Video games get quite the bad media reputation these days. They are frequently mentioned as the cause of a range of maladies in the younger generation, from obesity to increased penchant for violence.
But a lot of studies are surfacing in recent years that counteract these claims, and state that gaming, in fact, could be beneficial for your brain as it has a large impact on expanding and sharpening your cognitive abilities.
How Gaming Helps Your Brain
Let’s take a look at the ways gaming can positively impact your brain functions.
- Improves attention and focus – A 2012 study by Green and Bavelier found that playing action-based video games improves our spatial attention; that is the ability to locate a target stimulus when a bunch of stimuli are present, and to also keep track of it. Gaming trains your mind to discard unwanted spatial information and stay it on a single track, thereby improving focus.
- Improves reflex and response time – Gaming hones skills like hand-eye coordination and audio-visual information processing. Your “fight-or-flight” response works overtime and as a result your response to non-game situations also becomes quicker as your mind is trained to quickly assess and respond to game scenarios.
- Improves memory – Gaming improves your ability to recognize and differentiate between patterns, which is a sign of improved long-term memory. It also improves your working or short-term memory by giving your brain solid practice in retaining information.
- Better decision-making skills – Long-term exposure to gaming has been linked to improvement in decision-making ability, as it trains your mind to constantly pick and choose between relevant and irrelevant stimuli. This strengthens your decision making skills, as it’s largely dependent on your ability to choose between desired and undesired actions.
- Helps you multitask by improving flexibility – Multiple studies have shown that playing video games increases your ability to switch rapidly and without error between tasks that have conflicting demands. This is an excellent skill when it comes to multitasking.
- Better problem solving skills – Gaming has a positive impact on a lot of functions that are important for your day-to-day life like attention span, working memory, mental flexibility, reasoning skills, etc. All of these make up our executive functions, i.e. problem solving or the ability to “get things done”. Gaming promotes creative thinking and quick response time, which are crucial skills for problem solving.
- Slows mental decline – Your mental flexibility and memory decline naturally with age. Several studies have found that long-term exposure to video games and gaming practices can keep your brain flexible for a longer period of time due to constant mental exercise. This results in an agile, working brain even in advanced age, which improves your quality of life in the sunset years.
Too much of anything is bad, and the same goes for gaming. If you are addicted to games and are ignoring real-world responsibilities due to that, then it is a problem. But purely as a practice, gaming has multiple positive effects on your brain and cognitive abilities. Moderation and a more or less fixed gaming routine can keep the negative effects in check. So roll up your sleeves, gaming nerds, and play on to glory!