This is from an excellent overview about video games and the brain: Video Games Affect the Brain—for Better and Worse. The most important conclusion to be drawn after reading the post on Cerebrum of the Dana Foundation is:
With the exception of educational games, most video games’ effects on brain and behavior are unintentional on the part of both the designers and the players. Nonetheless, research suggests that the effects are real. Video games are neither good nor bad. Rather, they are a powerful form of entertainment that does what good entertainment is supposed to do—it influences us.
Since I am biased first the good news about playing video games:
- playing action video games can improve visual attention to the periphery of a computer screen
- action games can improve adults’ abilities to make fine discriminations among different shades of gray (called contrast sensitivity), which is important for activities such as driving at night
- games requiring teamwork help people develop collaboration skills
- video games that include “pro-social” content—situations in which characters help each other in nonviolent ways—increase such conduct outside of game play, too
- video game play improved surgical skill, as measured in a standardized advanced-skill training program. In fact, the surgeons’ amount of game time was a better predictor of advanced surgical skill in the training drills than their number of years in practice or number of real-life surgeries performed
Playing violent video games has effects on brain activity in different brain regions. From the discussed studies it has been shown that playing violent video games leads to suppression of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. This area involves cognitive control and planning. It could also mean suppression of the emotional response.
The authors propose 5 aspects of video games that can affect players: amount, content, structure, mechanics and context. Together, these aspects can explain different research results. These 5 aspects are of importance when judging about video games and their effects.
For more details on this 5 aspects please visit Video Games Affect the Brain—for Better and Worse