Positive Effects of Video Games: Cognition, Motor Skill, Therapy

Video Games Controller Joystick from Advik

Video games are a very popular way of spending leisure time and entertainment. We have been playing digital video games for a long time on different platforms. It may be on computers, gaming consoles, smartphones, and handhelds like Nintendo Switch or Gameboy. Children and many adults like gaming in their leisure time. However, we have always heard from elders that games will make us dull and violent. But some studies have now shown that they also have a positive effect on us. Different types of games have different effects on the human brain, cognition, and visuomotor control skills. Some games are also being used in therapy for PTSD flashbacks.

There are different types of games available in the market. This includes strategy games, RPG, 1st person shooter, action-adventure, third-person, and sandbox type. Each one of them has its own specialty. Their effect on the brain is also different. Many types of research have been done on the effects of games on the human brain and body. Some have found positive, and some have found a negative impact. We are discussing both of the impacts because all sides should be clear. One thing we all need to remember is quantity matters.

Playing games have been found to have positive impacts on a lot of aspects, but there is a disorder as well. Sticking to computer games, consoles, and smartphones for the whole day and night is very bad. It can definitely put stress on the eyes, neck, back and cause a lot of problems. These things are unwise and can be harmful. We should play in limit and be wise with our time as well. WHO also declared “Gaming Disorder” as an actual problem in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 11th revision. So be careful and enjoy with care.

Benefits of Action Games

Shooting and action games are some of the best genres, according to various studies. Games that need fast decision-making can make our minds more active. It also increases the capacity to make fast decisions. The military in some countries is recruiting gamers because they have finer handling skills. They can control small joysticks and other controllers with care and precision. Some scientists say that action game players have good motor skills. According to a research paper “Serious games in military applications” from 2018, serious games are now being integrated into military education. These help to increase motivation and cognitive skills.

A study conducted by the University of Geneva states that action games improve cognitive abilities. Scientists studied 15 years of data and reports to find the impacts. The study was conducted with people who played rapid action games and people who play simple control games. The result showed that the people who play action games have better cognitive abilities. The researchers also say that individuals in the experiment played games for a small duration for a period of weeks.

A paper published in 2016 by Li Li and Jing shows that playing action video games can improve visuomotor control. The study found that action game players have better visuomotor control and are better at lane-keeping compared to nonaction gamers. The action gamers played games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Battlefield. These are some of the most popular titles in the gaming industry. Many people play these video games on almost all platforms. However, some people also claim that these games make people violent. But solid scientific evidence is hard to find. A paper of 2018 published in Nature shows that researchers didn’t find relevant negative effects. But some experiments have found short-term negative effects.

Therapy Use and Improving Attention

In a 2009 paper published in PLOS ONE journal, researchers found that Tetris has positive effects in situations after traumatic events. Playing games like Tetris after watching traumatic material is helpful. This helps to reduce involuntary memory flashbacks. It is a positive cognitive intervention. It is seen that visuospatial tasks after trauma within a certain time are beneficial to reduce flashbacks. Scientists say that games have effects on special regions of the brain. The region that is responsible for attention and visuospatial skills is affected. These parts become more active efficient.

Some developers are making special games for therapy uses. These video games are made to help people develop coping strategies. These aren’t actual scientific therapies because their underlying mechanisms have not been fully understood. Deeper and broader studies are still necessary. But the games are in use because they help some users. Researchers are trying to implement the same strategy to help similar patients. Examples of some special games are GRIS, Depression Quest, Sea of Solitude, and Night in the Woods. These titles have different mechanisms to help patients.

Some studies have shown positive impacts of education and serious games. Special serious games positively affect the motivation, attention, and cognition of students with learning disabilities. According to a paper published in 2019 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public health, researchers performed experiments to find the effect of serious games on improving the attention of students. The experiment group included students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and specific learning disorders (SLD). Researchers concluded that game-based neurofeedback systems could help a lot in students with ADHD. Researchers also say that there should be broader research on this topic.

Clinical Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is now not only a gaming device. It is now in the field of medical treatment, psychology, and therapy. VR exposure therapy is an advanced therapy for people suffering from PTSD, trauma, dementia, chronic pain, anxiety disorders, etc. VR is in a very forward stage and it can give almost a real feeling to the brain. The experience depends on visuals, graphics, sound, and physical feedback like vibration and smell. Virtual reality can give a sense to the brain that what we are seeing is reality. The virtual environments are now in use for treating pain, trauma, and psychological problems. Experts can simulate an environment and study the patient’s behavior. Then they can then address the problems and help change the patient’s behaviors or response by simulating different environments. VR is also helping in complex problems of neurorehabilitation and cognitive rehabilitation.


Enjoy and Improve

Playing high-speed action games have positive effects on the brain. The brain of gamers gets exercise to confront a complex situation like war. Serious games are even much better and more precise. It helps users to practice correct decisions quickly. So they develop fast decision-making skills. It helps players to think and strategize. Gamers also detect things faster and with good care. They can give good attention to the surroundings and analyze movements.

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Knowing where to shoot at the correct time. Going to the correct position without getting hurt, calculating the reload interval to get cover, and being safe are common skills. Driving very fast and keeping in the lane is an important visuomotor skill. Taking smooth turns without getting hit is another positive example of rapid action games. Strategy games are also beneficial for the mind. They help players to learn planning and creating strategies. Making plans for the future and assessing correct decision time is crucial.

Gaming in Limit and Health

There is no doubt that longer screen time is bad. Many people might game in binge sessions, which can be harmful. We should be careful about our eyes, posture, and health during gaming sessions. Some people also tend to be violent during game sessions when they lose. People should learn to control their rage in such conditions. We highly suggest people improve sitting posture because they can cause huge issues in the future. Most importantly, be careful on your back and neck. Smartphone gaming causes a lot of stress on the neck.


It is good to play games for a few hours a week for entertainment purposes. Instead of pushing children away from gaming, parents should keep an eye on them. They can monitor their play and activities to ensure they are learning and enjoying. These days people are more into online gaming. They can be enjoyable and addictive as well. So we all should be cautious about all the things we do and keep our health as the priority. Also, be very careful about online expenditure. Children may use their parent’s money for in-game purchases.

Research Paper References

  1. Serious games in military applications – DOI: 10.5937/vojtehg66-16367
  2. Serious Games and Their Effect Improving Attention in Students with Learning Disabilities – DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16142480
  3. Playing Action Video Games Improves Visuomotor Control – DOI: 10.1177/0956797616650300
  4. Effects of computer gaming on cognition, brain structure, and function: a critical reflection on existing literature – DOI: 10.31887/DCNS.2019.21.3/skuehn
  5. Can Playing the Computer Game “Tetris” Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science – DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0004153
  6. Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study – DOI: 10.1038/s41380-018-0031-7
  7. Impact of video games on plasticity of the hippocampus – DOI: 10.1038/mp.2017.155

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About the Author: Abhishek Chand

Structural Engineer by profession. Computer and smartphone enthusiast. Tech-savvy blogger and former Gadget reviewer of AP1 HD TV and TechnoNepal.

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