Gaming As a Brain Exercise
Video games are now an integral part of life for many people, and for good reason. They provide stress relief, entertainment and a mental workout. They also have been shown to increase cognitive skills like focus, attention span, problem-solving ability and memory.
Recent studies have shown that playing video games may have more immediate, practical benefits than many realize. These findings have prompted some to even call for including “gaming” in school curriculums as a way to create more engaged and focused learners.
Playing video games has been shown to increase brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to re-wire itself by forming new neural pathways, as well as its ability to process information quickly and efficiently. Studies show that people who play fast-paced first person shooter games actually have stronger vision than non-gamers on a variety of measures. Among these is contrast sensitivity, which allows one to detect the difference between two similar shades or colors, such as red and maroon or orange and peach.
First person shooters are also known to improve visual attention skills, eye-hand coordination and reaction time. Even playing Tetris for as little as three minutes has been shown to improve visual discrimination abilities.
Role playing games and problem-solving
The Sims and SimCity, The Elder Scrolls Civilization and Halo have been shown to improve the ability to solve complex problems and make decisions, especially if the gamer has already played that type of game frequently. Role-playing games also improve spatial skills like directionality and manipulation of 3-dimensional objects as well as learning new vocabulary words.
In these games, players learn to use the context of the game to solve problems and advance in the story. They should be remembered that problem solving is a skill that is learned and improved through practice.
For example, in The Sims, players create characters, determine what they want to do in life as well as their needs as they grow older. In Sims City , players must understand that their decisions affect the performance of their city. Both games are examples of learning problems and decision-making.
The Elder Scrolls games place emphasis on role playing; players explore a vast expanse of land with about 1,000 different people inhabiting it and have the opportunity to interact with thousands more on an online forum.
In Cities: Skylines , the game tasks players with choosing the best building sites and which land to use in the city development. The game rewards players for keeping a clean city and reduces costs when owning or renting property. By gaining experience in these types of games, gamers can become more efficient problem solvers and can network with others who have had similar experiences.
A study showed that playing The Sims Play (the Sims) significantly improved the ability to store and retrieve information about one’s current state of physiological health. Asking people to play this game caused their memory skills to improve, suggesting that role playing games should be used without any additional distractions as a part of training in certain medical conditions such as stroke or schizophrenia.
Social games Games like promote team work
World of Warcraft (WoW) , a game with millions of active players worldwide, provide a safe environment for gamers to practice social skills. It is one of the only games that encourages in-game friends and out-of-game friendships.
WoW requires players to unite as a team to defeat enemies in the fantasy world. Players must communicate with each other and work together as a team in order to defeat monsters and win quests. The game also requires people to resolve conflicts that arise among teammates who have different personalities.
Another social game, the popular “FarmVille” is also a great way for players to practice team work. The goal in this game is to farm virtual crops, and players are encouraged to share crops with their friends.
Games like Scrabble go a long way in learning the alphabet and general word knowledge. Each game has its own set of rules that provide students with opportunities to learn new words and build their vocabulary. Kids who play video games have been shown to retain more information than those who do not play them, suggesting that playing video games can be an effective way to develop literacy skills at an early age, especially if they are one of the recommended activities daily by your child’s doctor.
Board games force players to think on their feet
Players of these games have been observed to have more complex social networks and show improvements in the ability to deal with stress, both of which are important for long-term health. Social gamers who played board games were also found to be healthier than non-gamers on numerous physical and mental health measures.
Some people may question whether or not playing such games would be beneficial, since they can sometimes feel competitive and stressful. In fact, one study showed that social gamers experienced less stress while playing online multiplayer games with other anonymous players than they did while playing alone or with friends.
Bingo games are another great way to build social skills. Bingo is a fun group activity for all ages, especially for family gatherings and parties, since it can be played by people of all ages and abilities.
In addition to making new friends online and offline, board game players have shown a lower tendency of aggression as well as other psychological problems.
Puzzle games help with cognitive abilities
Players of puzzle games like Scrabble and chess have been found to have better verbal memory and reasoning skills than non-gamers. They are also more likely to learn new words from their environment. As players improve their vocabulary, their ability to hold and recall new information is improved. Brain processing speed and reaction time have also been shown to improve with puzzle game play.
Pattern recognition is also improved through puzzle games, and players can have fun with other gamers while improving their cognitive skills. Spatial awareness is also improved in these games, which is important for improving real world skills like driving and navigating city traffic.
Think of all those great minds who spend time playing video games. Gaming, while not a magic bullet for cognitive improvement, can be a fun and engaging way to learn and apply math, science and critical thinking skills in real world situations. It also provides an in-depth learning experience of the world around us.