While I’ve spent much of this blog’s short life raving on about the nobility of games, their artistic contributions, and my take on relevant game history, there is another worthy topic which I have not yet addressed – the contribution of gaming to medicine, human longevity, and society as a whole.
Not very long ago, video games were largely regarded as children’s toys, and playing them was considered by most of the adult population to be irresponsible, frivolous, degenerative, and an all-around waste of one’s time.
But with the rise of the gamer generation into adulthood came the science to validate and vindicate their behavior. When gamers didn’t simply ‘grow up’ and stop gaming, as so many thought they would, it quickly became apparent that herein lay an important question which any dutiful scientific and/or academic community could not afford to ignore. That question, of course, went something like “What’s so great about these games, anyway?”
And as soon as this question began to be asked in earnest, we quickly learned why so many human animals – equipped with perfectly functional self-preservation instincts – would continue in a hobby which on the outside appeared to serve no evolutionary goal whatsoever.
But this assumption of uselessness couldn’t have been further from the real truth, as Eric Klopfer – director of the Education Arcade at MIT – points out in an interview with The Boston Globe:
And, according to the research of Globe Correspondent Emily Anthes,
“Most games involve a huge number of mental tasks, and playing can boost any one of them. Fast-paced, action-packed video games have been shown, in separate studies, to boost visual acuity, spatial perception, and the ability to pick out objects in a scene. Complex, strategy-based games can improve other cognitive skills, including working memory and reasoning.”
But not only do games improve the function and habits of younger minds (games are now all the rage in research on educational practices), but they also help to keep those minds young and flexible into late adulthood. It’s been accepted fact for a good little while now that mental exercise can help greatly in staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  But only recently are game experts like Nolan Bushnell incorporating this idea into successful, science-based projects like anti-aginggames.com.
And aside from all this, games are also known to create socially constructive behavior patterns such as delegation, organization, cooperation, and team leadership. In fact, gamers as a community have produced such astounding real-world impacts as – according to the below info-graphic by Psychologydegree.net, “solv[ing] an AIDS protein problem that puzzled scientists for fifteen years in just fifteen days.”  I believe the appropriate phrase here is ‘epic win.’
Finally, anthropologically speaking, it seems quite safe to conjecture that in many ways, games simply had to happen. In order for human society to progress beyond commonplace violence over resources, territory, and mating privileges – as was the case until a relatively very recent period in our history, we needed to create for ourselves a safe outlet to release our inner animalistic rage and impulses. The global rate of intentional homicide dropped a whopping .7 percent from 2004 to 2010, with the strongest trends belonging to highly developed areas like North America and Europe. And it’s my humble opinion, though an empirical causality would prove quite difficult to establish, that this dramatic drop can largely be credited to the existence, prominence, and emergent social validity of the gaming hobby.
 Anthes, Emily, “How video games are good for the brain,” The Boston Globe, 2009, http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2009/10/12/how_video_games_are_good_for_the_brain/
 Chang, Ifay, “Can Brain Stimulating Games Help Slow Down Aging?” Medical World Search, 2003, http://www.mwsearch.com/anti-aginggame.html
 “Stay Mentally Active,” Alzheimer’s Association, 2012, http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_stay_mentally_active.asp
 Tassi, Paul, “The Social Benefits of Video Games,” Forbes, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/03/22/the-social-benefits-of-video-games/
 “List of countries by intentional homicide rate,” Wikipedia, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate