It might be more than just fun and games after all. Studies show that regular game playing can increase brain function, memory, and cognitive skills and even help prevent mental decline. Whether you’re into classics like chess, Sudoku, or Scrabble, or action-packed titles on your Nintendo Switch, games might be a good way to stay sharp.
Your brain works by sending electrical signals through neurons. If you consistently exercise your brain, more neurological connections will be established, which will help the speed and efficiency of brain functions. Games are a fun and easy way to stimulate your brain and build these connections.
Different games establish connections in different parts of your brain. If you’re an avid chess player, your brain will have lots of connections in areas regarding problem solving and strategy, but they probably won’t help your hand-eye coordination or reflexes very much.
Fast-paced games like some video games and physical games like “Perfection” are great for increasing coordination skills. When you’re staring at the TV and playing a game, you’re not just sitting back eating snacks like when you watch a movie. When your enemy pops around the corner right in front of you, you have to see the action and tell your fingers to move the cursor quickly before they have a chance to get you first.
Not only do you need to see the action and react, but you need to coordinate your fingers to press the right combination of buttons and move the joysticks in a precise way. There’s very little margin for error. The more you practice, the more coordinated you’ll become, even in tasks outside of the game.
Throughout history, games have been used to teach young people how to solve problems and think about the world long before they ever have to make important decisions. Getting beaten at chess a hundred times is a good way to learn about strategy without actually losing entire armies or kingdoms; it’s just good practice.
There are tons of strategy-based video games that can fortify logical problem-solving skills in the same way that chess did for kings and military strategists centuries ago. Even games that aren’t specifically about strategy can teach important problem-solving skills. If you know there’s a building ahead with five enemies in it, you have to strategize how to keep your character alive. You have to come up with the best strategy to achieve your goal. The more problems you solve, whether they be virtual or in real life, the stronger and quicker your problem-solving skills will become.
Brain training games have taken off in popularity over the past few years. Many of them are specifically designed to boost memory. It’s the same idea as with any other brain function: The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Regularly playing memory games has been shown to increase memory, not only in the game, but in life as well. Playing two hours of memory games per week can increase your episodic memory by about 40%.
Consistent stimulation of your brain, and specifically memory, has also been shown to reduce the risk of dementia.
Players spend so much time paying attention to the tiny details in the game and actively participating in the action that they develop skills necessary to focus on even the most minute details for extended periods of time. Studies have shown that gamers have better attention spans versus non-gamers.
In the past, video games have been associated with anti-social behavior. Kids would sit in a dark room for hours without any human interaction at all. But times have changed.
Modern games are highly social, and many even involve coordinated team-based playing. In terms of brain function, these games act in the same way that being a part of a football or basketball team would. Players form entire virtual social communities in which everyone has to work together to complete objectives. Games encourage cooperation and can boost important social skills.