How Gaming Makes You Smarter

Time to Gloat: How Gaming Makes You Smarter by Das Keyboard

In our deepest of hearts, we gamers have always known that video games can’t be as bad as society’s made them out to be.

And now we have scientific proof to back us up.

Several studies in the last few years have shown that the benefits of video games have a greater positive impact on the development of the mind than previously thought. Researchers say that playing games could make you smarter than if you didn’t play them at all.

Video Games Help Teach Us

“Video game brain training has the same effect as reading a book or riding a bike,” writes Dina Spector. “When the brain is learning, thousands of new connections are being formed. The addition of a reward system motivates players to continuously improve their skills.”

And video games definitely improve learning skills. In a talk at TEDxKids in Brussels, Gabe Zichermann told the story of Ananth Pai, a Minneapolis-based educator who replaced the regular curriculum in one classroom at White Bear Lake Elementary School with his own, custom-made, video game-based curriculum. The games were both individually and socially-based, and focused on teaching the students math, English, science, etc.

After only 18 weeks, the students in Pai’s classroom went from a below-third grade level in reading and math to a mid-fourth grade level. Zichermann said Pai’s students described learning as “fun” and “social.”

This just goes to show that learning can be done through the right educational video games.

They Also Improve Our Mental Functions

In another study published in the August 2013 issue of PloS One proved that certain types of video games can definitely make you a more flexible thinker (many experts assume that if you’re able to deal with lots of information at once, you’re more likely to be a smart, out-of-the-box person).

The researchers had one group of participants play a simple version of StarCraft, another group playing a complex version, and another group playing the SIMS (a life simulation game that doesn’t require nearly as much strategy as StarCraft). After the groups played their games for 40 hours, they were given a series of cognitive flexibility, visual tracking, and task-swapping tests.

Though there was no significant improvement in the latter two tests, the researchers found that the StarCraft players (particularly the ones playing the complex version of the game) retained more information and scored higher on the flexibility tests than the group playing SIMS.

This study suggests that if you want to get smarter, you better start playing more strategy-based games.

Many of these studies point out that other factors come into play when dealing with video games, like the amount of time someone puts into a game or their predisposition to violence, which can obviously sway results.

But the overall takeaway is that more educational, strategy-based games will help exercise the average gamer’s brain in positive ways. So if all you’re playing is Call of Duty, you may want to turn on your computer and pump out a few League of Legends games if you want to get smarter!

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