6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

Turns out gamers have science on their side now, as studies are showing that games may be turning us into a race of compassionate, keenly analytical lard-asses.
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...

Improve Your Eyesight

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

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.

5685 547 KNOB CREE

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.

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

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.

Relieve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

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.

Arf Arf! I have Diabetes!

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.

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

"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.

Make You Nicer (Some of Them, Anyway)

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

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.

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

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.

LBVG X0X300 gRand thefr aUtIV. M R

Help Track the Spread of Disease

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

Most people assume that World of Warcraft has only two practical applications: It teaches you to gain weight and also haggle for virtual money with impoverished Chinese sweatshop workers. But did you know the game is pretty good at simulating public-health crises? That's heady stuff for a game about gnome knights and she-cow sorcerers.

In September 2005, "Corrupted Blood," a virtual plague, spread through the fictional world of Azeroth, killing everything in its path. WoW's programmers designed the outbreak to infect only higher-level players, but a nasty glitch let Corrupted Blood jump from the elite players to even the lowliest Dwarven shoguns and Orcish taxidermists.

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

"I don't even know what the fuck we're talking about anymore."-Photo Research Department.

While the game's administrators struggled to quarantine the infected, some bright bulbs noted this virtual pandemic modeled the spread of real-world disease, particularly with regards to human response. Epidemiologists usually rely on past data and statistics to predict an outbreak's trajectory, but with the Corrupted Blood incident they had a digital terrarium filled with real people escaping cities, risking their lives to heal the sick and generally freaking the fuck out.

The Corrupted Blood mishap proved to be a blessing in disguise. Public health researchers gained a trendy new research tool, and Warcraft finally contributed something worthwhile to the canon of human thought (besides Leeroy Jenkins that is).

Stave Off Senility

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

The human body does not age like a fine wine. Your skin prunes, your libido droops and you forget your own damn name. Not to worry, though, human ingenuity has come up solutions to all these problems. You have Botox for your face, Viagra for your junk and... Starcraft for your cranium?

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

That's right, world domination is great for grandpa's mental health, even if he's only conquering from behind a computer screen. Researchers at the University of Illinois instructed one group of elderly volunteers to play Rise of Nations for 23.5 hours and another group to sit around being old. After just a day's worth of real-time strategy games, the first group saw marked improvements in multitasking, concentration and short-term memory, all the while having fun and ignoring the looming specter of death.

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

The cognitive gains from gaming aren't exclusive to the Greatest Generation. In fact, whippersnappers like you can boost your attention span by living vicariously through the oldies. Researchers from the University of Rochester and University of Queensland studied the brains of gamers who played Medal of Honor and Tetris. The MoH players, who had to multitask in a 3D world, scored higher on cognitive tests than the Tetris players, who were busy zeroing in on single descending block at a time. Once again, the killing games worked better. We knew it!

Turn You Into a Top Surgeon

6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind

Did you bomb your MCATs? If it was because you spent the prior evening dominating the Ms. Pac-Man leaderboard at your corner tavern, don't give up your med school dreams just yet. A 2003 Iowa State study says your drunken, cirrhotic ass is doctor material, dammit.

ISU researchers tasked doctors and medical school residents with three different games testing motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Those surgeons who got in at least three hours of gaming a week conducted laparoscopic surgery 27 percent faster with around 37 percent less mistakes.

Just to clarify, laparoscopic surgeons use fiber optic cameras and joysticks to navigate the body's cramped, blood-filled tunnels. So yeah, laparoscopic surgery is exactly like Doom 3.


The benefits of this gaming regimen are pretty significant. According to study participant Dr. James Rosser, the difficulty of laparoscopic surgery is on par with "tying your shoelaces with three-foot-long chopsticks."

Well, if you put it like that, Dr. Rosser, we'll revise our analogy: Laparoscopic surgery is like Ninja Gaiden, but you have to beat the game without killing anybody.

Want to be Internet famous? Cracked can help! Just go here and sign up. No experience necessary.

For more video games fun--as if you don't get enough already--check out The 7 Commandments All Video Games Should Obey and 10 Video Games That Should Be Considered Modern Art.

And stop by Twitter to get previews of upcoming articles and trick your friends into thinking you're psychic.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?