Sample from EEN column

Originally published in the Edinburgh Evening News 26/7/12

Research regularly condemns the negative effects of playing video games, blaming them for addiction, aggression and various problems related to prolonged inactivity.

With almost the same frequency though research emerges that tells us that playing games can also be good for you. A growing area of brain research suggests video games may sharpen your vision, improve your attention span, and develop your eye to hand coordination.

Nowhere is the brain development theory more evident than the many ‘brain training’ games that claim to give your brain a much needed workout on the bus into work in the morning. The Nintendo DS hit Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training spawned many imitators and sequels, and tomorrow is the turn of Mensa Academy (3+, 3DS, Wii, PC, £19.99). Claims that it has more legitimacy because of the licence of the famous IQ test club should be taken with a piece of salt. This is another collection of puzzles, mini games and trivia under the headings Numeracy, Language, Logic, Memory, and Visual. Does it stimulate the grey matter though? Possibly, but there are cheaper ways to stimulate the mind – try the Evening News crossword.

Video games can be important tools in development though. Edinburgh-based Interface 3, mentioned before in this column, make games specifically with Primary Education in mind. The Sick Kids Friends Foundation’s drop-in centre in Sciennes has a Wii which can help with active rehabilitation as well as recreation. The drop-in centre is one of the projects that we’ll be raising money for during gaming marathon Sick Kids Save Point in October.

One child who has no problems with inactivity is Princess Merida of the pseudo-scots Disney Pixar film Brave. Tomorrow she arrives on consoles in Brave: The Video Game (12+, DS, PS3, Wii, Xbox360, £19.99-£32.99). Players take control of Merida as she defies expectations to try and lift a beastly curse. Merida’s skill with a bow is used to add motion control archery mini games on the Kinect and Move systems. Pixar are a safe pair of hands when it comes to cinematic storytelling, and the Toy Story and Cars games showed that games based on their films tend to be inoffensive movie tie-ins. Brave is likely to be a decent enough game for kids, but be warned – it contains spoilers for the film’s plot, especially a story twist that happens halfway through. See the film first!

Find Sick Kids Save Point at sickkidssavepoint.org or on twitter @SKsavepoint

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