Video gaming is clearly a popular form of entertainment, with video games collectively spending 3 billion hours per week in front of their screens. Due to their widespread use, scientists have researched how video games affect the brain and behavior. Are these effects positive or negative? We examine the evidence.
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At a glance, more than 150 million people in the United States play video games regularly.
The average American gamer is a 35-year-old adult, with 72 percent of gamers age 18 or older. For video game use by children, most parents – 71 percent – indicate that video games have a positive influence.
Video game sales continue to increase year on year. In 2016, the video game industry sold more than 24.5 billion games – up from 23.2 billion in 2015, and 21.4 billion in 2014.
Decades of research examining video gaming and violence have failed to reach consensus among scientists. Scientists have been unable to find a causal link between playing video games.
A growing body of evidence, however, shows that video gaming can affect the brain and, furthermore, cause changes in many regions of the brain.
Results of the studies indicate that playing video games not only changes how our brains perform but also their structure.
Evidence also demonstrates that playing video games increases the size and competence of parts of the brain responsible for visuospatial skills – a person’s ability to identify visual and spatial relationships among objects. In long-term gamers and individuals who had volunteered to follow a video game training plan, the right hippocampus was enlarged.