Gamification: What is the Effect of Video Games on our Brains?

Pacman Learner IllustrationWhat is the effect of videogames on our brains? Read on to find out.

We start playing games when we are just a few months old. Well, maybe we don’t actually play them, but we’re involved. Peekaboo – when we hide our faces from babies and then suddenly appear, seemingly out of nowhere – is often our first experience of a game. It only works for a few months, though.

Pretty soon we realise that our parents don’t actually disappear when they hide behind their hands and the effect wears off. But early games such as this introduce us to the concept of game-play, something that stays with us for the rest of our lives.

Are We Addicted?

Nowadays, video games are pervasive throughout our lives. We play on computers, laptops and consoles. We play in real life, on board games and even while sitting on the toilet (go on, admit it – you’re STILL addicted to Candy Crush!) Within the first month of its release, Call of Duty: Black Ops racked up 68,000 years of gameplay!

5 Stats Around Gamers

Since the release of Atari’s Pong game in 1972, The gaming industry has seen constant growth. In 1999, the gaming industry generated $7.4 billion in sales. In 2018 it was $131 billion. Some reports claim that it’ll be worth $300 by 2025

It’s the thirst that gamers have for new content that has seen it grow so much.

Here’s some further statistics to prove how compulsive modern gaming is…

What is all this game-playing doing to us? What impact is it having on our brains? We often talk about having the world’s best Gamified Social Learning Management System, so we think it’s important to be able to explain exactly why games and gamification (applying game mechanics to non-gaming scenarios, like eLearning units and online learning platforms, to make difficult tasks more palatable) works so well to get people engaged.

What is the Effect of Games on Our Brains?

We decided to do a bit of researching into the impact that video games have on our brains, and found two major myths:

Myth 1: “Video games damage your eyesight.”

False. Gamers that indulge in 10 or 15 hours of gameplay per week actually tend to have very good vision – better than those who never play video games. Gamers’ eyes can resolve really small details, which means they can easily read the small print on a prescription pill bottle and figure out which teeny tiny screw is which when attempting to put together new flat-pack furniture.

Gamers can also discern between different shades of grey better than non-gamers. We’re not talking 50 Shades of Grey here – what we mean is that if you’re in a fog, a serious gamer will be able to spot a car up ahead faster and more easily than a non-gamer. Clearly a good thing for preventing car accidents, no matter what people say about the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ effect!

Myth 2: “Video games destroy your attention span.”

False. Gamers are able to focus on more objects at once than non-gamers. For instance, Daphne Bavelier and colleagues tested gamers and non-gamers on how well they could track the movement of blue dots once they turned yellow (skip ahead to 6:50 in this video to see this in action). Daphne et al. found that the average person could focus on three dots and successfully state whether a random dot was always yellow or originally blue. Gamers, on the other hand, had such great attention to detail and superior attention spans that they could focus on 6 or 7 dots at once! Try it for yourself – it’s not an easy task!

If gamers are better able to track moving objects, this means their brains are more adept at spotting hazards when out on the road, whether they’re driving or walking. It also means they are better able to track the progression of their team on a football field, or make quick decisions during a bike race. Clearly great skills that will benefit them in their daily lives.

How Does Video Games Affect Our Brains?

Do playing video games have an effect on the brain? Of course they do! According to scientific research, playing video games change the game regions responsible for attention and visuospatial skills, making them more efficient.  

So what relevance does this have for gamification in online learning? Well, it goes to show that there is a lot more to games and gamers than meets the eye.

If gaming for gaming’s sake can increase our ability to successfully track moving objects, increase our attention span and improve our eyesight, imagine the incredible impact that games with an actual purpose could have on our lives, our learning and our businesses! If we design games that tap into people’s learning habits, motivation and skills, we’ll really see what games can do.

Final Words

This article has been a deep-dive into the effect of video games on our brains! Admittedly, gaming can be addictive, but it can also have some incredibly positive effects on the brain.

This includes increased hand-eye coordination, increased problem-solving skills and attention to detail. Once you apply gaming mechanics to the learning environment, you can surely expect learner engagement to soar! 

Want to read more about the use of games and game mechanics in online learning? Download our free guide; ‘The past, present and future of Gamification.’

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