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Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Playing Video Games

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In recent decades, video gaming has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment worldwide, with adolescents and young adults forming the most substantial group of consumers, spending an average of nine hours per day interacting with some form of entertainment media.

The growth of the Internet and access to high-speed connectivity has led to a shift from ‘traditional’ video gaming (one player versus machine) to sophisticated interactive multi-player video gaming, substantially increasing the proportion of time spent playing video games.

A young video gamer. Image Credit: Anton27 / Shutterstock

A young video gamer. Image Credit: Anton27 / Shutterstock

As the development of video gaming and its use has increased, apprehension regarding dysfunctional or problematic video gaming has grown in tandem.

One recently described phenomenon known as video gaming addiction (a term often used interchangeably with Internet addiction) has parallels with other forms of addictive behaviour.

Individuals with problematic preoccupations with gaming show similar patterns of behaviour to those with recognised addiction disorders, including compulsive use, decline in functioning and withdrawal symptoms.

Although the term is controversial, the growing body of evidence surrounding problematic gaming has led to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) deeming ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’ (IGD) as warranting further study regarding whether it should be included as a unique mental disorder.

Population studies in Europe and the United States estimate the prevalence of problematic gaming at between 1.5% and 8.2%. Clearly, most gamers do not develop a dysfunctional relationship with video gaming.

The effect of gaming on non-problematic gamers

Media reports on the impact of gaming have been mixed, making positive and negative health claims about the effects of engaging in video game play, although these are rarely evidence based. Nonetheless, there is a growing body of scientific literature exploring the possible benefits and disadvantages of video gaming.

A recent systematic review analysed the results of over one hundred studies to determine if, and to what extent, playing video games can influence brain activity and behaviour, and grouped results into the following categories.

Attention

The most researched area with regards the impact of playing video games, several studies have shown that video game playing can lead to improvements in several attentional processes, including selective, sustained and divided attention.

More rigorous research is required about processes underpinning these advantages, but there is emerging evidence that regions of the brain implicated in attention are more proficient in gamers.

Resource allocation (the amount of resource within the brain recruited to complete a task) appears more efficient. Using brain imaging techniques, found that compared to non-gamers, gamers completing processing tasks during MRI scanning were able to allocate attention resources more effectively, possibly filtering out irrelevant information automatically.

Visuospatial skills

Visuospatial skills refer to the neural processes that allow us to perceive visual information and understand spatial relationships between objects.

Skills include navigation of the environment and judging distance, and visuospatial processing is predominantly controlled by the hippocampal region of the brain. Given that video games predominantly include interactive visual tasks, research has investigated differences in the neural correlates of visuospatial processing between gamers and non-gamers.

A series of MRI studies found positive correlations between the lifetime amount of video gaming and hippocampus volume.

Furthermore, comparisons of controls with people who completed thirty minutes of video game playing for two months showed a significant increase in hippocampal matter following training.

Cognitive control

Cognitive control encompasses skills such as reactive inhibition (learning to avoid certain actions), proactive inhibition (where learning is inhibited by previous memories), rapidly switching between tasks and working memory. Such processes which are controlled by the prefrontal cortex, are key skills in video game playing.

During game playing, increased activation has been observed in these areas, with the level of activation positively correlated with the difficulty level of the game. Moreover, studies which include cognitive training via video gaming have shown volumetric increases in this brain region.

Interestingly, different categories of video games appear to affect different cognitive processes. For example, a study examining the benefit of ‘brain training’ using video games with older adults showed a strategy game improved verbal memory span but had no effect on working memory or problem-solving skills. When training involved an action game, improvements were seen in problem-solving and reasoning.

Aggression

A regularly cited concern is the impact of gaming on aggression. Derived from theories of social learning, proponents of a link between the two have theorised that repeated exposure to violent material increases violent thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

Attempts to demonstrate a link empirically have been mixed, and reviews of the evidence base point to methodological shortcomings and publication bias.

Adopting a stringent methodology, these authors sampled over one thousand adolescents and their carers in the UK and found no association between time spent playing violent video games and likelihood of antisocial behaviour or aggression.

Physical activity

Adolescents and adults who spend large amounts of time playing video games or otherwise engaging in screen time need to be cognizant of their physical activity levels.

Most video game playing time is sedentary and even the use of active video games has not been shown to improve overall physical activity levels. Daily moderate to vigorous physical activity should be prioritized over screen time for both children and adults.

References

  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
  • Anderson CA, Bushman BJ, Bartholow BD, et al. Screen violence and youth behavior. Pediatrics. 2017;140(2):S142–S147. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758T, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29093050
  • Bavelier, D., Green, C. S., Pouget, A., and Schrater, P. (2012b). Brain plasticity through the life span: learning to learn and action video games. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 35, 391–416. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909-152832, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=22715883
  • Izzetoglu, K., Bunce, S., Onaral, B., Pourrezaei, K., and Chance, B. (2004). Functional optical brain imaging using near-infrared during cognitive tasks. Int. J. Hum. Comput. Interact. 17, 211–227. doi: 10.1207/s15327590ijhc1702_6, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327590ijhc1702_6
  • Kühn, S., and Gallinat, J. (2013). Amount of lifetime video gaming is positively associated with entorhinal, hippocampal and occipital volume. Mol. Psychiatry 19, 842–847. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.100, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=23958958
  • Kühn, S., Gleich, T., Lorenz, R. C., Lindenberger, U., and Gallinat, J. (2014). Playing Super Mario induces structural brain plasticity: gray matter changes resulting from training with a commercial video game. Mol. Psychiatry 19, 265–271. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.120, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=24166407
  • Nielsen. Multi-Platform Gaming: For the Win! New York (NY); 2014, http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/multi-platform-gaming-for-the-win.html
  • Palaus M, Marrón EM, Viejo-Sobera R, Redolar-Ripoll D. Neural basis of video gaming: a systematic review. Front Hum Neurosci. (2017) 11:248. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00248, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=28588464, Przybylski AK, Weinstein N. Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report. R Soc Open Sci. 2019 Feb 13;6(2):171474. doi: 10.1098/rsos.171474. eCollection 2019 Feb. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30891250
  • Weinstein A, Lejoyeux M. Internet addiction or excessive internet use. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2010 Sep;36(5):277-83. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2010.491880.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/screen-play/201810/how-much-screen-time-should-kids-be-allowed-each-day
  • An active video game intervention does not improve physical activity and sedentary time of children at-risk for developmental coordination disorder: a crossover randomized trial, Child Care Health Dev. 2016 Mar;42(2):253-60. doi: 10.1111/cch.12305, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26648488



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5 ways phone gaming will get better, thanks to new Qualcomm chip

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Mobile gaming is picking up some new desktop gaming tricks for better gameplay overall.


Angela Lang/CNET

Two digital pinballs roll slowly across the screen, one a dull grey blob, the other a dynamic orb with light and shadow dancing off its surface as it rolled. This is one demo Qualcomm used this week to show off how its new 5G chips for 2020 — the Snapdragon 865 and 765G — will upgrade gaming on your future phone. 

Built for high-end devices, the Snapdragon 865 chipset contains the lion’s share of the new features, which you should expect to see on phones like a future Samsung Galaxy S11 or LG G9. Meanwhile, the Snapdragon 765G is a midprice 5G chip made just for gaming phones, a distinction from the regular Snapdragon 765 that should help nudge more phones for gamers into the market.

Mobile gaming is an enormous business, and growing every day. Fortnite had nearly 250 million players around the world in March 2019, according to Statista. Esports viewers will surpass every pro sports league by 2021, and 80% of gamers in China will pay more for a gaming phone according to Qualcomm. 

We’ve already seen gaming phones such as the Razer Phone 2 and Asus ROG Phone II help push the demand to bring desktop gaming benefits, which include higher screen refresh rates that make graphics smoother and software modes that keep the focus on the game, to mobile. 

Here’s how gaming on phones can look more like desktop gaming.

5G rendering speeds for premium and midrange phones

Any phone in 2020 that uses either the Snapdragon 865 or 765G chips will work with 5G networks, and that’s good for gaming. 

Faster speeds mean you’ll be able to download large game files faster, and it’ll also make real-time gaming possible. You might even gain an advantage against cloud gamers on 4G, who will be hampered by slower reaction times. (The 765G’s Adreno 620 GPU renders graphics 10% faster than the standard 765.)

Snapdragon 865 supports 5G speeds up to 7.3Gbps, while 765G supports up to 3.7Gbps downloads over 5G.

digital-pinball-qualcomm-snapdragon-865

A demo phone with Snapdragon 865 inside powers this digital pinball machine.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Up to 144Hz screen refresh rate

Higher-than usual screen refresh rates are starting to hit the mainstream, thanks to support for 90Hz displays in the Pixel 4 and OnePlus 7T, and 120Hz screens in the Asus ROG Phone II and the Razer Phone 2. 

That means smoother graphics rendering and faster response time for gameplay, which promises to make the experience smoother overall. Snapdragon 865 will support up to 144Hz display refresh rates, which is a first for mobile and the gold standard for desktop, Qualcomm said, especially among competitive gamers and eSports players.

Qualcomm added that PUBG Mobile now has a 90fps gaming mode that’ll roll out soon, after working with Qualcomm to optimize the refresh rate.

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The Pixel 4 and OnePlus 7T both use 90Hz refresh rates on their displays.


Angela Lang/CNET

Unoptimized games get a graphics makeover

There are a lot of engines baked into Snapdragon’s Elite Gaming platform to make games look their best, like adding support for over 1 billion colors and 10-bit HDR gaming. 

But for games that aren’t designed for such high-resolution graphics from the ground up, Qualcomm’s chips aim to automatically enhance the graphics’ colors and details on all games running on Snapdragon, without having to make changes to game code. 

One example is Lineage II: Revolution, which has made over $1 billion in revenue and commands an average of four hours’ gameplay in a single session. In the demo we saw, playing on Snapdragon 865 changed the fast-paced action and scenery from blurry and glassy to saturated and sharper just by enhancing the color, which in turn helps differentiate details.

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Lights and shadows

Let’s return to pinballs bouncing around the screen. Snapdragon’s gaming suite is designed to apply desktop-level depth of field, dynamic lighting, shadows and motion blur to make the little details more immersive and realistic.

In addition, a new hardware feature, called Adreno HDR Fast Blend, can accelerate the rendering of particle effects such as fire, snow and smoke, which use up a lot of resources to process well. This tool helps squeeze out those details quickly and accurately, without churning through battery and overheating your phone.  

Get driver updates straight from Google Play

PC gamers can update their drivers frequently, to fix bugs, and also boost performance. Being able to update individual GPU drivers wasn’t possible on Android, but a partnership with Google has made it so. 

You’ll soon be able to download drivers from the Google Play store, starting with Qualcomm’s app, called Adreno GPU Driver. You’ll be able to access those drivers after you’ve had your phone for awhile, not only just after it’s launched.

Qualcomm announced a heap of other news this week, including how Android R will let you store a digital version of your driver’s license, and support for phones with 200-megapixel cameras.

Originally published earlier today.

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