Three Important Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games

It’s no secret that recreational gaming and esports are quickly becoming one of the globe’s most popular forms of entertainment. With advanced technologies, new virtual platforms and a growing competitive market, games are starting to integrate into everyone’s normal routine — and teenagers aren’t the only ones with a controller in hand. Nearly 40% of gamers fall between the ages of 25 and 34, with a staggering 21% over the age of 50. Although that statistic may surprise you, Nintendo’s Wii Sports has become popular with seniors in recent years, creating an accessible option for learning, exercise and socialization.

This popular hobby does more than just entertain: researchers are uncovering the cognitive benefits for both adults and children who consistently play video games. Their findings ultimately come down to one simple principle: in order to keep your brain active and sharp, you must keep it stimulated. By participating in challenges, quests and virtual adventures, we activate and exercise different parts of the brain, leading to improvements in:

  • Coordination
  • Visual Perception and Processing
  • Multitasking and Strategic Thinking

As the industry continues to develop, we’ll see further explorations into the brain-healthy benefits of virtual gaming. These same benefits will have the capacity to improve personal learning, support clinical outcomes through rehabilitation or even create new career paths in professional sports, development and design. Actively playing video games and honing in on these skills will help individuals improve their day-to-day life while providing a new, exciting experience to share with friends:

Coordination

Tracking movement and translating it to a behavior is more than just a concept found in video games; basketball and football players employ the same skills to score for their team on the court and field. Fast-paced action games have been known to improve hand-eye coordination in participants, as they are required to react quickly to scenarios placed in front of them. This kind of technology can also be used as a rehabilitation method for patients in physical therapy who are working to improve reactive movements.

Visual Perception and Processing

The human mind is hard-wired to process visual information. When the eye opens, imagery is received via the retina and sent through the optic nerve to the brain, where it compiles this data into usable information. MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department discovered that the average human being is able to complete this process and retain the information from anywhere between 13 and 80 milliseconds. In an interview on gaming’s role as a tool to help improve visual processing, Judy Willia, M.D., neurology explained that, “the video game model is brilliant [because] it can feed information to the brain in a way that maximizes learning.”

Multitasking and Strategic Thinking

Between managing game inventory, completing objectives and collaborating with teammates, video games have also been proven to improve multitasking and strategic thinking capabilities. Daphne Bavelier, professor of cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, found in research that test participants who did not play action games had a general reaction time (while multitasking) of nearly 200 milliseconds (around 30 percent). For regular gamers, the reaction time was only lengthened by about 10 percent. The complex nature of video games pushes participants to not only make multiple decisions, but make them effectively. While honing in on leveling up, gamers are also actively becoming stronger problem-solvers who are equipped to balance multiple challenges.

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