Many people, when confronted with video games and those who play them, immediately think, “Oh, that’s just a waste of time. Why would you kill so much valuable time staring at a screen?”

What you might not realize is that playing video games actually is more beneficial than most people think. Video games are becoming more and more prevalent in learning settings, with games developed to improve children’s reading skills, cognitive development and even hand-eye coordination.

In a study done by Kurt Squire, research manager of the Games-to-Teach project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he takes specific video games that have become cultural phenomena and gives examples of where the games are useful in human development.

Squire explained that many educators over time have defined game elements that make learning more engaging. One educator argued that educational programs, or games, need five different things: meaningful goals, goal structure and scoring to give progress feedback, multiple difficulty levels, random elements of surprise, and an appealing fantasy and metaphor related to game skills.

Such games often are considered time-wasters and useless. Games like Pac-Man, Mario Brothers and Pokemon are all good examples of games that fit the criteria mentioned in Squire’s study.

Another study published by the American Medical Association links video-game experience and surgeon’s skill during laparoscopic surgery and suturing. Comparisons were made between surgical skills and video-game scores and experience. Overall, the study concluded that video games could be a way to train surgeons, because the more video-game experience surgeons had correlated to how well they performed in surgery.

In other words, yes, I am telling you to go ahead and play video games. However, I’m not necessarily saying to go and blow all of your study time playing games because your brain functions will improve by playing.

If you need a break from schoolwork, though, feel free to let your mind wander through a game for a while. If it does anything, it might even improve your reaction time. Numerous studies have been done to determine a correlation between reaction time and video games. Most of those studies involve elderly persons playing video games, and results showed that responses in those who played games improved, while those who didn’t play did not improve.

The best part about games, in my opinion, is the same benefit you get from reading. You get the chance to allow your mind to fade into a make-believe world and gain escape from the troubles you might have in reality — at least for a short amount of time. Sadly, eventually we all must come back to reality.

I will take the blame for any of you who decide to try playing games to improve your reaction time and brain functions. I will not, however, take any responsibility if you decide to blow all of your time playing games and get bad grades. Like everything else, games in moderation have their benefit in the long run, but too much, and your mother will be correct. Your brain will probably turn to mush.

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