Video games have beem widely available to the home market for 40 years, which means there have been 40 years of concern about what impact, negative or positive, they may have.

Soon after the first video games such as Pong and Space Invaders hit the market in the 1970s, psychologists and neuroscientists began to investigate whether playing video games might be beneficial to the brain.  Proponents speak of the neuroscience benefit of time-pressured deployment, flexible allocation, of attention as well as precise bi-manual movements while detractors worry about the time spent away from doing other things and that video games may inspire violent behavior. 

But like most aspects of behavior, video-game research is beset by a number of methodological issues that require addressing. Andrew Latham and colleagues review the literature on this thorny topic, encompassing almost 50 studies published over 28 years. They find in their review of the literature that video games can boost a surprisingly wide array of cognitive functions, for example hand-eye coordination, spatial visualization, visual anticipation, reaction time, and task switching. 

These benefits are more pronounced for modern games, which are more complex than games from the 1980s and 1990s. Latham et al. also discuss the neural mechanisms that could underlie these benefits of game playing.

They conclude that video-game play could be profitably used in education and clinical settings to improve cognitive functions.

Article: The virtual brain: 30 years of video-game play and cognitive abilities, Journal: Frontiers in Psychology 2013 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00629