Ever since video games came out, a huge number of people have argued about their negative effects. Many claim that video games produce violent tendencies (pointing out a trend in gaming for more than a decade now), affect concentration, ruin focus for important matters (like schooling) and generally have an addictive quality that brings about behavior not that different from drug-dependent individuals. However, there have been legions of gamers that have always stood up to defend video games, and a recent discovery gives them another valid argument that helps their cause. Apparently, the popular video game Tetris has been found to be able to treat lazy eye.
Tetris is an iconic puzzle game that requires a player to use differently shaped blocks to form complete lines within a specified space. The game’s origins can be traced back to the 80s and is considered to be one of the most beloved games of all time due to its simple yet challenging nature. Now, it has been discovered that the game can be an effective tool in treating amblyopia, a condition more popularly known as lazy eye.
Adult amblyopia is a condition that affects a huge number of the population of the world, and happens due to improper brain processing. Because of this, the stronger eye suppresses the weaker one, making it difficult for the weaker eye to focus properly. A possible treatment for this is patching up the stronger eye in order to strengthen the weaker eye. The downside for this treatment method is that it seems to only be more effective in children suffering from the condition. This has not been proven successful among adults.
That is where the popular video game comes in. By playing Tetris, both eyes are at work and this basically becomes somewhat of a workout for the amblyopic brain. This activity makes the brain relearn the eyes functions and provides an increase in its plasticity.
The senior author of the study of Tetris possibly treating the condition is Dr. Robert Hess, the Director of the Research Department of Opthalmology at the RI-MUHC and at McGill University. The main thrust of the study is that by using Tetris to make the eyes work together at regular periods a day at specific amounts of time, then the amblyopia in adults would eventually get treated. So far, the results have been promising.
The experiment required half of the respondents to play the game with their stronger eye patched (as the traditional means of treatment were) while half played the game dichoptically. This means half of the respondents had to play wearing special goggles wherein one eye would be able to see the falling Tetris bricks while the other could only see the ground where those bricks were to land on. After two weeks of this, patients that played with the goggles showed significant improvement in their vision from the weaker eye. The ones that played with the patch showed only moderate improvement. With this, one can assume that a combination of both would do a great deal in treating the condition.
Video games have been proven effective in treating such conditions in the past. In fact, there was a similar study conducted in India that pointed out that regular video game sessions did indeed treat amblyopia in older children. Video games, when coupled with the traditional treatment for the condition, would show positive results in combating the condition.
Aside from eye conditions, video games have been said to hold potential in treating mental illnesses as well. The positive effects video game has on spatial orientation, strategic planning, memory, as well as motor skills can be useful therapy for those suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and even Alzeimer’s dementia.
While there will often be naysayers pointing out that if video games do have such an impact in one’s brain function, then there is no reason to believe that it also does carry negative effects. The main point that one must realise here is that video games carry both positive and negative effects. The same can actually be said about medicine and other forms of medical treatment.
Wherever one stands on the issue of whether or not video games cause more harm than good, it cannot be denied that these games indeed cause good on a proven, quantifiable level. Perhaps it is best to accept that there are positive and negative aspects on everything, and given these new discoveries, it is difficult not to be optimistic. When something that is mostly generally accessible and easily acquired thing like video games shows potential in improving the quality of people’s lives beyond their basic intended purpose, that is progress occurring right before your very eyes.
Ian G. Elbanbuena is a professional finance blogger and infopreneur. He mainly writes on personal finance, credit, loans, insurance, debt and business on his blog called HandleYourFinance. At present he works on behalf of Compare Hero, the country’s leading comparison website. This portal helps individuals in saving money by comparing medical insurance rates in Malaysia. Follow him on Twitter: @elbanbuenaian