Sick of stereotypes portraying gamers as fat, lazy and surrounded by chip packets on their couch? So is Siobhan Keogh. She looks at the facts.

You all know the stereotype of a gamer - a lazy, vaguely greedy person sitting in a darkened living room (or maybe basement). It's not exactly the picture of a healthy, well-adjusted human being.

I know a lot of gamers. None of them are paleo-eating crossfit junkies, but they're all pretty normal people with active social lives, romantic partners, exercise routines and full-time jobs. Some of them have two jobs, some of them are parents, and some of them run ultra-marathons. Okay, only one runs ultras.

Call me crazy, but it seems as if video games don't actually ruin the people who play them. It's almost as if - shock, horror - video games are just another means of entertainment in the same vein as TV or film.

In fact, there's empirical evidence that video games are better for you than other entertainment mediums.

Advertisement

Are games good for you? Take a look at the benefits and you be the judge.

Gamers may learn more quickly than non-gamers

According to Brown University, there is a correlation between gamers and people who learn new skills quickly - at least when learning new visual skills.

In the study, participants were asked to quickly spot anomalies in visual patterns. Participants who played games were able to do this more accurately than those who didn't. However, it's not known whether this is a skill gamers develop, or whether gamers are drawn to games because they already have this ability.

Personally, I think it's probably the former - when you play a first-person shooter, you learn how to spot something out of the corner of your eye, or you die.

Gamers make better drivers

A scene from the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
A scene from the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

Cognitive researchers from University of Rochester have shown that playing action games improves people's ability to make accurate decisions under time pressure. People who had not played video games previously played action games like Call of Duty 2 and Unreal Tournament or strategy sim The Sims 2. Those participants who played action games made decisions 25 per cent faster, but just as accurately as non-gamers.

"As you drive, for instance, you may see a movement on your right, estimate whether you are on a collision course, and based on that probability make a binary decision: brake or don't brake," says cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier.

In another study, she showed gamers had better colour vision than their non-gaming counterparts. And researchers have found surgeons who played video games were significantly better than those who didn't at laparoscopic surgeries .

Video games help sick people get better

A scene from the game Lego: Jurassic World.
A scene from the game Lego: Jurassic World.

Nottingham Trent University's Mark Griffiths has found video games can be a useful tool in healthcare because they can distract kids from pain and uncomfortable treatments.

In his study, kids who played video games were less likely to have issues with nausea and hypertension.

According to Karen Grimmer from Adelaide Women and Children's Hospital, children who were burn victims felt less pain if they played video games as a distraction.

Storytelling games can improve social skills

A scene from the game Gone Home.
A scene from the game Gone Home.

A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found non-violent storytelling games were helpful in improving some of the social issues that come with autism.

Researchers assigned autistic children one of two games - story-based game Gone Home or wall-scaling game Against the Wall - and found that those who played Gone Home had an improved ability to read facial expressions and work out whether there was an opportunity for a relationship.

Okay, there may be some details I've left out.

There are definitely scientific links between video games and childhood obesity - at least in some age groups. And video game addiction is also a serious problem for some people - it has even been linked to several deaths.

But are games worse than any other form of entertainment medium? I don't think so. There are disadvantages, but also benefits.

And if I ever need major surgery, I think I'll be asking about my surgeon's gaming credentials first.

- TimeOut