of parents play computer and video games with their children at least weekly, an increase from 36 percent in 2007.

Families that embrace playing video games as part of their everyday life are likely to find themselves enjoying a greater sense of cohesion and communication than families who still view video games as an idle, meaningless and solitary pursuit. As a result, it's small wonder that so many in this day and age are putting away the cards and dice and turning to high-tech alternatives for modern family game nights.

Moving, thinking, cooperating, helping, learning, empathizing, growing, seeing the world from other perspectives… video games can help kids and families do all these things and more. So talk to your friends, do the research and seek out games that your family likes to play and that you as parents are comfortable with, then consider making play a part of your regular routine. Chances are, you won't just have a great time - you'll also make lasting memories and connections with your kids while doing so.


Contents

The Tetris effect can occur with other video games. [4] It has also been known to occur with non-video games, such as the illusion of curved lines after doing a jigsaw puzzle, the checker pattern of a chess board, or the involuntary mental visualisation of Rubik's Cube algorithms common amongst speedcubers.

The earliest example that relates to a computer game was created by the game Spacewar! As documented in Steven Levy's book Hackers: "Peter Samson, second only to Saunders in Spacewarring, realized this one night when he went home to Lowell. As he stepped out of the train, he stared upward into the crisp, clear sky. A meteor flew overhead. Where's the spaceship? Samson thought as he instantly swiveled back and grabbed the air for a control box that wasn’t there." (p. 52.)

Robert Stickgold reported on his own experiences of proprioceptive imagery from rock climbing. [3] Another example, sea legs, are a kind of Tetris effect. A person newly on land after spending long periods at sea may sense illusory rocking motion, having become accustomed to the constant work of adjusting to the boat making such movements (see "Illusions of self-motion" and "Mal de debarquement"). The poem "Boots" by Rudyard Kipling describes the effect, resulting from repetitive visual experience during a route march:

’Tain’t—so—bad—by—day because o’ company,

But—night—brings—long—strings—o’ forty thousand million
Boots—boots—boots—boots—movin’ up an’ down again.

There’s no discharge in the war!

Mathematicians have reported dreaming of numbers or equations for example Srinivasa Ramanujan, or Friedrich Engels, who remarked "last week in a dream I gave a chap my shirt-buttons to differentiate, and he ran off with them". [5]

Stickgold et al. (2000) have proposed that Tetris-effect imagery is a separate form of memory, likely related to procedural memory. [2] This is from their research in which they showed that people with anterograde amnesia, unable to form new declarative memories, reported dreaming of falling shapes after playing Tetris during the day, despite not being able to remember playing the game at all.

A series of empirical studies with over 6,000 gamers has been conducted since 2010 into game transfer phenomena (GTP), a broadening of the Tetris effect concept coined by Angelica B. Ortiz de Gortari in her thesis. [6] GTP is not limited to altered visual perceptions or mental processes but also includes auditory, tactile and kinaesthetic sensory perceptions, sensations of unreality, and automatic behaviours with video game content. GTP establishes the differences between endogenous (e.g., seeing images with closed eyes, hearing music in the head) and exogenous phenomena (e.g., seeing power bars above people's head, hearing sounds coming from objects associated with a video game) and between involuntary (e.g., saying something involuntarily with video game content) and voluntary behaviours (e.g., using slang from the video game for amusement). [7] [8] [9]

The earliest known reference to the term appears in Jeffrey Goldsmith's article, "This is Your Brain on Tetris", published in Wired in May 1994:

No home was sweet without a Game Boy in 1990. That year, I stayed "for a week" with a friend in Tokyo, and Tetris enslaved my brain. At night, geometric shapes fell in the darkness as I lay on loaned tatami floor space. Days, I sat on a lavender suede sofa and played Tetris furiously. During rare jaunts from the house, I visually fit cars and trees and people together. [. ]

The Tetris effect is a biochemical, reductionistic metaphor, if you will, for curiosity, invention, the creative urge. To fit shapes together is to organize, to build, to make deals, to fix, to understand, to fold sheets. All of our mental activities are analogous, each as potentially addictive as the next. [10]

The term was rediscovered by Earling (1996), [1] citing a use of the term by Garth Kidd in February 1996. [11] Kidd described "after-images of the game for up to days afterwards" and "a tendency to identify everything in the world as being made of four squares and attempt to determine 'where it fits in'". Kidd attributed the origin of the term to computer-game players from Adelaide, Australia. The earliest description of the general phenomenon appears in Neil Gaiman's science fiction poem "Virus" [12] (1987) in Digital Dreams. The ending of The Witness resembles the Tetris effect, where the unnamed protagonist is taken out of the game's virtual reality and sees the game's puzzles in real-world objects.

In 2018, the term was announced as the name of a new Tetris game on the PlayStation 4 by Enhance. [13]


Other behavioral tricks that keep us playing

  • The Near-Miss Effect: The illusion that because you were close this time, you have a higher chance of winning next time. This phenomenon is commonly found in gambling, when a random event, like a blackjack hand or roulette spin, puts you close to winning. Games don’t want you to give up, so they generally give near-misses rather than catastrophic failures.

  • Variable rate reinforcement: Another gambling concept that has made it to video games is that our brains actually respond more strongly to uncertain rewards than to certain ones. A certain reward of five gold at the end of a level is way less exciting to us than a random chance at getting anywhere from one to ten gold. That’s the principle behind loot boxes as well: as long as we’re rewarded with something good on a fairly regular basis, we’ll keep buying them because that pattern of behavior typically gets rewarded.

  • Relative deprivation/aspiration: Feeling like you don’t have as much as other people is a downer, but it’s also a motivator since it gives you something to work towards. If you see someone else in Minecraft with a huge amazing house and a lot of cool equipment, you know exactly what it is you want, and you’ll keep playing to get it.

  • Loss aversion: Obvious fact: humans like to win and hate to lose. But a game with no stakes generally isn’t much fun – we thrive on achievable challenges. According to research by behavioral economist Richard Thaler, humans prefer a pattern of large rewards all at once, but small losses spread out over time, even if the amounts are the same in the end. If you want to keep someone playing a game, you have to make sure that their brain is happy with the way the rewards are being distributed. Every rage-quit is another lost player.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Board Games

Those old board games collecting dust on the top of your closet could be key to keeping your mind active and healthy while social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic. Board games entertain and bring people together through competitive and cooperative game play. Some of the most popular board games are: Monopoly, Chess, Checkers, Life, Clue, Scrabble, Mancala, and many more. However, board games offer a lot more than just entertainment. In fact, these games beneficially impact health in multiple aspects at any age.

The Health Fitness Revolution team wishes you good health and is working hard on providing health information to make your stay at home a little more enjoyable. Here are the Top 10 health benefits of board games:

  • Have fun and feel good: One of the side effects of playing board games is laughing. Laughing has been shown to increase endorphins, those are chemicals that bring up the feeling of happiness. Sharing laughter and fun can promote empathy, compassion, and trust with others.
  • Family time: Sitting down with family with no interruptions may feel like an impossible thing in your home, as everyone has different schedules which pushes them to opposite directions. But playing games with your kids, or with your friends, is a perfect way to spend time together and build learning skills at the same time. Playing a board game after a family dinner is an excellent way to get closer to your family while strengthening your family bond.
  • Memory formation and cognitive skills: Allowing your kids to play a board game helps them practice essential cognitive skills like problem-solving. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex especially benefit from playing board games. These areas of the brain are responsible for complex thought and memory formation. Board games help the brain retain and build cognitive associations well into old age too.
  • Reduces risks for mental diseases: One of the primary benefits of playing board games is reducing the risk of cognitive declines, such as that associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Keeping your mind engaged means you are exercising it and building it stronger. A stronger brain has lower risks of losing its power.
  • Lowers blood pressure: Along with laughing and increasing your endorphins, they can help you lower or maintain your blood pressure. This release of endorphins helps muscles to relax and blood to circulate, which evidently will lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of artery damage, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Speed up your responses: Get yourself a board game like chess, checkers or monopoly, and in time you might be better at being able to find those hard-to-find car keys without having to look for then in the entire house. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada assessed two groups’ ability to search for and find an object their results showed that study participants who regularly played video games were far quicker at locating the target than those who didn’t play.
  • Reduce stress: You can always benefit from a healthy distraction like playing board games since it is an excellent way to kick back and relax. According to an online survey by RealNetworks, Inc., a casual games developer, found that 64% of respondents said they play games as a way to unwind and relax and 53% play for stress relief.
  • Grows your immunesystem: Research has shown that negativity, depression, and stress can reduce your ability to fight disease. Positive feelings and thoughts, like the laughter and enjoyment that always come with board games, prevent these effects by releasing some chemicals that fight stress and boost your immune system. A simple board game could give rise to the ‘survival genes’ and activate them in your brain, making the brain cells live longer and helping to fight disease.
  • Childdevelopment: Board games play a very important role in child health and brain development. Board games help children develop logic and reasoning skills, improve critical thinking and boost spatial reasoning. Encouraging children to play different types of board games can also increase verbal and communication skills while helping develop attention skills and the ability to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time.
  • Therapy treatment: Many board games require the use of fine motor skills to pick up or move pieces, actions that take both coordination and dexterity. Regular practice and activity improve these basic skills, which is important for children, people with mental or physical disabilities, the elderly and those recovering from accidents. Board games are very helpful when they are added to occupational therapy treatments, as well in places like classrooms for special needs to help improve muscle and nerve function over time.

Here are a few family fun games you can play at home. Click the images to see them on Amazon!


Video Games Can Be Used as a Therapy – Here’s How

Video games are bad and violent, right? Who knows what depths I might sink to as a result of shooting all those buffalo when I was playing Oregon Trail back in the day? Except that’s not quite how it works in reality.

The research on violence and video games is a lot more complicated than that, but one trend is clear: Video games have a lot of potential uses as part of therapy. One study suggested that playing Tetris in the few hours after a traumatic event might reduce flashbacks from a traumatic event.

Another study found that some people with learning disabilities found that gaming increased their performance on attention tasks.

Even Grand Theft Auto has its benefits. When older adults played the game regularly, they were able to maintain more cognitive functioning than non-gamers, which has the potential to make them safer drivers (a little counter-intuitive when you think about the content of the game, but OK.)

Some companies have taken therapeutic gaming to a completely new level by designing games that are intended to help people develop coping strategies for dealing with mental illness. In some cases, the research has even included input from people who have a mental health diagnosis, to make sure that the game is as useful for them as it’s intended to be.

None of them would be a good replacement for therapy, and they aren’t intended to be, but in between sessions or when you’re on a waiting list, they might help.

Here are a few of the games that have been designed to help manage depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems:

  • Depression Quest – This is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.
  • Night in the Woods – The game helps players develop coping skills for depression and anxiety as they play the character Mae, a woman who dropped out of college and returned to her hometown to find that everything looking a bit darker and scarier.
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Beautiful graphics, and it teach coping skills for psychosis (for example, schizophrenia) through the eyes of a Celtic warrior named Senua, who is attempting to save the soul of her lover.
  • Gris – A serene and elegant game with no violence, that shows how the main character, a young girl, slowly learns to cope with grief and loss through puzzles and skill-based challenges.
  • Celeste – A story-based video game that helps players develop skills for coping with depression and anxiety as the main character battles her own inner demons as she tries to climb a mountain.
  • Sea of Solitude – The main character, Kay, becomes monster as her loneliness, anger, and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness take over. The game helps her develop insights and skills for recovering from these feelings,

These games typically aren’t long plays, but some of them have absolutely spectacular graphics. If you’re looking for a new way of developing coping skills and interacting with a character that understands your experiences, these might be worth trying.

Aimee Daramus, PsyD is a psychologist based in Chicago, Illinois.

Disclaimer: Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only. Materials on this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on this website. Read our full disclaimer here.


2 THE PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND THE “GAME”

Many critics attribute its popularity to the “right timing.” As Khan ( 2020 ) stated in The New York Times, the success has been partially attributed to its release during the COVID-19 pandemic, with players seeking a sense of escapism in their self-quarantine at home. Indeed, New Horizons could not have come at a better time. Or rather, we can just consider the game world as the “La-la land,” a sort of escape that has captivated in our fantasies with the world in the grip of the epidemic or, it plays an unexpected role to provide comfort and social connection in a time of isolation and struggle. Therefore, it is not hard to discover the two main psychological success behind this phenomenon: first, it captures people's instinctive to escape from realistic difficulties and their yearning to chase a peaceful and harmonious life then, it satisfies people's unwillingness to be lonely and their deep inner desire for the social interaction to get rid of the loneliness.


Jean Piaget: Theory of Play

Jean Piaget was a highly influential Swiss biologist and psychologist who developed a controversial model of child development and learning—Jean Piaget Theory of Play—based on careful observations of his own three children. Today, although his theories are much expounded, they are also heavily criticized, and despite the fact that he undoubtedly made a massive contribution to the field of child psychology, many of the conclusions he drew from his observational work are now deemed to be incorrect.

The model for Jean Piaget Theory of Play was based on his experiments and observations of children playing. He recognized the differences between physical and symbolic play and he believed that play provided a relaxed environment where learning took place more easily, although he stressed that play was different to learning, as cognitive development required a combination of assimilation and adaptation whereas play was assimilation but not accommodation.

Piaget’s work was based around the concept that there are four developmental stages. He based all of his theories on experiments, plus observations relating to the development of his own three children. His four-stage theory of child development was seen as a ladder that children climbed as they gradually increased their knowledge of the world around them.

Piaget based his theory on the idea of mental “maps” that allowed a child to build cognitive structures as they responded to their experiences within the physical environment and moved on from the simple reflexes of birth to the development of complex mental activities.

As the child develops, their experiences are measured against the mental map they have constructed. Repeat experiences are easily assimilated into the existing map, whereas new experiences upset the equilibrium and cause the child to alter their cognitive map to reflect the new experiences. Over time, the cognitive structure becomes more complex and more effective.

The central basis of Piaget’s theories on child development was based around the insight that children think in a fundamentally different way to adults: children are not just limited by less knowledge and experience—their thought processes are actually completely different. Today, even though many psychologists have criticized various aspects of Piaget’s work, this central insight has remained intact.

Sensory-motor: between birth and 18/24 months, infants only have an awareness of the sensations experienced by their bodies, and they explore the world through taste, touch, and sound. One observation he recorded from this stage in a child’s development was that a child does not know an object still exists when it is out of sight.

Pre-operational: between 18/24 months and 7 years, children are able to process images, words and simple concepts, but although they have the tools of thought, they are unable to make use of them.

Concrete operations: between 7 and 12 years of age, children are able to manipulate objects and symbols, but only if they are a concrete concept. Abstract operations are still challenging, although a child can solve mathematical equations using numbers as well as objects by this stage.

Formal operations: from the age of 12, children begin to think as adults do and are able to understand more complex and abstract concepts such as morality and the future.


Video Games Play May Provide Learning, Health, Social Benefits, Review Finds

WASHINGTON — Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play to be published by the American Psychological Association.

The study comes out as debate continues among psychologists and other health professionals regarding the effects of violent media on youth. An APA task force is conducting a comprehensive review of research on violence in video games and interactive media and will release its findings in 2014.

“Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” said lead author Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. “However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed.”

The article will be published in APA’s flagship journal, American Psychologist.

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. “This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Granic said. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013. Children’s creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, including violent games, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cell phone, other research revealed.

Simple games that are easy to access and can be played quickly, such as “Angry Birds,” can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said. “If playing video games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider,” said Granic. The authors also highlighted the possibility that video games are effective tools to learn resilience in the face of failure. By learning to cope with ongoing failures in games, the authors suggest that children build emotional resilience they can rely upon in their everyday lives.

Another stereotype the research challenges is the socially isolated gamer. More than 70 percent of gamers play with a friend and millions of people worldwide participate in massive virtual worlds through video games such as “Farmville” and “World of Warcraft,” the article noted. Multiplayer games become virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group, the authors said. People who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively, a 2011 study found.

The article emphasized that educators are currently redesigning classroom experiences, integrating video games that can shift the way the next generation of teachers and students approach learning. Likewise, physicians have begun to use video games to motivate patients to improve their health, the authors said. In the video game “Re-Mission,” child cancer patients can control a tiny robot that shoots cancer cells, overcomes bacterial infections and manages nausea and other barriers to adhering to treatments. A 2008 international study in 34 medical centers found significantly greater adherence to treatment and cancer-related knowledge among children who played “Re-Mission” compared to children who played a different computer game.

“It is this same kind of transformation, based on the foundational principle of play, that we suggest has the potential to transform the field of mental health,” Granic said. “This is especially true because engaging children and youth is one of the most challenging tasks clinicians face.”

The authors recommended that teams of psychologists, clinicians and game designers work together to develop approaches to mental health care that integrate video game playing with traditional therapy.

Article: “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” Isabela Granic, PhD, Adam Lobel, PhD, and Rutger C.M.E. Engels, PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen Nijmegen, The Netherlands American Psychologist, Vol. 69, No. 1.

Isabela Granic can be contacted by email, cell: 011.31.6.19.50.00.99 or work: 011.31.24.361.2142


Healthy play, better coping: The importance of play for the development of children in health and disease

“Rodent studies support an important role of social play in the development of brain and behavior”.

“Children with a chronic disease are at risk for physical, social, emotional and cognitive problems”.

“Facilitating (social) play may improve the developmental outcome of chronical diseased children”.

“All children may benefit from knowledge about the impressive resilience of young patients”.

“Interactive technology/games can help patients to play with peers, fostering social inclusion”.