5 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

#2. Games Are Turning out to be Great for Physical Rehab

Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

Back when the Nintendo Wii came out in 2006, you may have seen all sorts of news stories about how people were using it to exercise, and usually they had some video of old people in a nursing home playing Wii Sports Bowling or whatever. Then, like a year later everybody stuffed their Wii into their closet because it really is kind of a pain in the ass to have to stand up and flail your arms around instead of kicking back with a control pad (hell, how many of you are still using your Kinect?).

But that doesn't mean the nursing homes got rid of their consoles. It's not because the elderly are big into Mario Kart, but because video games are turning out to be great tools for physical rehab.

Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
"Which one of you bitches wants my virtual boot up your cyber ass?"

You can just ask the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, for instance. They found if you stick the injured party in front of a Wii Fit, they're likely to rehab longer and harder. Why? It's no mystery -- it's because these games are not the pure hell of mind-numbing tedium that is normal rehab. Yes, if a gamer is choosing between Wii Fit and sitting on his ass and playing Black Ops, he's probably going to choose the latter, as proven by plummeting Wii sales over the last few years. But if a rehab patient is choosing between a Wii fitness game and having a therapist shout "NOW SQUAT! AGAIN!" over and over, they're going to pick the Wii.

This is far from a new idea, by the way; researchers at Moscow State University were testing controlled movement gaming on children with Erb's Palsy as far back as 1995. The game not only improved the children's arm control, but motivated them to rehab harder, because again, fun. In fact, their desire to win was so great, they were willing to fight through the pain, in order to collect the reward at the end. Even if the reward was simply pixelated potato vodka on the rocks.

Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Mmmmmm. Can I get a block of olives, while I'm at it?"

This isn't just the games that make you get up and move, either -- the iPad has turned out to be a blessing for disabled kids. The National Down's Syndrome Center found that kids with the disease are using tablet games, with buttons that correspond to simple phrases, to tell people what they're thinking. If they want pizza, they tap the button that says, "I want," and the button that says "pizza," and the tablet blurts out, "I want pizza." The iPad interface means basically zero training is required to learn the device, so the kids are able to jump right into the learning games for the same reason your grandma got into Angry Birds.

Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
"I fucking know what it is! Back off before I murder you right in the child!"

#1. Games Can Improve Parents' Relationships With Children (If They Play Together)

Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Parents, do you feel like video games have stolen your child? Whereas once your innocent angel talked of sports and school, do they now barely grunt out a "hello" before immediately bolting for another round of Chainsaw Guns Of War? But what can you do? You might as well turn in your parent card now, because the XBox is your kid's new mommy.

Or you could, you know, join them.

Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
"You want me to pay for college? Better start practicing your offense."

The Journal of Adolescent Health did a study that found that children who played video games with parents behave better, feel more connected to their families, and have stronger overall mental health. Not bad, huh? Well, there are two caveats. One, your kid has to be a girl. According to the study, boys turn out the exact same, whether you play together or leave them alone.

Also, the games have to be age-appropriate. Any positive effects your daughter could gain from co-gaming are nullified, once the games become too mature for their demographic. So picking up a copy of Lollipop Chainsaw for your 7-year-old will not only nullify any positive effects gaming might bestow, it would also confuse the shit out of her.

Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Daddy ... what's a prostitute, and why do you keep beating her with a crowbar?"

That's not to say that gaming with your son is useless; according to research from Dr. Randy Kulman of LearningWorks for Kids, if your kid (either gender) gets pissy and irritable when they make a mistake, playing video games with them could actually help them cope. How? By showing them that you screw up sometimes, too. Gaming, in other words, is kind of an equalizer -- you're stepping into the world where your kid doesn't feel inferior, and in fact can probably kick your ass. A world where it's okay to make mistakes. To a kid at that stage of life where he or she feels like they can't do anything right, that can be a goddamned breath of fresh air.

To see some entries that didn't make it, see Rich's blog here or follow him on Twitter. Patrick is a wannabe writer masquerading as an engineer. You can make fun of him on Twitter @PTatGT or send him hate mail at jp.thomas7@gmail.com.

For more unexpected saviors of humanity, check out 6 People You've Never Heard of Who Probably Saved Your Life and 5 Terrifying Animals That Could Save Your Life Someday.

Recommended For Your Pleasure

To turn on reply notifications, click here


The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!