One could easily joke that video games curse people with the power of Invisibility. Or perhaps Animal Mimicry. Sure, gamers spend entire weekends hidden from view while leveling up. We may forgo showering on occasion, and, yes, we might even go berserk when our teammates go feed and we lose a winnable game. I’m serious though: Video games are steadily transforming us into superheroes.
The salary earned by some pro gamers is more than enough to buy some gadgets and a fancy car. However, I’m talking about real physical and mental abilities. Video games have blessed us with a handful of superpowers that we can use for good. Let’s start with the one trait all superheroes have in common.
Altruistic morality. In an alternate reality, altruistic morality gives superheroes the ability to make great, selfless sacrifices to protect the cities and people they love. In our current reality, many would say that video games are a waste of time and only teach violence.
Gabe Zichermann summarizes the truth about video games and violence best in his recent TED Talk, How Games Make Kids Smarter: “Study after study very clearly tells you that violent games do not make children violent.” He goes on to say, “We also must acknowledge, however, if you have a child predisposed to violence, violent games may help make him a better violent child.” Fortunately, two studies — at Stanford University and Iowa State University — show that video games can encourage prosocial behavior in the rest of us. That is to say, being heroic in a game can make you more altruistic in the real world.
I’ll recommend games that encourage prosocial behavior in my upcoming video game gift guide.
Enhanced vision. In an alternate reality, enhanced vision gives you the ability to see through objects or shoot heat rays from your eyes. In our boring reality, the University of Rochester has concluded via a scientific study that video games improve peripheral vision and contrast sensitivity function. This means gamers can see farther, wider and more clearly than non-gamers.
Want to gain enhanced vision? Consider buying a telescopic contact lens developed at the University of California, San Diego, or…
Start playing first-person shooters like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (for constant fast-paced action) or Destiny (if you need storyline). If you want a non-violent option, check out an app that came out of the University of California at Riverside, called Ultimeyes. It’s a much less colorful experience, but studies show enhanced vision can be achieved with four 25-minute sessions a week in as little as eight weeks.
Technopathy. In an alternate reality, technopathy gives the ability to control or communicate with machines through a psychic connection or a simple touch. In our current reality, video games have been a primary form of entertainment for many over the past two decades, and technology has become a ubiquitous part of every day life. Babies seem born with an understanding of how to unlock an iPad and find the Hulu app.
Limiting TV and game time isn’t a bad idea. If you want a doctor in the family though, you may want to encourage family video game night.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston stacked high-school gamers against medical school graduates in residency. The groups performed robotic surgery on a virtual patient, and the high-school gamers won. Researchers believe a gaming habit refined the high schoolers’ fine motor skills and allowed them to more easily connect with new robotic technology.
Precognition. In an alternate reality, precognition gives the ability to see future events years, hours or just moments before they come to pass. In this reality, some posit that humans are about to take their next evolutionary step. Until that time, it’s a stretch to say video games have made us psychic.
However, video games have been proven to increase gray matter in areas of the brain controlling motor skills, memory and strategic thinking. IQ has also steadily increased over time. IQ is a combination of two types of intelligence: Crystalline intelligence or “book smarts,” and fluid intelligence or “intuitive problem solving.” There are five things you can do to improve your fluid intelligence: seek novelty, challenge yourself, think creatively, do things the hard way and be social. In other words, play a new video game will better your intuition. (You could also try Lumosity, a suite of games designed specifically to train your brain.)
Healing factor. In an alternate reality, healing factor provides the ability to rapidly heal cuts, burns and injuries that otherwise might prove fatal (or at least leave a nasty scar). In our current reality, video games have been proven to heal body and mind.
Video games are used to treat depression and help stroke victims recover grip strength. Brain teaser games can take years off of your brain age. Another study at the University of Iowa used a game now called Double Decision to prove this. Games also feed the pleasure center of the brain which them great pain management aids for patients dealing with chronic illness. Of course, like other forms of pain treatment, video games can be addictive.
Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben (and Voltaire) said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Game in moderation, game with friends, and use the superpowers given to you by video games for good.
Image credits: Society 6