Video games have taken the blame for everything, it seems: teen violence, increased crime, shorter attention spans, lower grades in school, and even obesity. If only all those hours spent playing video games could be harnessed for the greater good! Well, they can, as it turns out. Keep reading to find out about some games that just might make you feel good about that “bad” habit.
I think people first realized that video games could have a good side with Dance Dance Revolution. If you haven't encountered the game before, it's played standing up, on a game pad with spots for you to stamp your feet in time to music. A screen in front of the controller scrolls indicators that tell you where to put your foot, and when. If your timing and foot placement is on target, you get points. The game usually moves fast enough to make you work up a sweat.
Putting “DDR fitness” into Google (without quotes) gives you more than 400,000 hits, including a web site by that name and a number of articles that tell how DDR has been adopted by schools to help combat obesity. It certainly seems that getting your exercise fix by way of a video game is more motivating than just doing it, with apologies to Nike. It's no wonder that many people are excited about Wii Fit.
It's believed that certain video games can also help your mental agility. Brain Age, for the Nintendo DS, is supposed to help you stay sharp with simple puzzles such as math problems; rock, paper, and scissors games; and games that test your memory skills. If you don't have a Nintendo, that's okay; there are web sites that are trying to do the same thing. Brain Grade offers its games for free; all you have to do is register. Play regularly and you unlock more games. It also records your progress.
There are also educational games designed to teach as well as entertain. They accomplish this goal with a greater or lesser degree of success. But none of these are quite the kinds of games I'm going to cover with this article. What if you could do something with your video game playing that was of benefit to a lot of people, not just yourself? What if you could further the goals of science and medicine with your joystick? That might pull all those naysayers up short, yes?
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