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Can Video Games Be Educational?

posted: 11/01/16
by: Mary Beth McAndrews

Video games are everywhere. According to Statista, there were 157 million gamers in the U.S. in 2012. Even if you aren't an avid gamer, odds are you know at least 5 video game titles. But with every piece of popular content comes its controversy. Some believe that video games have negative impacts on the mind and could even drive people to be more violent. According to BBC, some recent studies have found a 4% increase in gamer aggression after playing a violent video game.

While some may argue that video games have a negative impact on our brains, video games can have benefits. For example, a study conducted at the Max-Planck Institute of Human Development in Berlin showed that some games can actually promote brain growth. Professor Simone Kuhn had subjects play Super Mario 64 DS for two months. After that period, she discovered growth in the prefrontal cortex, right hippocampus and cerebellum. These three areas of the brain are associated with navigation and motor control, which is fitting for a racing game!

Other studies showed increased visual abilities in gamers. Professor Daphne Bavelier who conducted the study discovered that gamers were better able to keep track of multiple moving objects at once. These findings lead her to deduce "fast action games require the player constantly to switch their attention from one part of the screen to another while also staying vigilant for other events in the environment" (BBC).

Want to try and experience some of that brain growth? Here are some games that are both entertaining and educational:

Minecraft

Minecraft is all about exercising your creativity. There are no limits to what you can create. The player mines resources then uses those resources to build anything, from castles to entire continents.

Kerble Space Program

This is a game for the physics lovers out there. Kerble Space Program is all about building a functional space craft to launch into orbit. Sounds simple, but this game is all about being as realistic as possible. It's rocket science in your living room!

Civilization

The Civilization franchise was initially released in 1991. It's a turn-based strategy game focused on expanding your empire and learning what it takes to be a (fictional) leader.

Tetris

You know the theme song. This iconic game is all about tile-matching and clearing the board.

Learn more about the effects of gaming on Your Brain on Video Games tonight at 9/8c.

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