Gaming is good for your health

It started with “Pong.” A simple game of table tennis on a black and white TV screen. Two lines represent paddles and a square dot for the ball. Nerds rejoiced as gaming fever hit the world in 1972.

The gaming industry has come a long way since then. Social media has opened up the world of gaming even more with networks like Facebook and facilitating international gameplay.

Violent first-person shooting games like “Call of Duty” and “Doom” are often made the villain by parents. But gaming culture has matured from nerdy, pimply-faced introverts to all-star athletes and political leaders. That’s what gaming is at its core, a social experience involving all ages in healthy competition with many benefits.

Games that require logic like “Tetris” use the prefrontal cortex, the decision making part of the brain according to an infographic posted by Forbes’ website. Strategy games like the computer game “StarCraft” can foster cognition and planning. Others like “Sim City” and “Spore” let you build civilizations and geoengineer planets.

The industry is a multi-billion dollar behemoth involving 67 percent of households in the nation, according to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, the body that governs ratings for games. American gamers play roughly eight hours out of the week and 40 percent are female, according to ESRB’s website.

Companies like LeapFrog provide a positive case for the future of gaming. As an educational software company that is designed to help children learn how to read, write and beef up on basic knowledge, it predicted the trend of digital learning.

The Internet has created a fertile playground for gamers and has opened the public’s eye to who gamers really are. “World of Warcraft,” a role playing game where a personalized character lives and fights in an online realm, is played by people from all walks of life.

This year, Republicans ran a smear campaign against the current senator of Maine, Colleen Lachowicz, based on her “World of Warcraft” character, an Orc Assassin Rogue. It backfired when WoW players from around the world contributed to her political action committee, helping her win the seat.

Next June will mark the entry of the first game commercially available where gamers can play purely using their minds. A demo of the technology was shown recently at three-day business and technology conference in Paris.

By using a headset that reads the electrical activity in your brain, users control the software with their thoughts. The company, Interaxon, will offer up memory and concentration games and continue to roll out more complex household and entertainment applications.

There are now two paths ahead for the gaming industry. The first integrates video games into our schools, health care system and military. That is, everything outside of pure entertainment. The second path, its current path, joins all aspects of the entertainment industry together.

No matter which way the gaming industry goes, it’s clear that it’s here to stay.