It's no secret that one of the most popular past-times during this pandemic strange-scape has been playing video games. Lately, the one I'm most addicted to is one of the simplest. It's a crossword-type game that, if you're a lover of words like me, causes you to think about the wide variety of words in the English language.

I admit, I'm one of those "weird" grown-up lady gamers. Always have been. Even before in the pre-pandemic good, old days. Now, it started when I was a wee lass with the old school Atari with all of its Pong and Pitfall glory.Then Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt entered the picture and the great gaming frenzy hit stores and suburban malls everywhere. Ah, can't you just hear the theme music in your head?...(dun, dun, dun, d-dun, DUN.) Many an evening was spent jumping, hitting bricks for coins, and saving the princess.

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Games have come a LONG way since then, and we won't walk through their vast evolution here. However, let's just say Pong's pixelated parrying has graduated to adventure and role-playing games that are wonderfully (and eerily) realistic. Next stop, holodeck? We shall see.

Reflecting on some of the games I've played over the years, some have required me to think deeply about strategy, concentrate fully, and use some intense hand and eye coordination. Can you relate? Plus, some of the story lines are so intricate, it is a bit like reading a great novel--except this is one in which you participate. Aren't these some of the very skills we both teach our young and utilize to keep our brains alert as we get older?

Despite the concerns of our parents, and perhaps your own in regard to your own kids, the research is showing some interesting results. Disclaimer: obviously, sitting for days on end, mindlessly becoming a screen zombie isn't good for you. However, this is definitely good news for gamers like you and me.

The Chicago Sun-Times posted an article this morning about author Jordan Shapiro's book,  The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World, in which he discusses the benefits of not only video games, but also social media and educational tech. He posits that the potential cognitive benefits of video games to a child's development are substantial and may even be an important prerequisite to their later success in our tech-heavy world. Read more about that here.

What about adults? In a recent study, gaming was shown to increase our gray matter. What does that mean? That means potentially increasing our cognitive processes and making us smarter. In this article, potential benefits mentioned include improved coordination, enhanced memory function, and a "leveled-up" ability to multi-task.

To be clear, for those prone to excessive gaming that borders on addiction, utilizing other activities that also have similar positive effects are recommended--such as sports or art-related recreation. Balance, my friend. Balance.

Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment.

*Leaves to play more Wordscapes on phone* 

OK, I'm back and feeling more "cognitively-developed." Perhaps I'll dig in a bit more to the original research leading to these most excellent findings. If you're also feeling uber-cerebral after your latest Far Cry adventure and would like to read more about the study, read more here.

Happy Gaming. Play responsibly. ;)

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