Let's start with a little test: Please complete the following sentence: “Computer games make...” “In my world, the sentence would end with creative or resilient, for example, or I would just state that they are fun” says gaming expert Sabine Saeidy-Nory from ERGO: “For me, computer and video games are something incredibly great. They encourage and challenge you, are interactive, make you reflect or take you into fantastic worlds.”
Computer and video games have an incredible potential that goes far beyond play. Today, games are already used as teaching aids, therapeutic aids or problem solvers. Computer and video games are of the utmost importance as a cultural asset, driver of innovation and economic factor; even former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said so at the opening of gamescom 2017.
In Germany, 6 out of 10 people currently play computer and video games, women just as often as men, old people just as much as young people. In addition, in 2021 the turnover in Germany with games and hardware was almost 10 billion euros. That is more than the music industry and the cinema sector combined.
Computer and video games have become an indispensable part of the lives of millions of Germans. But anyone who thinks that children and young people are the largest group of gamers in Germany is far wrong. One of the largest groups of gamers continues to be the 50- to 59-year-olds: About one fifth of German gamers belong to this age group. Together with the group of over 60s, they make up almost a third of the gamers in Germany. But more about the so-called “silver gamers” another time.
Recently, //next reported on a study by the University of Vermont that showed that computer games can have a positive influence on the cognitive abilities of children and adolescents. For some, the results may have been astonishing. For me, they were not.
For a long time, there have been surveys on the positive effects of computer and video games, for example on abilities such as hand-eye coordination, reaction speed, spatial imagination or memory. Anyone who wants to see these abilities in their purest form should take a look at e-sports matches, i.e. professional gamers competing against each other at the highest level. The players operate their input devices up to 400 times per minute to create the perfect move. The whole thing takes place asymmetrically - both hands are moved in parallel, which means that different brain regions are used and trained. At the same time, success requires impulse control, perception of the game environment, tactical decisions and team coordination. All in fractions of a second. What a performance of the brain!
Even if most children and young people do not (yet) play at this level, they also train all these skills, practically incidentally and intrinsically motivated. With every time they have to restart a level because they have been defeated, they also build up a higher frustration threshold as well as problem-solving skills. They learn patience, precision and perseverance. Games help to reduce stress because they require a clear focus, and expressing frustration in a game context can also have a positive learning effect: Get upset for a moment and leave it behind. On top of that comes the social moment, i.e. not only playing together with friends, but also acting in a team. This often requires a willingness to compromise and leadership qualities as a team leader. Standing up for one's solutions, thinking strategically and arguing smart is also something that has to be learned. And: A study from England shows that playing video games can promote young people's reading skills, creativity and empathy.
Please don't get me wrong: no one is saying that the use of computer and video games is always conflict-free between parents and children. I know about the discussions that take place here. Moreover, everything is always based on the premise of healthy usage behaviour.
But used correctly, computer and video games can have many positive effects that are also important for life. It is not for nothing that gamers are increasingly at the top of companies' hiring lists because of their soft skills.
But that is also a topic for another time.
Text: Sabine Saeidy-Nory