The Health Benefits of Video Games

How playing games can improve your life

Sean Hervo
5 min readJul 4, 2017


Video games are often surrounded by negativity in mainstream media, being blamed for violence, health problems and reclusiveness; especially the violence part.

Of course, most people reading this will know those allegations are untrue. But did you know, gaming (in moderation) can improve your health?

Well, read on dear reader as I rundown the secret health benefits of video games.

“I’m intrigued with the idea that in the future a psychiatrist or neurologist might pull out their pad and instead of writing down a drug, writes down a tablet game times two months, and uses that as a therapy, as a digital medicine.”

- Adam Gazzaley (professor at The University of California)

Attention builder

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Studies have shown that games improve spatial attention and the ability to track moving objects.

Action games in particular, improve focus and vigilence — think how quickly the brain needs to react when playing Overwatch, Call of Duty, Uncharted etc.

Franceshcini, found significant improvements in testing (reading and phonetics) children with dyslexia after they played games.

The improvement was equal to or larger than scores achieved from dedicated courses in the treatment of dyslexia. Yeah you read that correctly; gaming improved dyslexia as much or greater than purpose built courses designed to treat the learning difficulty.

Reverse effect on ageing

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10 hours of play (over several weeks) increased cognitive functions in a group over the age of 50. Surprisingly, the improvement lasted for a number of years.

The BBC carried out an experiment on a group of elderly participants in Glasgow. They played 15 hours of Sega & All-Stars Racing Transformed over a 5 week duration. Their working memories were recorded before and after, and on average they improved by 30%.

Other research suggests dementia risk could be lowered by a whopping 48% from playing video games.

Social Skills Boost

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When playing online you interact with a large variety of people from different countries and backgrounds, often you will be working as part of team — understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses to create the most efficient system for achieving your goals.

Even with the rise of online games in recent years, around 70% of gamers play with their friends in-person. It’s hard to beat an evening sat on the sofa with a few mates competing in Mario Kart.

Then there’s all the gaming conventions and events that take place each year, where people with the same interests can network with each other, interact with the creators and compete in tournaments.

Also, as we’ve seen with AR based games such as Pokemon Go, certain games encourage gamers to get outside and interact with the places and people in their local area.

Stress Reliever

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When playing a game, we become fully engaged in the events unfolding on screen. Any problems you’re facing in the real world don’t matter, when you’re in the moment, it’s all about completing the mission.

Then when you return to what was causing you to feel stressed out, you’ll be in a better mindset to deal with it effectively.

Creativity and problem solving

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There’s plenty of games that directly encourage gamers to create things. You’ve got Minecraft, The Sims and many more — the purpose of these games is to build things and they’re just as popular with children as they are with adults — we all love to create, no matter how old we are.

In 2011 Foldit was launched by the University of Washington, it’s an online puzzle game about proteins where players can help solve scientific problems. Using gamers’ data, researchers can develop cures for diseases and make new biochemical discoveries.

Help with chronic illness

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The University of Utah conducted a study on how regular gaming affected children with diagnosed illnesses — cancer, autism, diabetes and depression.

The results concluded that games have a therapeutic effect on illness. They help with pain, resilience and greatly improve happiness. With increased immersion, the results are even stronger, which could lead to a future where hospitals are filled with VR systems and your GP recommends a recovery programme of gaming instead of pills.

Increased exercise

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When the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006 it brought movement-sensing gaming to the masses; a lot of the games for the system encouraged players to be standing and moving as opposed to sitting down. The Finnish Defence Forces invested in 348 Wii consoles in 2009 to inspire soldiers to engage in more exercise in their free time (seriously, that really happened).

Remember Wii Fit? It used a balance board as an exercise peripheral and could be used for yoga, aerobics and strength training amongst other activities. It sold over 22 million copies and was used for physiotherapy in some health clubs and nursing homes.

With VR there is scope to encourage more exercise at home, being mindful of surroundings while wearing the headset is a hurdle at the moment.

Some games can have an unintended impact on physical activity, such as playing more football outside after a game of FIFA or deciding to learn to skateboard after playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.


Playing games won’t make you invincible IRL, but as part of a balanced lifestyle they will help you become a happier, better version of yourself. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to dig your old Game Boy out, you’re welcome!

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Sean Hervo

Digital Designer from Scotland. Interested in user research, interfaces and minimalism.