5 Reasons Playing Xbox One Or PS4 Can Actually Be Good For You

Are you planning to ‘unwind’ this weekend by shooting a ton of aliens in an abandoned space station - or hurling an expensive car round a virtual race track?

Give yourself a big pat on the back.

For decades, people assumed that playing games was a waste of time - and the popular press have been keen to link games to everything from obesity to psychosis.

But a growing body of evidence suggests that games can actually be good for you - so much so that there’s a movement dedicated to increasing their use in schools.

Here are five solid, scientific reasons why your gaming habit might actually be doing you a favour.

1) Playing strategy games ‘turns you into Sherlock Holmes’

Playing fast-moving games such as Starcraft 2 regularly helps to promote ‘cognitive flexibility’ - described by the researchers as ‘thinking outside the box’.

A test with 72 volunteers at Queen Mary University of London and University College London (UCL) found that playing Starcraft 2 for 40 hours led to people being faster and more accurate in psychological tests.

Professor Brad Love of UCL claimed that the boost enabled people to think about multiple ideas simultaneously - ‘like Sherlock Holmes’.

2) Mario actually makes your brain grow

Professor Simone Kuhn of the Max-Planck Institute of Human Behaviour, in Berlin, found that areas of gamer’s brains can actually grow over time as they play games.

She used an fMRI (functional MRI) scanner to monitor the brains of subjects as they played Super Mario 64 DS over several months.

She found that three areas of the brain - the prefrontal cortex, right hippocampus and cerebellum - had actually grown.

3) Fast-moving action games improve your vision

Players of fast-moving shoot ‘em ups aren’t just boosting their gaming skills - they’re improving their vision.

Researchers from the University of Rochester found that people who play action games improve their ‘visual acuity’ by 20%.

Gamers were tested on their ability to identify letters presented amongst clutter - similar to the tests used in ophthalmology clinics.

4) Online games can keep older people alert

The sheer variety of new experiences offered by online ‘world’ games such as World of Warcraft can help focus older people’s minds, scientists believe.

A North Carolina State University study found that there was a measurable improvement on cognitive tests for some OAPs after playing World of Warcraft for two weeks.

Dr Anne McLaughlin said, ‘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.

‘We saw significant improvement in both spatial ability and focus for participants who scored low on the initial baseline tests.’

5) Playing action games makes you better at learning

Gamers have to learn new skills, and whole new sets of skills - every time they pick up a game.

The habit actually makes them better at learning, full stop..

A study published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) found that gamers who played more than five hours a week outperformed non-gamers on learning tasks.

‘In order to sharpen its prediction skills, our brains constantly build models, or ‘templates,’ of the world,’ the University of Rochester’s Professor Daphne Bavellier said.

‘We know playing action video game actually fosters better templates.’