Video Games: Health Boon or Bust?

Row Of Video Games

I, like most other people my age, like to play video games. I can easily lose myself for hours on end in virtual worlds. I’m not alone either; games such as Minecraft are played by millions of people of all ages all around the world. In fact, from 2016 to 2020, it is estimated that gamers collectively spent a total of more than 68 million years playing Minecraft — and that’s just a single video game out of tens of thousands played each year. While that might sound like an unimaginable amount of time to spend playing a video game, it’s not at all surprising to me. Minecraft is especially fun to me because of all the creativity that I can use to build amazing structures and environments. I even get to interact with friends online, so I can spend time in these incredible places building palaces and surreal structures with my close friends. Sometimes I even get to make new friends this way. Despite the benefits I’ve found playing video games, many people still think that video games are bad for you for numerous reasons. So, the question is: what does the research reveal? Are video games good or bad for us? 

 

Depression, Anxiety and other Psychological Issues

One of the major worries that people have concerning video games is that they can cause depression and anxiety. Numerous studies actually show this to be true. For example, an opinion piece from the Georgia State Signal points out that, 

A comprehensive study from the Journal of Health Psychology shows that gaming disorders are linked to greater levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, social problems and many other psychological-social problems.

On the other hand, Webmd cites other sources which show that video games actually distract and help people deal with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

Video games can act as distractions from pain and psychological trauma. Video games can also help 

Woman And Virtual Reality

people who are dealing with mental disorders like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There is research supporting both arguments, so it really comes down to the individual gamer and their particular circumstances. 

 

Video Games and Violence

The argument for individual circumstances and personality is also the central factor behind the connection between video games and violence.  I’m sure there are even many readers of this article who think that video games cause violence. Video games such as Grand Theft Auto are often accused of being too violent, affecting the player’s brain in ways that lead to violent behavior in real life. Studies have shown that this is not the case. Apa.org, points out that

Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests. Violent video games have not created the generation of problem youth so often feared.

With this in mind, many will wonder: what about all of the people who got in trouble and blamed video game violence as the source of their behavior? Well, it’s more about the personality of the player rather than the game. Harvard Health says that,

Two psychologists, Dr. Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Dr. Charlotte Markey of Rutgers University, have presented evidence that some children may become more aggressive as a result of watching and playing violent video games, but that most are not affected. After reviewing the research, they concluded that the combination of three personality traits might be most likely to make an individual act and think aggressively after playing a violent video game. The three traits they identified were high neuroticism (prone to anger and depression, highly emotional, and easily upset), disagreeableness (cold, indifferent to other people), and low levels of conscientiousness (prone to acting without thinking, failing to deliver on promises, breaking rules).

Just like with loneliness and depression, games themselves are never the sole cause of problems. For example, I have personally played many violent video games, and I’m certainly not a violent person. While it might be true that violent video games can make an already violent person more violent, it does not appear to be the case that video games specifically cause violence. 

 

Playing Video GamesBottom Line: Video Games are Good for You

If video games aren’t bad for you, then are they good for you? Well, in fact, yes! Video games can benefit players in a multitude of ways, including and not limited to improvement in:

  • memory
  • spatial visualization
  • mood
  • social skills
  • perception
  • physical fitness
  • decision making
  • youthfulness
  • problem solving skills
  • curiosity

As a specific example, studies have shown that fast paced games can help you make quick decisions

Fast-paced video games like Need For Speed or Call of Duty require you to stay on your toes and make decisions quickly. These energizing action games can also improve your ability to make game-time decisions in real life.

In terms of benefit to motor function, Psychologicalscience.org says that:

Playing action-based video games may boost players’ ability to coordinate incoming visual information with their motor control, a skill critical to many real-world behaviors including driving, new research shows. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

For improvements to general psychology, Webmd explains that:

When you fail in a game or in other situations, it can be frustrating. Video games help people learn how to cope with failure and keep trying. This is an important tool for children to learn and use as they get older.

For stress relief, Verywellmind.com says that:

Really, any game that you truly enjoy can be a stress reliever. Virtually any game that you find to be truly fun can be beneficial by providing an escape from daily stress, a break from patterns of rumination, or a way to build positive feelings.

For improvements to intelligence, Webmd says that:

Video games often make you think. When you play video games, almost every part of your brain is working to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Depending on the complexity of the game, you may have to think, strategize, and analyze quickly. Playing video games works with deeper parts of your brain that improve development and critical thinking skills.

And finally for sociability, Levelskip.com says that:

Most gamers (over 70%) play video games with one or more of their friends. Gamers who play video games with friends may play either cooperatively (where two or more players work together to achieve the goal of the game)

 

The Best Video Games for You to Play

If all games are good, what are the best games? Well, I might be biased, of course, but the famous Minecraft is an amazing game to play. It can teach you how to be creative with your buildings. There are all sorts of blocks and different colors to build with. From idtech.com, they explain:

Minecraft is educational because it enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills.

Other first person shooter games, such as Call of Duty, are also good games to play. Even though they can show blood, it makes children quickly move around so that they can get fast reflexes, as there are always enemy combatants working against you. Polygon.com says that

A growing body of research indicates that playing first-person action games, particularly shooters, improves brain function such as cognitive abilities and learning skills — changes that have real-life applications, reports Scientific American Mind.

If those games don’t interest you, there are thousands of others to choose from. CheckPoint offers numerous video gaming titles for you to try, and even splits them up by what aspect of health they are best for. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Bound
  • Florence
  • Destiny 2
  • Hollow Knight
  • Persona 5
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Video Games and Disabled Players

Something else to consider is how video games provide an amazing outlet for disabled players to be themselves and live a life liberated from the difficulties they face in the real world. People with disabilities are usually treated very badly and are sometimes even seen as outcasts. In video games, they don’t have to be outcasts anymore! Since no one can see them, they can be themselves without worrying about being judged, allowing them to have as much fun as other players while they are playing! Disabled players actually make up a large part of the gaming community. According to Polygon.com

…20 percent of gamers have some form of disability — not including the eight percent of men who are colorblind or the 14 percent of adults who have a low reading age, and also not including the many temporary impairments, such as broken arms, sleeping babies or bumpy public transport, that most people face at one point or another… 

It is vital that disabled players are afforded numerous outlets of accessibility in games so that they continue playing the games they love and improving their health while they’re at it!

 

In Conclusion

Video games are able to help with real life functions of the human body and mind. Best of all, they invite all types of players, even those who are normally unable to participate in activities that are normally considered beneficial, like sports. Whether or not video games are good for you, we can all agree that they are fun, at the very least. So, pick up your favorite game, and go have some fun! In the meantime, I’ll be playing Minecraft. 

See you online!

Immortal Animals and the Human Link

 

 

Since time mmemorial, humans have coveted and sought the fabled ‘fountain of youth.’  To live forever is a notion reserved for science fiction and vampire dramas, but what if it were possible? For a select few animals, immortality is a reality.

*Note: While there are various more animals that effectively resist the effects of aging, this list is only composed of animals that are thought to be truly immortal, not just long lived.

 

Hydra: 

 

Hydra are tiny creatures that can be found in most freshwater lakes, ponds, and streams.  As they are only a few millimeters long they require a microscope to be observed.  While these minuscule organisms might slip right by the naked eye, biologists and other scientists are transfixed on studying them.  The reason is that hydra don’t age, not even slightly; they are truly immortal.

The source of hydra immortality lies in their ability to maintain telomere length. Each time a cell divides, telomeres, additional strands of DNA at the end of chromosomes, shorten and get chipped away. This is what causes aging and the corrupted replication of cells in all life forms, including humans.  This aging process, or senescence as it is called in the scientific community, leads to age related illnesses such as cancer, and eventually death.  In hydra, telmores never get shorter.  Although it is unknown precisely how hydra maintain their telomere length so impeccably, recent studies have revealed that a gene called FoxO, which has a direct influence on stem cells, is likely the answer.  When FoxO activity is reduced in Hydra their powers wane and they suddenly show signs of aging.

Related Article: Immortality Formula: YOLF

This is particularly exciting because FoxO is also responsible for stem cell activity in humans.  Greater FoxO activity is routinely found in people with abnormally long lifespans, like centenarians. It may be possible to increase FoxO activity from an early age, maintain levels of stem cells in the body, and thus increase human lifespan by 1000’s of years; maybe even forever.

 

Jellyfish:

 

Jellyfish come in all shapes and sizes, but one particular jellyfish is especially baffling; the immortal jellyfish.  Technically called Turritopsis nutricula, the immortal jellyfish has the ability to, at any strage of its life, completely reverse its aging process.

Jellyfish begin as small polyps on the ocean floor. These polyps branch off and eventually grow into medusas, or sexually mature jellyfish, with tentacles and the traditional jellyfish-look we all know and adore.  The immortal jellyfish holds the title of being the only animal with the ability to revert back into a sexually immature state after being sexually mature.  The medusa form of the immortal jellyfish reverses the aging process through a method known as cell transdifferentiation.  This process transforms cells into a different cellular state, including earlier states. As the cells transform, the medusa retracts its tentacles and head into itself, turns back into a polyp, embeds itself back into the ocean floor, and starts life all over again.

For some human perspective, imagine all the cells in your body suddenly transforming into stem cells as your body shrinks and reverts back into an infantile state. From deathbed to birthing room in the blink of an eye.

Related Article: Aging Process is Similar to Replicating CDs: Story of Telomeres

Interestingly, immortal jellyfish have a choice to drink from the fountain of youth or not.  While some jellyfish reset life early on, others choose to brave the struggle of old age and eventually die without the opportunity for a second chance. Who can really blame them though?  Without Wondergressive or pirated entertainment, what’s the point of living?

 

Lobsters:

 

Lobsters, the hallmark of a luxury dinner and recently discovered abundant power source, are also immortal. While scientists have never found a 10,000 year old lobster lurking on the ocean floor, at the cellular level, they age at a negligible rate.  As long as lobsters are not hunted, fatally injured, or killed by disease, they could live indefinitely. It gets even stranger, as lobsters become more fertile as they age:

They don’t slow down or become weaker or more susceptible to disease. They don’t get infertile — older  lobsters are actually more fertile than younger ones.

This is unprecedented!  Ladies, can you imagine getting menopause out of the way when you are 10 and being at the height of your sexual activity when you are 90?  Welcome to the life of a lobster.

Related Article: Cyborg Lobsters Power a Digital Watch

Scientists believe that like hydra, lobsters are able to beat the aging process through the maintenance of its telomeres, as lobsters produce a large amount of telomerase, the enzyme responsible for ensuring the health and longevity of telomeres.

As lobsters age, they continue to grow larger and larger, making it easy to guess the age of a lobster based on its size.  The largest recorded lobster ever caught was in Nova Scotia, Canada, weighed 44.4 lbs and was believed to be 50 years old.

 

Planarian Flatworms:

 

Planarian flatworms are non-parasitic worms that are found all over the world; in saltwater, freshwater, soil, and more. They are very common, and come in the asexual and sexual variety, take your pick.  No matter which type you choose, you’ll still be choosing another immortal animal.

Related Article: Fly Away Home: Birds Evolve With Automobile Traffic

Through plentiful adult stem cells and a high production of telomerase, planarian flatworms have an infinite regenerative ability.  This incredible regeneration applies not only to the general maintenance of its body, but also to an unprecedented level of repair in the event of physical damage.

Planaria can be cut into pieces, and each piece can regenerate into a complete organism. Cells at the location of the wound site proliferate to form a blastema that will differentiate into new tissues and regenerate the missing parts of the piece of the cut planaria.

1/279th of a piece of planarian flatworm can be cut from its body and will grow into a new, completely independent flatworm within a few weeks.  You can slice and dice this animal into hundreds of pieces and you’ll just be left with more worms!

Related Article: The Most Dangerous Animal and How We Can Defeat It

Even more interestingly,

if the head of a planaria is cut in half down its centre, and each side retained on the organism, its possible for the planaria to regenerate two heads and continue to live.

Imagine if every time you cut yourself shaving a mini-you started writhing and growing in the sink.  In this way, the planarian flatworm can continuously regrow itself and remain immortal through countless copies.

 

Tardigrades:

 

Tardigrades are also called waterbears, or moss piglets, because under a microscope, that’s exactly what they look like. They are one of the most well known extremophiles; animals that can survive under conditions fatal to most other forms of life.  They are usually around 1 millimeter in length and can be found absolutely everywhere on the planet, from common streams, to moss in your backyard, to the top of the Himalayas, and even in newly discovered ecosystems.  They prefer places with lots of moisture, but as you’ll soon see, it really doesn’t matter to them where they live.

Related Article: New Ecosystem Discovered: Glacier Mice

Although Tardigrades aren’t immortal in the same sense as the animals listed above, they have the incredible ability to survive in nearly every environment known to man, including the vacuum of space, by entering a state of suspended animation called cryptobiosis where their metabolism reaches near zero.  They can stay in this state for more than ten years, return to normal, and go right back into the suspended state for another 10 years of rest and relaxation.  They are their own cryogenic tanks.

 

Tardigrades have been observed surviving extreme conditions such as:

  1. Temperatures above 300 F

  2. Temperatures lower than -328 F

  3. Pressure of more than 6,000 atmospheres (six times the pressure of water in the Mariana trench)

  4. More than 10 years without water

  5. Extremely lethal human doses of gamma, heavy ion, and UV radiation

  6. The vacuum of space

Tardigrades are naturally indestructible, and if they desire to be, are also immortal.
All of these animals and their remarkable anti-aging abilities are creating new opportunities for scientists to actually discover and synthesize the ‘fountain of youth.’  In fact, many prominent scientists believe that the solution(s) to old age and even death is right around the chronological corner.  According to Aubrey de Grey, a British researcher on aging and life extension, the first human being to live to 1000 years old has already been born. It might even be you…

 

 

Source List:

BBC Nature: Nature’s Guide to Immortality 

UCI.edu: Senescence in Hydra

Wondergressive: Telomere and Aging

PNAS: FoxO is a critical regulator of stem cell maintenance in immortal Hydra

Extreme Longevity: Hydra Immortality Linked to Human Lifespan 

Developmental Biology: The Immortal Life Cycle of Turritopsis

JSTOR: Reversing the Life Cycle

Cell Transdifferentiation 

Wondergressive: Hollywood is Pirating Hollywood

Wondergressive: Cyborg Lobsters Power a Digital Watch 

HowStuffWorks: 400 Pound Lobster

Telomeres and Cellular Aging

Guinness World Records: Heaviest Marine Crustacean

Encyclopedia Britannica: Planarian 

PubMed: Planarian Regeneration

PubMed.gov: Stem Cells and Regeneration in Planarians

NewScientist: Regenerating Animals

Wondergressive: New Ecosystem Discovered: Glacier Mice 

Youtube: Tardigrades First Animal to Survive in Space

IWU.edu: Tardigrades 

Journal of Zoology: Longterm Anhydrobiotic Survival

Survival of Tardigrades in Extreme Environments

Current Biology: Tardigrades Survive Exposure to Space

Nature: Preserving Tardigrades Under Pressure

PubMed.gov: Radiation Tolerance in the Tardigrade

Discovery.com: Immortal Animals Reveal Anti-aging Secrets

TED: We Can Avoid Aging

Additional Related Resources:

Wondergressive: Cannabis Cures Cancer and Everything Else: A Thorough History and Review

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Wondergressive: The Great Vitamin D-ficiency 

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Wondergressive: Low-carb/Low-calorie Diet Produces Compound That Blocks the Effects of Aging

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