Video Games and its effectiveness in developing sport related skills

The headline sounds a bit paradoxical right? Let’s dive into the world of video games and virtual reality today and see what it has to offer!

We have always heard from the elders about the side effects of playing video games and the result it has on a child’s psyche, but, we haven’t yet explored the possibility of developing certain characteristics using virtual reality.

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Background

Video games came into the foray first during the 1990’s and took the world by storm because no such thing existed before that. The advent of computers paved the way for creating video games on a desktop first and following it with mobile games and different consoles. As of today, the E-sports has become a new industry in itself and was valued at 1.1 billion USD in 2019. It is set to be valued at 6.81 billion USD by 2027 based on compound Annual growth rate (CAGR).

Why is it attracting so much attention and growing at such high rates?

The answer is simple, DOPAMINE! How? Virtual reality stimulates our mind through the visual sense. Whether it is building anything in Minecraft or destroying aliens in doom, the more you do it more dopamine is released. Most of you must be familiar with this word, for those of you who aren’t,

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior. The anticipation of most types of rewards increases the level of dopamine in the brain,[3] and many addictive drugs increase dopamine release or block its reuptake into neurons following release”

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Basically stating out that video games have an instant reward mechanism with any forms of levels/sets to be completed. This gets the person hooked and as it is said, “too much of anything is bad” holds true for this fraternity too. This reward mechanism is used by corporates to dish out profit at an unusually high rates. However, this doesn’t mean you ignore the pros of playing video games!

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Pros of playing video games

Video games or the E-sports industry is split into a lot of genres just like the regular sports industry. There are different types of games in both industries like strategy (e.g Age of empires vs chess), action (e.g Call of duty series vs combat sports) and Adventure (e.g Need for speed vs marathons) etc. Each genre demands a specific skill set from the player, you may be a good fighter in the action genre but you need sense to know where to use it in strategy genre.

These specific skill sets are now being targeted by sports scientists and strength and conditioning coaches in regular sports to develop skills in a unique way. Recent advances in the academia have helped these claims get an evidence based back up; a study published in 2017 states that action-based video game players display a superior control over their emotions through a process called as neural desensitisation. However, this topic is greatly debated over as certain studies have produced counter results as well. Caution should be used in citing any such evidence forthright.We although have certain evidences that fast-paced video games develop sports vision and aid in coordination and reflexes. This has been proved over a period of time from 2011 to the present day with interesting studies stating that ” lifetime amount of playing video games have showed increased plasticity in the hippocampus of the human brain“. In layman’s words, it can be stated that video games improve the brain function over a period of time.

These evidences and articles suggest a lot of profit amounting from playing just video games! A good sportsman should try integrating the virtual reality to actual reality and see the amount of benefits ranging from it.

Strategies for helping sports personnel

Having established that video-games help develop the human brain in some form or the other, it is essential to channelise that development through the appropriate use of virtual reality. How does one go about improving his skills in real life through video games?

Sport specificity is the key here, according to me, a person should stick to understanding and playing the sport better in the virtual life as well. An aspiring football manager should play the game of football manager (titled aptly), which emulates the real life scenarios so well. It is said that, the scouting predictions of football manager were pretty much right in the past decade! They have had their eyes on so many players and got most of the predictions right as well! It is hard to believe that a game could emulate real life and even future, so well.

A person involved in any contact sport can benefit from fast paced and action video games, this develops the decision making process and reflexes which are so important in the game. A rugby or American football player can benefit a lot from playing multi-player action games like call of duty online, PUBG or even fortnite which help in developing teamwork and are based on shooting to enhance reflexes.

There is no one size fits all mantra in this just like any other. It is important that you know what you want to target and then work on it just like you do on the field. I will conclude by saying,

Use alternative methods when traditional fail, trust the process! A good game will only benefit you in ways you can’t ever imagine!

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