05. eSports

Is Gaming More Beneficial or Harmful to the Brain?

July 15, 2021

Kids play video games for fun and enjoyment. Young as they are, they usually do not care about the effects of this hobby on their cognitive and social development. Even some teens or young adults may not be aware of the pros and cons that video gaming can have on both their life and their brain. Here we will cover what scientific research shows on whether gaming is actually more beneficial or harmful for our body's most important organ.

Popular Opinion

According to the Pew Research Center(1), video gaming is popular among teens, especially teenage boys. More than 84% of teens in the United States have a game console or have access to one with reliable connectivity.

At least six in ten respondent-parents (62%) believe that video games do not affect their kids; 13% of them say that video gaming has a negative influence on their children; 19% claim that it has a positive influence, and; 5% assume that video games have some positive and negative influence, depending on the game(2).

However, the given research data may not be conclusive, and this topic still deserves a thorough discussion to see a clearer picture. Notably, young and adult players must know whether video gaming has more benefits than harm, or vice versa, by analyzing how gaming impacts cognitive processes.

Video Gaming Can Affect the Brain

There is scientific evidence that shows video gaming can affect the brain and even cause changes in various brain regions(3).

Kuhn et al., 2019, on the effects of computer gaming on cognition, brain structure, and function, concluded that video gaming has a beneficial impact on cognition reflected in brain structure and function.

However, they clarified that cognition is just one aspect. Other possible consequences of video gaming on social, emotional, and physical well-being are significant as well(4).

Researchers from the University of Arkansas also observed that expert gamers have more brain activity associated with attention compared to non-experts. They concluded that short periods of video gaming could change brain activity and improve attention skills(5).

Is Video Gaming Good or Bad for the Brain?

Anyone can play video games, but not all players can benefit in the same way as others do. Likewise, the harmful effects of video gaming may vary among different age groups.

Nevertheless, some of the common pros and cons of playing video games include:

Benefits of Video Gaming

Here are 4 ways in which gamers can benefit from this kind of cognitive activity.

1. Video Games May Reverse Negative Effects of Brain Aging

Scientists from the University of California(6) reported that the use of video games designed to improve cognitive function might reverse some harmful effects of brain aging.

Their research findings revealed that a specially designed 3-D video game, for example, could improve brain performance in healthy older adults.

Participants in their research have undergone 12 hours of training on the game and were given one month to play.

Results showed that players aged 60 to 85 years old showed improved cognitive performance and exceeded that of younger groups in their 20s playing the game for the first time.

The training also enhanced two important cognitive areas, such as working memory and sustained attention.

2. Video Games May Improve Basic Visual Processes

An article published on the University of Rochester’s website stated that playing video games with high levels of action can increase real-world vision(7). According to research, practiced action gamers become 58% better at contrast perception.

Researchers said video games can train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently, and the improvements last for months after playing is stopped.

3. Video Games May Enhance Executive Functioning

The ability to solve problems rapidly and efficiently, called executive functioning,  may improve with playing video games(8).

Gaming may also be beneficial for developing multitasking skills, mental flexibility, and can reverse cognitive decline among some age groups(9).

4. Video Games May Improve Everyday Skills

Video gaming has also been found to enhance hand-eye coordination, lengthen attention spans, and boost working memory and rapid decision-making abilities(10).

Video Games May Helps Ease Anxiety and Depression

Another interesting finding is that video games can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Playing Tetris, for example, may ease the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder(11).

Negative Effects of Video Gaming

On the flipside, here are 4 reasons why gaming can pose risks to wellbeing.

1. Video Games May Cause People to become More Violent

Some researchers have found a correlation between violent video games and an increase in aggressive behavior. This tendency is mainly connected with video games that simulate the use of firearms(12).

2. Video Games May Decrease Player’s Ability to Concentrate

There is also a link found between playing video games and the ability to remain focused. Video gaming may also exacerbate impulsiveness among individuals who have such natural inclination(13).

3. Video Games May Cause Addiction

Youth gamers commonly develop video game addiction. This can affect family and social relationships and can have adverse psychological effects(14).

4. Video Games May Increase Depression and Anxiety

Ironically, video gaming can also cause and worsen depression and anxiety. The younger players are found to be more prone to developing symptoms of depression(15).

Academic Use of Video Games

Another notable thing about video games is that it has a special place in education and research. Farrell et al., 2017, found out the following results in their study on academic uses of video games through a qualitative assessment(16):

● Academic libraries develop collections and services for scholars who use video game connectivity in teaching and research.

● A total of 28 interviewees at the University of Minnesota Libraries used games in research, and 23 used games in teaching.

● Strong disciplinary trends were identified from a variety of information and technology needs.

The findings of the authors are considered essential to encourage the creation of multidisciplinary strategies in developing video game services and collections that are relevant to unique academic communities.

Advice for Video Gamers

Video gaming can help young people develop their creativity, nurture relationships with other people, and become better strategic thinkers.

Playing video games can also build resilience and perseverance to attain goals. Gaming may also help enhance critical thinking and improve communication skills.

Video games popular among kids and teens include:

● Strategy Games

● Simulation Games

● Action Role-Playing Games

● Puzzle Games

● Sports Games

● Action-Adventure Games

Video gaming has become part of younger people’s lives. It can work to their advantage or disadvantage depending on how it affects their behavior and cognitive performance.


There are some positive implications showing that education and career advancement are enhanced through the benefits of playing video games. However, it is also crucial to evaluate how video gaming can impact the brain, affecting the player in aspects of overall wellbeing. Parental guidance among children and teens may be essential to use this technology in constructive ways.


1. Pew Research Center, 5 Facts about Americans and Video Games  

2. Pew Research Center, Parents and Games

3. NCBI, PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Effects of Computer Gaming on Cognition, Brain Structure, and Function: A Critical Reflection on Existing Literature

4. NCBI, PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Effects of Computer Gaming on Cognition, Brain Structure, and Function: A Critical Reflection on Existing Literature

5. University of Arkansas, One Hour of Video Gaming Can Can Increase the Brain’s Ability to Focus

6. EurekAlert, Training the Older Brain in 3-D: Video Game Enhances Cognitive Control

7. University of Rochester, Action Video Games Improve Vision

8. Concordia University Texas, Exploring the Pros and Cons of Video Gaming  

9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging, Video Games Show Potential in Improving Key Aspects of Memory in Older Adults

10. NCBI, PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, The Virtual Brain: 30 years of Video-Game Play and Cognitive Abilities

11. NCBI, PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Tetris and Word Games Lead to Fewer Intrusive Memories When Applied Several Days after Analogue Trauma

12. Frontiers in Psychology, The Relation of Violent Video Games to Adolescent Aggression: An Examination of Moderated Mediation Effect

13. Journal of Young Investigators, Violent Video Games May Kill Your Short-Term Focus: Violent Video Games May Negatively Affect a Player’s Attention and Concentration on a Short-Term Basis after Brief Exposure

14. IOWA State University, Graduate Theses and Dissertations, The Effect of Video Games on Family Communication and Interaction

15. NCBI, PMC, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Daily Violent Video Game Playing and Depression in Preadolescent Youth

16. College and Research Libraries, Academic Uses of Video Games: A Qualitative Assessment of Research and Teaching Needs at Large Research University

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