How is life different from video games

My challenge Between suction and addiction - How video games change our brain

The cat has seven lives. In six of them it falls down somewhere where it had no business. Link has three lives, avatar of a video game series. In all of them he falls down where he - unlike the cat - had to look for something, namely a princess. And it's called Zelda. Zelda is made up. Just like the whole open-world game series, in which a player, instead of following levels, can freely decide which challenges to face. So whether she prefers to ride a horse through green landscapes instead of fighting trolls. Because the less nerve-wracking part of this game doesn't have much to gain, fighting trolls and monsters is worth it. Chatting with Maulender Myrtle in the paddling pool and holding magic eggs under water is, however, cold coffee. In such cases, when you have to open treasure chests, ride horses and shoot trolls, gambling can be exhausting. But it can also bring a lot.

Gray matter in the brain increases

Neuroscientist Simone Kühn from the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development investigates the question of how our brain reacts to video games. In one of their research, she and her team let people with little or no experience with video games play Super Mario 64 for two months. In this platformer too, you can move freely through a game world. The researchers looked at the brains of the players in the MRI.

Knowledge 1: the gray mass, in which the cell bodies of the nerve cells of the brain are located, had increased in the players.

Knowledge 2: the test subjects improved their spatial thinking. The subsequent ability tests showed that, for example, they did not have to turn a map, as the saying goes, but that they could mentally transfer what they saw into their orientation system. Conclusion: Computer games not only make our brain grow, they teach us everyday skills.

"Computer games train our brain," explains Simone Kühn, "just as everything we do shapes our brain". One could now assume that, for example, playing football on the console has similar training effects as playing football in the non-virtual world. However, this is not the case. Instead, the brain reacts to the activities, says Simone Kühn. "When I play a lot of football - outdoors - my brain is set up for football games. When I play a lot of video games, I mainly shape my brain accordingly." The special thing about video games is that there are constant rewards that have a stimulating effect on the brain.

In video games there are simply a lot of motivating elements due to this level system and this constant feedback. This means you learn relatively quickly.

Simone Kühn, neuroscientist at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Sounds reasonable. We learn quickly everything that is fun.

Between suction and addiction

This playful component of video games is also used in research by Federico Alvarez. At the Institute for Border Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene in Freiburg im Breisgau, he investigates the extent to which our perception of time changes in video games and virtual spaces.

Constant rewards keep us very focused, get into a flow. A state in which you forget yourself and the world. This condition - according to the working thesis of Federico Alvarez and colleagues - can alleviate depression. For example, one symptom of this complex disease could be feeling like you're stuck in time. This is exactly where computer games could be useful.

In a study, Federico Alvarez, together with Shiva Khoshnoud and Marc Wittmann, was able to show that the more their test subjects were in the flow, the faster they felt the time passed. The opposite side of the coin: Many of these video games have a kind of pull that can be addicting.

There is a risk of addiction where someone feels the need to play when they actually don't want to play.

Federico Alvarez, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology, Freiburg i. Br.

MDR-WISSEN reporter Daniela Schmidt explores the boundaries between gambling and gambling addiction in the new episode of the podcast "Meine Challenge". But this much can be revealed: In the best case scenario, video games help us, much like a good book or a good film.

Video games always have several dimensions

Sebastian Ostritsch deals with the ethical dimensions of computer games and captures what is unnecessarily inflated in this debate. "When you evaluate a video game from an ethical and moral point of view, it is not even clear what you mean," he argues and pleads for careful separation. A distinction is to be made whether one evaluates the interaction between two players, their action on the screen, or the whole practice, ie "that someone is sitting in front of the screen, pushing buttons and neglecting all his other duties". According to Ostritsch, these are very different aspects of video gaming.

In the video game debate, however, only one or two aspects are assessed. The overall context mostly falls behind. It's a bit like a fruit basket: there are ten different types of fruit in it, and yet everyone always grabs the apples and pears. Such an apple and pear topic is the question of how gaming affects behavior in the non-virtual world. Are we actually becoming more violent because we are playing a video game that involves violence?

If you look at serious studies with sufficiently large test groups and clear definitions of terms, there is no evidence that computer games promote violence.

Sebastian Ostritsch, philosopher at the University of Stuttgart