Cognitive benefits of playing video games

Playing video games can support cognitive development

One of the main benefits of video games is their ability to support cognitive development of the player.
Games offer a deep learning experience and can help children develop many of the skills that today’s employers are looking for. Although video games are often seen as a waste of time, they can actually promote a wide range of cognitive skills.
By being able to identify which games are the best at developing these skills, we will be able to use them in the overall cognitive development and education of our children.

Problem solving and decision making

Video games are learning environments. Firstly you have to learn to play the game and then the game sets you on a pats to continually solve problems and challenges. Particularly action games, shooter games and strategy games seem to be the type of games that require cognitive skills to progress within the game.
By being asked to solve increasingly complicated problems within a specified time limit, gamers can develop speed in their decision-making. Players also become confortable making decisions and this can have a positive effect on their ability to make decisions in real life.

Creativity

Research from the Michigan University of Technology found that “Regardless of gender or race, greater videogame playing was associated with greater creativity. Type of videogame (e.g., violent, interpersonal) was unrelated to videogame effects on creativity.”
“The more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories.”

Opportunity: Video Games in the classroom
Video games combine instruction with demonstration, making them an effective tool for educators. As such video games can be highly beneficial in a classroom environment as they engage children and make learning fun. Many video games have been specifically developed with the classroom in mind. Some examples are: reading eggs, mathletics, and spelling games.

Strategic Development

Gaming is like exercise for the brain. In most cases, they will involve working with some sort of strategy to stay alive or defeat a boss; build a structure or blow one up. This makes it a very active pastime, at least on a cognitive level. Video game principles continue to be implemented in training situations, rehabilitation and other cognitive development exercises. First Person Shooting games are often regarded as games that feature great cognitive development.
Opportunity: Video Games in Rehabilitation
Video games are now being used as rehabilitation for patients with acquired brain injury. They have been found to help stimulate neurogenesis (growth of new neurons) and connectivity in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning. In fact, some studies have even demonstrated the direct casual link between video gaming and volumetric brain increase. This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games.

Attention Allocation skills

Gamers are able to develop faster, more accurate attention allocation skills. Giving them the ability to prioritise decisions and weigh up where their attention needs to be and for how long.
Dye, Green and Bavelier from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Center for Visual Science University of Rochester researched the development of attention allocation skills and found: “that action video game players of all ages have enhanced attentional skills that allow them to make faster correct responses to targets, and leaves additional processing resources that spill over to process distractors flanking the targets.”

Spatial skills

Spatial ability is the ability to think about objects in three dimensions and to draw conclusions about those objects from limited information. These skills are valuable in many real-world situations and can be improved with practice. Spatial skills are essential for maths, science, engineering and technology.
Subrahmanyam and Greenfield researched the effect of video game practice on spatial skills in girls and boys and found that video games significantly improves spatial performance in both genders.

A word of caution

The benefits of video games are only realised if the player has a balanced and healthy engagement with playing video games.
When the player exposes signs of addiction or excessive video games will show more negative impacts than benefits.

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