Playing Mario makes your brain bigger. I'm not kidding. New research is proving what we already knew when we were ten: despite what mom and dad said, video games aren't bad for you. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be the case.
Recently a group of German researchers (Kühn et al, 2014) gathered 48 people who had never played Super Mario 64 once in their lives. Of this group, 25 people were asked to abstain from playing any video games for a period of two months. Meanwhile, the other 23 people were required to play Super Mario 64 for at least 30 minutes every day over the same period of time. Additionally, all participants in the study received two MRI brain scans. One before the experiment began, and one after. The results were nothing short of astounding.
The group who played Super Mario 64 actually saw substantial physical growth in three areas of their brains: the Right Hippocampus, the Cerebellum, and the Right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex. These are the parts of the brain that manage spatial orientation, visual-motor skills, and adaptive thinking respectively.
In other words, playing a platformer game about an Italian plumber increased users abilities to navigate, react, and problem solve. Other possible benefits might include alleviating mental disorders like depression, which have long been connected with people who possess small Right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortexes.
If all that seemed a little wordy, let me break it down for you: playing games like Super Mario 64, is not only good for your mental health, it can make you happier, more decisive, and better able to think outside the box.
And here all you thought all you got out of that game was a cake...
If that doesn't make you feel better about how you spent your childhood, then I don't know what will. But then, what do I know? How many of you can think of times when video games clearly helped you to better navigate the world around you? How many of you learned everything you ever really needed to know by playing your NES? I'd love to to start our own informal study, starting with your feedback. So please, feel free to leave us a comment.