Here's a brief summary of what we know about the effects of video games on our mental health and development:
1. They're awesome.
There's really no scientific consensus. Whenever you read a headline about video games having been proven to be beneficial or proven to be detrimental, know that what you're reading is probably bullshit. Science is not always about proving one thing or disproving another. Science is about compiling the best possible evidence via sound research practices, and then doing your darndest to grasp the facts through the static. If you're lucky, the experts reach consensus about a topic and you can more or less put it to bed.
With that said, I'd like to draw your attention to an interesting piece by Joseph Bennington-Castro of Everyday Health. Bennington-Castro compiles several bits of research to present the case for video games as a potential therapy tool for people with multiple sclerosis:
"So far, studies of video game use by people with MS have focused mainly on balance. But other research has indicated that certain types of video games may help with symptoms that are often associated with MS, such as loss of fine motor skills, depression, and memory loss."
We've seen studies such as this one communicate positive results for therapy using Wii Fit balance boards. As one of the main symptoms of MS is loss of balance (due to miscommunication between the brain and spinal cord), practicing with a game helps patients adapt. Bennington-Castro notes that the Wii Fit balance board has been used to treat other neurological issues. The photo at the top of this article, for instance, features a demonstration of the U.S. Navy's adoption of Wii Fit's yoga program as a physical therapy tool.
I recommend taking a look at Bennington-Castro's full piece (linked again below) for his perspective on how video games that prioritize cognition, memory, and motor skills could also be beneficial for MS patients. The main takeaway isn't that video games are magical, healthy, or innately therapeutic, but rather that they can potentially be used as helpful mental exercise tools.
Read more at Everyday Health.
Photo credit: US Navy
Below, neuroscientist Vincent Pieribone explains how his father's battle with multiple sclerosis led him to pursue a career in cellular neurophysiology: