The most recognizable character in video games celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday, as Mario was introduced to the Nintendo world on Sept. 13, 1985, with the release of Super Mario Bros, according to NintendoLife.
But the gaming industry has changed considerably over the past three decades since the humble plumber went on a quest to save Princess Peach.
Some video games, like the Grand Theft Auto series and the Call of Duty series, have been known for their violence and, in effect, create aggression among players, according to NPR.
And research has found that playing regular gamers "may undergo brain changes associated with certain kinds of neurological and psychiatric disorders," Discover magazine reported.
“Video games have long been vilified for being too violent or turning children into comatose couch potatoes,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
But video games can have a positive effect, too, and help families bond, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Family friendly video games not only teach academics and important life skills — they can be a great way to bond with your kids,” the article concludes.
Author Jane McGonigal, whose new book, “Superbetter,” focuses on the science behind video games, spoke to The Wall Street Journal about how emotional and psychological bonds are made between players.
“Every time you play a video game with someone in the same room, your breathing rates will start to sync up, your heart rates will start beating at the same pulse and your facial expressions and body language will mirror each other,” McGonigal said.
Parents can also video games to teach their child life lessons. Researchers at Arizona State University have created impact guides that feature popular games and instruct parents on how to generate learning moments while playing.
“Parents miss a huge opportunity when they walk away from playing video games with their kids,” researcher Elisabeth Hayes told ASU News. “Gaming with their children offers parents countless ways to insert their own teaching moment.”
But parents don't always have to be invovled for children to learn. A recent study from Oxford University found that kids who play video games for an hour or less a day have higher levels of "prosocial" behavior and life satisfaction when compared to kids who don’t play video games.
How much game time is too much? The study goes on to report that kids who play between one and three hours lose those benefits, while those who play more than three hours a day end up with lower levels of prosocial behaviors and life satisfaction.
According to Nielsen, the average U.S. gamer over age 13 in 2013 spent 6.3 hours a week playing video games. While that average sits below the one-hour-a-day threshold, it may not be there for long. The number increased from 5.6 hours in 2012 and 5.1 hours in 2011, according to Nielsen.