6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

So yet another study came out a few weeks ago, saying gamers are lonely, overweight and depressed.

We're not surprised, this marks about 30 straight years of hearing people claim that games will transform us all into uncivilized, halfwit lard-asses. But gamers have science on their side, too, and studies that show that games may be turning us into a race of compassionate, keenly analytical lard-asses.

According to studies, games...

#6. Improve Your Eyesight

In our fantasy hospital, where bourbon Jacuzzi treatments are covered by HMOs, optometrists would simply hand you a copy of Call of Duty instead of prescribing you glasses. Thanks to a 2006 study by the University of Rochester, our totally stupid dreams are now a smidge closer to a totally stupid reality.

Well, some of our dreams, anyway.

In order to conduct this study, the Rochester team first had the Herculean task of finding college students who rarely played video games. After coaxing test subjects out of their caves and dens, the researchers had half the students play Unreal Tournament and the other half play Tetris over the course of a month.

After 30 days of fragging, the Unreal group improved their vision by 20 percent on eye exams. A more recent Rochester study using first-person shooters increased weekly play to 50 hours over nine weeks. This time the Unreal gamers saw a 43 percent increase in their ability to distinguish between shades of gray.

By the time he's 23, that kid will be able to see through walls.

And the Tetris players? They reported no increase in visual acuity. That's right; it's the murder that made them see better.

#5. Relieve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

A game of Tetris has many practical applications, from speeding up a boring subway ride to waiting out a bashful bowel movement. But did you know that the game can wash away painful, indelible memories? You may think nyet, but psychologists at Oxford University say da.

The researchers exposed 40 healthy volunteers to a series of highly upsetting images. After this montage, half the group played Tetris while the other 20 sat around with nothing to do but bawl their eyes out over what we suspect was a slideshow of injured puppies.

The softest and most adorable diabetes in town.

In the proceeding weeks, those who played Tetris experienced fewer traumatic flashbacks than those who didn't. The study speculates that the short-term analytical rigors of a Tetris game interfered with the subjects' ability to store long-term sensory memories. Or, to put it in sensationally unscientific terms, the game was erasing the players' minds.

There are limits to Tetris' cognitive magic. Tetris can only downplay traumatic events happening within the previous six hours, so if you've just seen an Uwe Boll flick, grab a Game Boy, pronto. Also, games other than Tetris don't seem to induce this emotional amnesia--for example, venting with Mortal Kombat after getting dumped will do nothing except maybe give you night terrors about Goro sexing your ex.

"Yeah, flawless Dick in your mouth... I'm sorry, baby, Goro's no good at dirty talk."

Unfortunately, the Oxford team didn't factor in the variable of Erotic Tetris, which we hypothesize would've yielded even fewer flashbacks at the expense of any and all of their grant money.

#4. Make You Nicer (Some of Them, Anyway)

Is all the racism, gay-bashing and sheer fuckwittery in the Halo 3 pre-game lobby jaundicing you against your fellow gamer? Perhaps if you played a less bloody game, that 13-year-old from Albuquerque wouldn't be so raring to inform you that he enjoys teabagging your dead grandmother. God forbid, he may just be polite.

A recent Iowa State study supports this line of thought. Researchers took 161 students and assigned each of them one of six games; three "violent" and three "pro-social" (including Super Mario Sunshine, where the player has to clean up graffiti).

After a 20-minute gaming session, the gamers paired up and assigned their partners ten puzzles, knowing the partner would win a gift certificate for completing the puzzle. Interestingly, the pro-social gamers tended to aid partners with easier puzzles. As for the violent gamers, they got off on torturing their partners with brainteasers.

The "pro social" games simply put the kids in a nicer mood. And a German study confirmed it. In that one, having gamers play Lemmings (which involves saving the relentlessly suicidal Lemmings) made them exhibit more pro-social tendencies after playing. See? It works both ways, Jack Thompson.

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