7 video game facts that could save the world

by 7 years ago
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Books, radio, television, rock music, magazines, movies, comic books and Socrates, what do all these things have in common? At one time they were all considered a corrupting influence on the nation’s youth. Politicians, intellectuals and other useless busybodies today are no different, but their target of choice isn’t Elvis, Batman or philosophers; it’s video games.

Well, here’s some news for the insufferable bores who think they know better than the rest of us — in addition to flat-out just being fun to play, video games have societal and individual benefits, too. Here are seven of them.

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OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But video games do promote healthier aging, which is a roundabout way of saying “prevent death.” Research finds that “digital games offer a home-based method to support behavior modification, motivating patients to take better care of themselves and to self-mange chronic conditions.” This makes sense. You can’t tell grandpa anything, right? But one round of Grand Theft Lipitor, and he’s back on his meds.

Oh, these weren’t the video games you thought we’d be talking about?

Then let’s move on to how…

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It’s not just the aforementioned “digital games” that help older people. Playing World of Warcraft may boost cognitive functioning in older adults, especially for adults who had scored poorly on cognitive ability tests before playing the game. Said Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State, “We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits – it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations.”

Any Orc knows that.

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Michigan State researchers concluded that boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative regardless of whether or not the games are violent or nonviolent. Scholars studied 491 12-year-olds and found that the more video games they played the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories. This makes sense. What’s more likely to spur creativity? Playing with one of those ball-in-the-cup thingies or battling your way through an imaginary world filled with characters, music, stories and adventure?

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Video games are now responsible for medical advances. You hear that Hillary Clinton? Medical advances! At the University of Washington, gamers “solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade.” The gamers made the discovery by playing Foldit, an online game that allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules. This class of enzymes plays a critical role in how the AIDS virus matures and proliferates.

We live in a world where next great medical breakthrough could come from PS3 user PoonDog83. What a time to be alive.

U.S. Army

The U.S. Army is investing heavily in video game training for its soldiers, and it has released a game called America’s Army. The Army uses video games to review battles and prepare for specific actions. The games are based on real-time intelligence and actual scenarios from soldiers on the ground. Users can even play the role of insurgent in order to provide other soldiers with human opposition and can gain an understanding of battle from the enemy’s point of view.

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A 2011 study from the University of Texas famously declared that violent video games lead to decreases in violent crime. The researchers made their conclusion based on the fact that the more time a kid spends playing video games the less time he has to rob liquor stores. Via the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Ft. Worth: “The statistical analysis is complicated, but one study showed when game stores in a county, including North Texas counties, grew by one percent, crime rates dropped a tenth of a percent, double the amount they dropped because of sports.”

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The economy is jacked for anyone not named Kardashian right now, but the video game industry is worth $65 billion, and that number is only expected to go up. Video game companies directly and indirectly employ more than 120,000 people in 34 states. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average compensation for direct employees is $90,000, resulting in total national compensation of $2.9 billion. Jobs and profits aren’t the only economic benefits. Video games themselves are also leading the next productivity revolution, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The lesson here: When you save the princess, you save the world.

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