The Link Between Gaming and Cognition Skills

by Michelle Conway

Gaming has received a lot of flak from the media for supposedly being a contributing for many individuals having poor social skills and a sedentary lifestyle. However, recent studies have shown that far from being harmful, it can actually be beneficial, especially in terms of improving a person’s cognitive and coping skills.

According to studies, among the benefits of playing video games include improved memory capacity, improved response to traumatic events, and enhanced mental capacity. It can even help with reading skills of those who have dyslexia, according to certain studies. Gaming has also been proven to be an effective stress buster, because it provides a temporary escape for players for them to release their pent-up emotions.

According to Psychology Today, these benefits are actually due to the fact that video games have the same effect as meditation. It helps people become more focused on a certain object instead of getting continually distracted with the various things happening around them. Playing a video game entails concentration on the part of the player. As a result, they become calmer and more focused.

The impact of gaming is not just limited to cognition. It can transcend to a person’s control of his/her physical body as well. NPR published a study where a writer was able to ignore the pain she going through while her foot submerged in hot water. She was asked to wear noise-cancelling headphones and play a video game, which was designed specifically for burn patients. The case study indicated that gaming can have a placebo effect, in the sense that it can distract people’s attention away from focusing on their pain.

Forbes notes that “brain devices” or “brain wearables” have been developed to help improve people’s cognition. These help “train” the mind via interactive games. Given that many of these monitor the progress of the wearer via a scoring system, users can actually track whether their performance has improved or declined within a period of time.

You don’t have to get a fancy device or even play a complex game to reap the benefits from video games or other similar digital mediums. An article by Greatist discussed how video games motivate players regardless of complexity, and visual cues tend to help improve cognitive skills. Interactive elements also help. One innovator in the gaming industry is Slingo who’ve incorporated virtual dealers into their gameplay which helps players immerse themselves in their digital surroundings and not focus on external variables. The prevalence of smartphones also means that a great percentage of the population can already benefit from a slew of innovative titles, which can help improve cognitive skills.

That being said, it is important to note that video games, while helpful, are far from being a magic bullet that can transform a person’s cognitive skills overnight. At the same time, there is still truth to the allegation that they have some negative effects on productivity, as the nature of video games can mean some people become detached from everyday life. The rule of thumb should be to play in moderation and responsibly.

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