Gaming Can Enhance Children’s Intellectual Development
Games are the largest and fastest growing market segment of the multibillion-dollar entertainment industry. In 2010, annual revenue from the video game industry was $25.1 billion alone in US. The global annual revenue of video game industry was $76 billion in 2013 whereas global box office revenue for all movies was $36.4 billion in 2014 and 97% of US teens play some type of video game on a regular basis (Theatrical Statistics Summary, 2014).
The history of games starts back in 1950s when as a part of computer science research academics began designing simple games. Until the 1970s and 1980s video games were not so popular among people. After the introducing of arcade video games, gaming consoles and home computer games it has become very popular to the public. In 1952, Alexander S. Douglas built a ‘OXO” a tic-tac-toe Computer game for EDSAC. In 1958, William Higinbotham made “Tennis for two”, an electronic interactive game. In 1961, MIT students Martin Graetz, Steve Russell and Wayne Wiitanen made “Spacewar!” on a DEC PDP-1 computer. First commercially sold, coin-operated video game “Computer Space” created in 1971 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (Marvin Yagoda, 2008). Nintendo’s Wii U, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 are the latest generation gaming consoles. In recent years, mobile gaming has been popular among people who are not interested in gaming before as well as not able to afford dedicated hardware.
Although many people argue that excessive video gaming leads to suffering from dysfunctional or pathological symptoms, few recent researches suggest the opposite. American Psychiatric Association has included Internet gaming disorder as a mental disorder recently after recognizing the significance of this problem (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Per Gentile, Porter et al and Rehbein et al (as cited in Choo, Sim, Liau, Gentile, Khoo, 2015), “Pathological video gaming can be defined as gaming activities that damage an individual’s social, occupational, family, school and psychological functioning, with addictive symptoms of preoccupation, tolerance, loss of control, withdrawal and escape” (p.1). In Islamic perspective, Islam discourages the believers from wasting their precious and allocated time in doing useless and worthless deeds which will bring no profit to themselves or others, either in this world or the Hereafters. Islam encourages to utilize this allocated time in doing good deeds which will bring profit to oneself or others spiritually, physically, materially or even mentally. Allah says in the Holy Quran, “I have not created the jinn and men except for this that they should worship Me alone” (Surah Dhariyat: 56).
In contrast, Choo et. al (2015) argued that, “When families function better, there is more emphasis on their children’s education and leisure, which facilitates children’s healthier social adjustment and exposure to a greater variety of educational and leisure opportunities” (p.2). Parent-child relationship is very important factor for children and adolescents’ pathological symptoms of video gaming. In this case, caring parent-child relationship is more effective rather than restriction on children’s media use. Although many researchers believe that there are many negative effects of video gaming on children’s, many studies suggest that video game enhances cognitive performances.
This paper aims to prove that gaming can enhance children’s intellectual development by developing higher cognitive abilities using therapeutic interventions to target psychiatric disorders and improving multi-tasking abilities.
Develops Higher Cognitive Abilities
Firstly, gaming develops higher cognitive abilities. (In P. Pawlik and G. d’Ydewalle, 2006) stated that “Cognition is not merely a process, but a “mental” process. Cognition indeed refers to the mental process by which external or internal input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used”. Cognition is the the mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment. That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition, knowledge which reiterates the earlier distinction between process and product, but also adds one (crucial) adjective. Studies suggest that, playing video games develops higher cognitive abilities which is contrary to the conventional beliefs that playing games is intellectually lazy and sedating. Bergland (2013) claimed that, “Video gaming can stimulate neurogenesis (growth of new neurons) and connectivity in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning” (p.1). The improvements of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity were found in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. These brain regions are responsible for functions like spatial navigation, memory function and strategic planning (Bergland, 2013).
Furthermore, gaming improves cognitive function and performance by bringing the cerebral function together of the cerebrum with the cerebellar muscle memory of the cerebellum. Uttal et al. (2013, as cited in Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2013) recently concluded that, the spatial skills improvements derived from playing commercially available shooter video games are comparable to the effects of formal (high school and university-level) courses aimed at enhancing these same skills. Moreover, this recent study showed that, video games can train spatial skills in a short period of time and the benefits of that training stay for a longer period of time. Bavelier, Achtman , Mani and Focker (2012, as cited in Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2013) conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in which they found that, “The mechanisms that control attention allocation (e.g., the front-parietal network) were less active during a challenging pattern-detection task in regular gamers than in non-gamers”(p.8). They indicated from the study that in terms of allocating attentional resources more efficiently and filter out irrelevant information more effectively, shooter game players outperform non-gamers. It is important to note that, all type of video games do not improve cognitive and spatial abilities. Shooter games contribute most in developing higher cognitive performances but not puzzle or role-playing games.
In addition to sum up higher cognitive ability, video games help children to acquire an incremental theory of intelligence because they provide players concrete, immediate feedback (Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2013). According to Elliot and Dweck (2015), incremental theory of intelligence is intelligence which is not fixed rather than it is malleable and can be increased through effort. In brief, gaming can enhance many cognitive ability, spatial navigation and motivate children to develop better intellectual ability.
Therapeutic Interventions Targeting Psychiatric Disorders
Secondly, gaming in Therapeutic interventions are targeted psychiatric disorders. Apart from developing higher cognitive abilities according to some researcher video games can offer some benefit to those who have autism spectrum disorder. Video games are now using for clinical care of people in mental health care as well as other fields. Many psychiatrists and game developers teaming up to make specific video games for use in mental health care. According to recent research, there are some methods which are often equivalent to more traditional treatments and may be more acceptable and that is electronic games (EG), electronics games for psychotherapy (EGP) and electronic games for entertainment (EGE) (Horne-Moyer, H. Moyer, C. Messer & S. Messer, 2014).
A review from Baranowski, Buday, Thompson and Baranowski (2008) indicated that, EGE have been used successfully for chemotherapy-related nausea, preoperative anxiety, fitness, physical therapy and cognitive rehabilitation (cited in Horne-Moyer, H. Moyer, C. Messer & S. Messer, 2014). Researcher of Oxford University found that playing Tetris after traumatic events could reduce flashbacks. This research was conducted to reduce the painful memories linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researcher compared Tetris with Pub Quiz Machine 2008, a word based quiz game to see the effect was found only in Tetris or with other games as well. The investigators began by showing volunteers a gruesome film with traumatic images of injury and death, such as fatal traffic accidents and graphic scenes of human surgery. After waiting a half-hour, in the first experiment 20 volunteers played Pub Quiz, 20 played Tetris for 10 minutes and 20 did nothing. After a week examining dairies the volunteers kept to record any instances of flashbacks to the film, they found that Pub Quiz significantly increased the flashbacks while Tetris significantly reduced them. The researchers conducted the same experiment again with 25 volunteers in each group and concluded with the same result (Choi, 2010). Previous studies have suggested that, computer games in general could be of help as additional interventions (Wilkinson et al., 2003 as cited in Aranda et al., 2012), in areas such as schizophrenia (Bellack et al., 2015 as cited in Aranda et al., 2012), anxiety disorders (Walshe et al., 2003 as cited in Aranda et al., 2012) and attention deficit hyper-activity disorders (ADHD) (Arns et al., 2009 as cited in Aranda et al., 2012).
Although there has been very few research has done on the effect of video games in psychotherapy, future collaborations between clinicians and video game developers may produce specific games to be used in psychotherapy. It is important to note that, not every video games can play a role in psychotherapy and some can do the opposite. There are many games available nowadays which can train our brain for better concentration and focus. At last, video games can help people with mental disorder such as schizophrenia, ADHD, anxiety and autism spectrum as well as can improve mood and promote relaxation.