Cognitive Effects of Gaming – Is It Time To Stop Ignoring Them?
Game developers put their heart and soul into making their games stand out, creating them to be enjoyable, competitive and fun. Yet the more nerve-wracking and violent a game is, the more popular it tends to get, engaging new fans within the gaming community.
“You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery
While game developers work hard to incentivize gamers to keep playing and getting more addicted, few think about the cognitive downsides their games may cause in the long run. Psychologists and neuroscientists keep ringing the alarm, focusing on the negative side effects that gaming has on different parts of our brain, but in reality they are tilting at windmills while game developers keep making new games that top the charts and bring in millions of dollars.
Maybe a more balanced approach would be for game developers to show more responsibility for their gamers’ well-being by addressing the side effects of excessive gaming early in the game design? The below infographic explains the neurology of gaming:
Game developers wield a lot of power over the way a game will be experienced by its players.
Keeping in mind the above findings, game developers can avoid the criticism of developing games that are outright harmful by doing the following:
- balance real-time action with logical challenges to maximize game’s cognitive benefit potential
- keep the game sessions (levels, uninterrupted game space) more compact rather than expansive to challenge and reward players more often
- if the game features violence, make sure it is not solely at the discretion of the game character, but perpetrated by third parties, helping gamers develop more empathy
- in cooperative play, reward player actions and choices that help other players and make aggression towards other players unrewarding or undesirable due to consequences
- build in game power-ups that encourage shorter playing periods (hints, gifts that only improve gaming experience for 1-2 hours) to discourage very long spells of continuous play
The above principles won’t silence all the game critics, but may help make games more beneficial.
Do you agree or disagree with the above? Which game development advice would you add or modify?