Playing these 6 video games could help improve your problem-solving skills
Jane McGonigal , a world-renowned designer of alternate-reality games who has a Ph.D. in performance studies, wants to change people's conception of video games as " just escapist, guilty pleasures."
" My number one goal in life is to see a game designer nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize," McGonigal writes on her website .
She tells Business Insider she wants people to realize that games can be "powerful tools to improve our attention, our mood, our cognitive strengths, and our relationships."
And research is on her side.
Studies suggest that mainstream games like "Call of Duty" may improve our cognitive abilities significantly more than games specifically designed to do so by designers like Luminosity.
To help spread the truth about common misconceptions, seven neuroscientists from around the world signed the document "A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community" in 2014 to say they "object to the claim" that brainteaser games can improve cognitive abilities, as no scientific evidence has been able to confirm such a claim.
Even better for gamers, research from North Carolina State University and Florida State University suggests that mainstream games geared toward entertainment can help improve attention, spatial orientation, and problem-solving abilities.
In her book, " Super Better ," McGonigal writes that the researchers she talked to about this seeming contradiction offered a simple explanation: "Traditional video games are more complex and harder to master, and they require that the player learn a wider and more challenging range of skills and abilities."
If you want to have fun and stimulate your mind, McGonigal recommends playing one of these six games three times a week for about 20 minutes.
McGonigal says playing fast-paced games like "Call of Duty," a first-person shooter game, can help improve visual attention and spatial-intelligence skills, which can lead to better performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Another fast-paced game, "Forza," a car-racing game, may help improve your ability to make accurate decisions under pressure.
Taking on the role of a criminal in a big city in "Grand Theft Auto" may help train you to process information faster and keep track of more information — up to three times the amount as nongamers, some studies suggest — in high-stress situations.
Strategic games like "StarCraft," a military-science-fiction game, can also improve the ability to solve imaginary and real-life problems, possibly because they teach users to both formulate and execute strategic plans.
Games that require strategic thinking, like science-fiction third-person-shooter game "Mass Effect," also test and refine your information-gathering skills.
Lastly, "thinking games" like "Final Fantasy," a fantasy-role-playing game, can help train you to evaluate your options faster and more accurately.
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Well-designed video games can enhance problem-solving skills and make learning more effective.
- May 29, 2013
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The tragic December deaths of 20 first-graders and six school staff members in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, along with the Boston Marathon tragedy and other recent attacks, have brought the decades-old debate over the behavioral effects of video games back onto legislative floors throughout the nation. Citing the fact that gunman Adam Lanza, 20, played violent video games, members of the U.S. Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force detailed their plans to address “our culture’s glorification of violence” through media, and commentary stemming from reports like Katie Couric’s May 2013 video game violence exposé has highlighted the need for greater clarification of how we should read and interpret video game research.
Clearly, it’s a complex and emotional issue further complicated by discussions that focus almost exclusively on the negative effects of gaming. The reality, however, is that there’s little research outlining whether or not violent video games beget actual violence: many existing studies, like one described in a recent edition of the UConn Today , focus on aggression without explicitly acknowledging the complex relationship between cognition, transfer, and real world behavior. This has led to two major problems, the combination of which throws a wrench in the socially and politically-charged rhetoric surrounding violence: 1) the dismissal of other, more influential factors common to violent criminals—biological predisposition to mental health issues, instability at home and/or work, lack of positive role models, having no one to confide in, access to weapons, and in-the-moment opportunity versus need; and 2) neglect for how learning in all types of games—violent or not—actually happens.
While the first problem may better fit sociologists and psychologists who have direct experience with individuals who commit violent crimes, the second is something that we as teachers, administrators, and researchers can tackle head on. There’s general consensus in the educational psychology community that the nature of environment-learner-content interactions is vital to our understanding of how people perceive and act. As a result, we can’t make broad assumptions about games as a vehicle for violent behavior without attending to how environment-learner-content interactions influence transfer—the way learning and action in one context affects learning and action in a related context.
It might help to think of transfer in terms of what we hope students will do with the information they learn in our classes. For example, you might teach geometric principles in your math class thinking that those techniques will help your students craft a birdhouse in shop. However, one of the most well-cited studies of the subject (Gick & Holyoak, 1980) showed that only one-fifth of college students were able to apply a particular problem solving strategy—using ‘divide-and-conquer’ to capture a castle—in another, almost identical context less than 24 hours after exposure to the first. Even with explicit direct instruction explaining how the same strategy could be used to solve both problems, fewer than 50% of students were able to make the connection. Though links between situations might seem self-evident to us as teachers, they usually aren’t as obvious to our students as we think they should be.
This gives us reason to believe that, regardless of subject, students—or in the case of video games, players—are rarely able to take something they’ve used in one context and independently apply it in a totally different one. Put another way, even if violent gaming raises general aggression, increased aggression doesn’t automatically translate to real world violent behavior . Gamers might use more curse words while playing Call of Duty , but they won’t learn to steal a car solely by playing Grand Theft Auto —there needs to be a mediating instructor who can provide well-guided bridging between the game and reality, especially for in-game activities that aren’t isomorphic with real world action (i.e., firing a gun).
This relationship between environment-learner-content interaction and transfer puts teachers in the unique position to capitalize on game engagement to promote reflection that positively shapes how students tackle real-world challenges. To some, this may seem like a shocking concept, but it’s definitely not a new one—roleplay as instruction, for example, was very popular among the ancient Greeks and, in many ways, served as the backbone for Plato’s renowned Allegory of the Cave . The same is true of Shakespeare’s works, 18th and 19th century opera, and many of the novels, movies, and other media that define our culture. More recently, NASA has applied game-like simulations to teach astronauts how to maneuver through space, medical schools have used them to teach robotic surgery, and the Federal Aviation Administration has employed them to test pilots.
To be clear, this is not a call for K12 educators to drop everything and immediately incorporate violent games like Doom or Mortal Kombat into their classrooms. Instead, it’s a call to consider how we can take advantage of game affordances (including those of violent games) to extend beyond predictable multiple-choice materials that leave students wishing they could pull out their smartphones. It’s a call for legislators to give greater consideration to the role of transfer before passing sweeping bans on violent video game play. It’s a call for all of us to use games as a vehicle to talk about racial, social, gender, and other inequities that are very much a part of the world we live in.
It’s a bold idea that can feel scary, but the potential benefits are beyond exciting. Research generated by people like Kurt Squire, Sasha Barab, and James Paul Gee suggests that interactive games can be used to teach children about history, increase vocabulary, challenge them to set and achieve goals, and enhance their ability to work in teams. They expose students to culturally diverse casts of characters in addition to providing instant feedback about goal-oriented progress. Most importantly, perhaps, they can be powerfully engaging, giving students a reason to pursue learning beyond the classroom.
To maintain a positive trajectory, teachers looking to make the most of the instructional affordances of video games should keep an eye out for games they feel comfortable playing alongside and discussing with their students, take advantage of opportunities to participate in university game-based learning research studies, and remain open to modifying their instructional approaches. Parents should connect with teachers for up-to-date research coming from organizations like Games+Learning+Society and have their children reflect on material they’ve been exposed to during play—for example, social and cultural stereotypes, gender roles, and ways of thinking presented in each game. Legislators should consult university researchers in both communications and educational psychology to get a wider perspective on how play and learning merge to generate behavior in the real world.
Our collective understanding of game-based learning is evolving at lightning speed, and we need to dispel false information that ignores how games actually affect player thinking and action. More work, involving teachers, administrators, researchers, designers, parents, and politicians, is needed. The next step is to enhance our collaboration by working to create multi-disciplinary games that incorporate not just academic content but educational practices that lead to broader critical thinking and problem solving. Though far from complete, our combined effort has the potential to move beyond the swamp of video game violence and excite kids about school before they say “game over.”
Stephen Slota is doctoral candidate in educational psychology at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education as well as an unashamed gamer. An educational technology specialist and former urban high school teacher, he has a bachelor’s in molecular and cellular biology and Master’s in curriculum and instruction. His research interests include the situated cognition underlying play, the effects of gaming on student achievement, and prosocial learning through massively multiplayer online role-playing games ( MMORPGs).
The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. Read more about CAEP Accreditation, including the programs covered and the accountability measures .
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3. attitudes about video games.
As gaming has gained exposure to a wider audience and increasingly become part of the cultural mainstream, the content of games themselves has come under increased scrutiny. To test public attitudes toward some of these ongoing arguments, the survey presented Americans with some potential impacts of games and asked whether they consider these attributes to be true of most games, not true of most games, or whether they apply to some games but not others.
Overall, the public has mixed feelings about certain aspects of video games and their relative benefits and drawbacks. The results show:
“Video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills” – Some 17% of adults think most video games promote problem solving and strategic thinking skills, but a roughly equal proportion, 16%, thinks this is not true for most games. Meanwhile, 47% say some games develop these skills while others do not, and 20% are unsure. Those under age 50 are more than twice as likely as those 50 or older to think most game develops problem solving and strategic thinking skills (22% vs. 10%), while men are slightly more likely than women to think so (19% vs. 14%).
“Video games promote teamwork and communication” – Almost a quarter of all adults (23%) think most video games do not promote teamwork and communication, more than double the 10% who think most games do promote these qualities. However, a plurality (37%) thinks this is true of some games but not others, and 28% are unsure. Men and younger adults are more likely than women and older adults to believe most video games promote these qualities. Some 17% of those ages 18 to 29 think teamwork and communication are promoted by games (compared with 9% of those 30 and older), along with 12% of men (vs. 9% of women).
“Video games are a better form of entertainment than watching TV” – Three-in-ten adults do not think video games are a better form of entertainment than television, almost triple the 11% who think most video games are indeed a better form of entertainment than TV. Still, a third of all adults (34%) think this is true of some video games but not others, while 24% are not sure. Almost a quarter of those ages 18 to 29 say most video games are a better form of entertainment than TV (24% vs. 7% of those 30 and older), as do 14% of men vs. 8% of women.
For some aspects of gaming – such as the portrayal of minorities and women in video games – the public is much less certain:
“Video games portray women poorly” – Similarly, 40% of Americans say they are not sure whether video games portray women poorly. Another 18% say this is not true for most games, while 14% say this is true for most games. More than a quarter of all adults (27%) say this is true for some video games but not others. Notably, the responses to this question show no differences by gender. Young adults are split on the portrayal of women – 24% each of those 18 to 29 think most video games do and do not portray women poorly.
Compared with those who do not play video games, game players tend to agree with more positive depictions of gaming
While the public is largely uncertain what to think about video games, within the gaming community there is more consensus. Put simply, people who play video games are more likely to respond to the positive aspects of their pastime while they disagree with certain negative portrayals. And certain groups of game players – namely men and young adults – hold particularly strong and affirming beliefs about gaming.
- 25% of those who play games (and 39% of self-identified gamers) think most video games help develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills , compared with just 8% of those who do not play games. Among game players, men are more likely than women to think most games develop problem solving and strategic thinking skills (28% vs. 22%). Likewise, 31% of game-players ages 18 to 29 think this is true of most games, compared with 18% of those 50 and older.
- 17% of those who play games (and 34% of self-described gamers) say most video games are a better form of entertainment than watching TV . This is triple the proportion of non-game players (5%) who say the same. Among those who play video games, men are more likely than women to say most games are better entertainment than TV (23% vs. 10%), along with 31% of game players ages 18 to 29.
- 15% of those who play video games (and 28% of self-described gamers) think most video games promote teamwork and communication . This compares with just 6% of those who do not play video games. Again, men and those ages 18 to 29 who play video games are more likely than their counterparts to think most games promote teamwork and communication. Some 19% of male game players think so (compared with 12% of female game players), as do 21% of game players ages 18 to 29 (compared with 11% of those 50 and older).
- 35% of those who play games (and 53% of self-described gamers) do not think most video games are a waste of time . Men who play games are particularly likely to feel this way – 40% say games are not a waste of time, compared with 30% of female game players. Younger game players also tend to feel relatively strongly about this issue — fully 43% of game players ages 18 to 29 say most games are not a waste of time, compared with 31% of those 30 and older.
- 33% of game players (and 46% of self-described gamers) do not think most video games portray minority groups poorly . Minority game players are more likely to agree with this statement than whites. Some 15% of black and 12% of Hispanic game players feel that most video games portray minority groups poorly, compared with 7% of white players. At the same time, 39% of Hispanics and 24% of blacks who play games feel that most games do not portray minorities poorly. And once again, men are particularly likely to disagree with negative views of games: 36% of men who play say most games do not portray minorities poorly, compared with 30% of women.
On the other hand, people who play games are a bit more divided on how women are portrayed in video games:
- One-quarter (26%) of video game players (and 35% of self-described gamers) disagree that most video games portray women poorly . Still, 16% of game players (and 24% of gamers) think most video games do portray women in a negative light. Some 34% of those who play video games (and 30% of self-identified gamers) say this is true of some games but not others. Interestingly, there are few gender differences among those who play video games – women who play games are somewhat more likely to be unsure than men (27% vs. 21%).
Despite their relatively positive views toward video games compared with non-game players, a substantial portion of game players have mixed feelings on many of these issues. For instance, 55% of video game players think some games develop good problem solving and strategic thinking skills, while other games do not. Similarly, 37% of game players feel that some video games are a waste of time, even while others are not. Finally, even people who play games are not always sure what to think – for example, 31% of game players say they are unsure whether or not most games portray minority groups poorly.
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5 facts about americans and video games, younger men play video games, but so do a diverse group of other americans, who plays video games in america, views on gaming differ by race, ethnicity, gaming and gamers, most popular.
About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .
Arts on the Brain
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Video games on the Brain
Technology has expanded the canvas upon an artist’s ability to express their stories. Videogames prove to be an art form that can solely exist in the digital space and demonstrates a collision of art and science. Our brain interprets these artists’ creations in many ways, both presenting itself as beneficial, yet also damaging to the brain. Video games have both positive and negative effects on the brain, as they can be used for education purposes or can have more drastic consequences.
When overviewing the positive effects of videogames on the brain there are some main areas of the brain to focus upon: premotor and parietal cortex, prefrontal cortex, dopamine and grey matter. Cognitively, all video games are proven to improve one’s problem solving ability as well as reasoning capabilities.
Different types of video games develop different skills as well as activate different parts of the brain. More broadly speaking, games that require team efforts help develop collaboration abilities. Other action focused video games have the ability to increase brain activity in the premotor and parietal cortex, where motor skills, quick thinking, and control of sensory movements are required. These same video games have the ability to physically improve one’s peripheral vision as well as hand-eye coordination. Examples of these types of games include Space Invaders and Halo. Games that require more logical thinking, such as Tetris, display an increased use of the prefrontal cortex, where decision-making is controlled. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released when learning and activates sensations of reward. In the context of playing video games, dopamine is released in the brain’s striatum, invoking senses of pleasure and addiction.
For the sake of this post, I’ll be emphasising my focus on experiments regarding grey matter. Grey matter helps process information in the brain, by more specifically processing signals that are generated by other sensory organs in the body or other areas which contain grey matter. This grey matter serves to move motor sensory stimuli to nerve cells in the nervous system. There, synapses produce a response to the certain stimuli. Hippocampal grey matter, more specifically, is crucial for the maintenance of healthy cognition. One experiment demonstrated how playing video games has the potential to increase hippocampal grey matter in young adolescents. This experiment tested the influence of the video game Super Mario Kart on the grey matter in the hippocampal and cerebral region of adolescents.
Figure 1: Demonstrates the increase of grey matter in the hippocampal region.
As seen in the brain scan it is apparent that there is a great increase of grey matter in the brain of the adults immediately after playing the video game.
Though there are positive effects apparent when playing video games, some of the negative impacts outweigh those of the positive. More broadly speaking, some of the negative effects that videogames can have on the brain is that of the “video game brain.” This effect occurs when one has dedicated so much time to video games that the underside of the frontal lobe begins to shrink, leasing to other symptoms such as mood alterations. With more frequency of playing video games, a visible decrease in activity in the prefrontal lobe is apparent. This is known to lead to symptoms such as increased moodiness, anxiety, and aggressiveness, which may occur even after the conclusion of the game itself.
For the sake of this post, I will be focusing the spectrum of my research to the cingulate cortices. Studies have demonstrated that even one week of violent video gaming can lead to a decreased activation of the rostral anterior cingulate cortex and amygdala, during both numerical and emotional tasks. Both of which areas are utilized in solving and controlling emotional confliction. This frequent play of violent aggressive video games lead to symptoms such as players being relatively more anxious, spike in increases of violent-related and aggressive behaviors for the short and long term period. In the study, it was noted that when players shot and fired a weapon in violent video game play, there was a suppression of emotional response in these areas to cope with their actions afterwards. This is seen in the posterior cingulate cortex, which serves for motor control, cognition, and planning activated by emotions, or in this case weapon usage. Some video games that can demonstrate these effects on humans are Fornite and Call of Duty.
“Choosing to attack is associated with greater activity in the posterior anterior cingulate cortex, while choosing to defend was associated with activity in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex .” As demonstrated in the figure above, specific brain regions are active when choosing an attack or defend strategy.
One of my favorite video games to play at the moment is Among Us. Among Us is a Social Deduction Game where one imposter tries to kill all the crewmates on board without exposing their identity. If seen killing, crewmates can report the killer and vote out the imposter. The crewmates are responsible for finishing as many simple tasks as they possibly can. Some of the brain functions involved in the game vary depending on the position you are assigned at the beginning of the game: crewmate or imposter.
When playing the game Among Us strategies of how to operate are required, utilizing the frontal lobe to map out one’s judgement and impulse control. Controlling sensory movements in this action-filled game is crucial. Secondly, there is violence present in this game. So those in the positions of imposters will experience different activities in their brain than those who are crewmates. After the killing of a crewmate, the person playing the imposter will experience a suppression of emotional response after their killing, more specifically suppressed in the rostral angular cortex and the amygdala. Whereas the crewmate on the opposite hand, will feel emotions of reward and pleasure upon completion of their tasks and calling out those who may seem suspicious during the play of the game. This releases dopamine through the brian’s striatum. All in all, videogames all impact the players brain in different ways, having both positive and negative effects upon one’s cognition.
Itgsnewsauthor. How Gaming Affects the Brain . 4 July 2015,
Izaak. (2020, September 22). How to play Among Us: Beginner’s guide, tutorial, and
frequently asked questions. Retrieved November 01, 2020, from
Melissinos, Chris. Video Games Are One of the Most Important Art Forms in History . 22 Sept.
Palaus, Marc, et al. Neural Basis of Video Gaming: A Systematic Review . 22 May 2017,
Robertson, Sally. What Is Grey Matter? 23 Aug. 2018,
Staff, Science X. Brain: A ‘Cingular’ Strategy for Attack and Defense . 20 Apr. 2015,
West, Greg L., et al. Playing Super Mario 64 Increases Hippocampal Grey Matter in Older
Adults . journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0187779.
6 Comments Add yours
I really enjoyed your post! Although I don’t play video games that often, I definitely liked learning about how and why they activate different parts of the brain. I knew that playing lots of video games can be unhealthy for our minds and physical bodies, however, I didn’t realize that they could entirely shrink our frontal lobes in severe situations. I also enjoyed reading about the Among Us portion in your post as I might have had a slight obsession with it last month. I never even realized all the intricate connections between doing small tasks in an online game and how they affect different parts of my brain. Great read!
Hi Lyla, I love your post so much! It was well written and also intriguing. The strucure of this post was so clear that I could see an introduction, a positive effect part, a negative effect part, and a conclusion. When trying to explain some professional and biological stuffs, you perfectly used great and clear pictures to illustrate the explanation. Just as what Rishika said, I knew that it was definitely unhealthy for one who plays lots of video games, I failed to realize that video games could cause such severe situation such as shrinking the frontal lobes. Thanks you so much for bringing such good work to me!
Wow! Though I have heard of many of the positive effects of playing video games that you touched on like increased problem-solving skills and increased ability to work in teams, I had not heard much about the possible negative effects of gaming. In my experience, many negative claims I have heard about video games are brushed to the side and seen as a misunderstanding from an older, less informed generation. It was interesting to see activation in the posterior cingulate cortex as shown in figure 2, highlighting how the attack portion is activated during in-game attacks. Still, it was very cool to see both positive and negative effects explored in this post!
Hi Lyla, this is such an interesting post about arts and brain! I am also a player of both Mario and Among Us, and I really agree with your argument about the effect of the video game. Before reading your post, I haven’t realized how my brain would be affected by those video games and simply thought games could increase my brain activity. Now I get to know the specific areas like grey matter and frontal lobe will be impacted by the stimulus from games. It reminds me the reason why teenagers should not play too many video games. Proper time management on playing games can reduce the shrink on our frontal lobe, thus help maintain a normal function of controlling emotions and decision making. Thank you for posting it!
I really enjoyed this post and found it super relevant considering how much time people spend playing video games today. It was really interesting to hear about the different kinds of effects, both positive and negative, that video games can have on our brains. It seems to be important to find a balance so that one does not spend too much playing them. It may even be beneficial for someone to mix up what type of games they are playing so that the negative effects are less harmful. Overall, this was super interesting to read!
I really enjoyed reading this post and found it super relevant considering how much time people spend playing video games today. It was really interesting to hear about the different kinds of effects, both positive and negative, that video games can have on our brains. It seems to be important to find a balance so that one does not spend too much playing them. It may even be beneficial for someone to mix up what type of games they are playing so that the negative effects are less harmful. Overall, this was super interesting to read!
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The Playing Brain. The Impact of Video Games on Cognition and Behavior in Pediatric Age at the Time of Lockdown: A Systematic Review
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A growing number of children and adolescents play video games (VGs) for long amounts of time. The current outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic has significantly reduced outdoor activities and direct interpersonal relationships. Therefore, a higher use of VGs can become the response to stress and fear of illness. VGs and their practical, academic, vocational and educational implications have become an issue of increasing interest for scholars, parents, teachers, pediatricians and youth public policy makers. The current systematic review aims to identify, in recent literature, the most relevant problems of the complex issue of playing VGs in children and adolescents in order to provide suggestions for the correct management of VG practice. The method used searches through standardized search operators using keywords related to video games and the link with cognition, cognitive control and behaviors adopted during the pandemic. Ninety-nine studies were reviewed and included, whereas twelve studies were excluded because they were educationally irrelevant. Any debate on the effectiveness of VGs cannot refer to a dichotomous approach, according to which VGs are rigidly ‘good’ or ‘bad’. VGs should be approached in terms of complexity and differentiated by multiple dimensions interacting with each other.
In the last decades, a very large body of literature has shown an increasing interest in video games (VGs) and their impact on the brain, cognition and behavior, especially in children and adolescents [ 1 ]. Indeed, a widely growing number of children and adolescents play VGs for a long time, often developing real addictive behaviors [ 2 , 3 ]. In addition, the current outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the following lockdown have significantly reduced outdoor activities and direct interpersonal relationships [ 4 , 5 ]. However, literature data are still inconsistent. For example, according to some meta-analytic reviews [ 6 , 7 , 8 ], exposure to violent VGs is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, cognition and affection in children and adolescents. Conversely, many cross-sectional and intervention studies have shown that the intensive use of some types of VGs leads to significant improvements in many cognitive domains and behaviours [ 1 , 9 , 10 , 11 ]. Video games are even considered as ‘virtual teachers’ and effective and ‘exemplary teachers’ [ 12 , 13 ].
The current systematic review focuses on some crucial outstanding issues within the debate on the effects of VGs on cognition and behavior in order to provide suggestions for parents, pediatricians, health providers and educators dealing with pediatric ages, especially in the complex pandemic period. Namely, it analyzes the most debated and educationally relevant problems on the relationship between video games, cognition and behavior: 1. video games’ effects on cognitive function; 2. video games’ effects on attention and addictive behaviors; 3. video games and prosocial or aggressive behavior. Therefore, the current analysis may be accounted as an original contribution to the practical dimension in the educational and rehabilitation field for parents and educators.
Early common predominant opinions mainly focused on VGs according to dichotomous thinking, as enjoyable entertainment or harmful tools [ 14 ]. The recent literature instead provided evidence on the impact of VGs on the brain and its functional modifications while playing [ 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 ], showing that video games involve different cortical and subcortical structures, with cognitive and emotional competence, such as frontal and prefrontal regions, the posterior and superior parietal lobe, the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, limbic areas, the amygdala, the entorhinal cortex and basal nuclei [ 1 , 20 , 21 , 22 ].
Mondéjar and colleagues [ 15 ], in a group of twelve healthy preadolescents between 8 and 12 years old, evaluated the frontal lobe activity and the different types of cognitive processing during five platform-based action videogame mechanics: 1. accurate action, related to processes such as concentration, attention, impulse control and information comprehension; 2. timely action, related to working memory, selective attention, decision-making, problem solving and perception; 3. mimic sequence, related to working memory, focalized attention and inhibition control; 4. pattern learning, as selective attention, planning, inhibition control and spatial orientation; 5. logical puzzles related to attention, working memory, the capacity for abstraction, information processing, problem solving, or resistance to interference. They found prominent bioelectrical prefrontal activity during the performance related to executive functions (timely action, pattern learning, logical puzzles) and more global brain activity and a higher presence of alpha waves, or a greater activation of the temporal lobe, in the accurate action and mimic sequence. Similarly, they correlated higher magnitudes on frequency bands with five game mechanics in ten healthy children, who played with a VG platform for an average of about 20 min [ 16 ]. Theta waves, related to memory and emotions, were more significant in the five mechanics, while beta waves, related to concentration, were more prominent in only two. Moreover, activation was more significant in the intermediate and occipital areas for all the mechanics, while recurrent magnitude patterns were identified in three mechanics.
Similarly, Lee et al. [ 17 ], found a thinner cortex and a smaller gray matter volume in critical areas for evaluating reward values, error processing and adjusting behavior, namely, the anterior cingulate cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex and the frontoparietal areas, in young male adults with internet gaming disorders, compared to age-matched healthy male controls. A neuroimaging study examined in individuals affected by gaming disorders the differences during the playing of a violence-related vs. a non-violence-related version of the same VG [ 18 ]. While functional connectivity of the reward-related network and the behavioral inhibition system was altered, the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cerebral area were overstimulated, similarly to smart drug addiction [ 17 , 23 ].
Recently, Kwak et al. [ 19 ] longitudinally compared 14 adolescents with internet gaming disorder to 12 professional internet gaming students who practiced for about ten hours a day, within a defined support system that included practice, physical exercise, lectures on team strategy, rest and mealtimes. After one year, both groups showed increased brain activity within the attention system of the parietal lobe. However, professional gamers improved problematic behaviors, impulsivity, aggression, depression and anxiety, while adolescents with internet gaming disorder showed no behavioral improvement and a dysfunctional brain activity within the impulse control network in the left orbitofrontal cortex.
The current systematic review was structured according to the guidelines and recommendations contained in the PRISMA statement [ 24 ].
Both experimental and correlational studies and meta-analyses between the years of 2000 and 2020 that investigated outcomes of VG exposure were included. They were considered children and adolescents. Studies employing different methodologies were included: studies in which naive participants were trained to use a VG versus a control group and studies comparing experienced versus non-gamers, or inexperienced players. Primary outcome measures were any type of structural and functional data obtained using neuroimaging techniques and behavioral testing.
One hundred and twenty-two studies were identified through electronic database searching in Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus (Elsevier) and Web of Sciences. The final database search was run on January 2021 using the following keywords: video games; video games and cognition; video games and epidemic; cognitive control; behavior control; brain and video games; spatial cognition; prosocial behavior; violence in video games; aggressive behavior; addictions in adolescents; children and video games.
Inclusion criteria: written in English; published since 2000; deals in depth with cognitive skills, attention, executive functions, or cognitive control; follows a high methodological rigor.
Exclusion criteria: does not refer to key topics directly; the full text could not be obtained; lack of transparency due to missing methodology information. Ninety-nine studies were reviewed and included, whereas twelve studies were excluded because they were irrelevant to the topic or because the full text was not obtained. General communication materials, such as pamphlets, posters and infographics, were excluded as they do not provide evidence about their effectiveness.
Figure 1 shows the selection of studies flowchart.
Selection of studies flowchart.
3.1. Effect of Video Games on Cognitive Functions
Any modern VG requires an extensive repertoire of attentional, perceptual and executive abilities, such as a deep perceptual analysis of complex unfamiliar environments, detecting relevant or irrelevant stimuli, interference control, speed of information processing, planning and decision making, cognitive flexibility and working memory.
Literature data in the last years have proven that VGs may improve a variety of cognitive domains [ 1 , 25 ] as, for example, even just 10 hours of VG could improve spatial attention and mental rotation [ 26 , 27 ]. A large variety of design studies reported in habitual players better performance in multiple cognitive domains, including selective attention [ 3 , 21 , 26 , 28 ], speed of processing [ 21 , 28 ], executive functions [ 29 , 30 ] and working memory [ 31 ]. Similarly, a large body of intervention studies have shown improvements in the same cognitive domains in non-players following training in action VGs [ 27 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 ]. Recently, Benoit et al. [ 38 ] examined in 14 professional VG players and 16 casual VG players various cognitive abilities, such as processing speed, attention, memory, executive functions, manual dexterity and tracking multiple objects in three dimensions [ 39 ]. Professional players showed a very large advantage in visual–spatial short-term memory and visual attention, and less in selective and sustained attention and auditory working memory. Moreover, they showed better speed thresholds in tracking multiple objects in three dimensions overall, though the rate of improvement did not differ in the two groups. In two previous meta-analyses, Bediou et al. [ 40 ] focused on the long-term effects of action VGs on various cognitive domains using both cross-sectional and intervention studies. Overall, the results documented a positive impact of action video gaming on cognition. In cross-sectional studies, a main effect of about half a standard deviation was found. The habitual action game players showed better performance than non-players. Likewise, intervention studies showed about a third of a standard deviation advantage in cognition domains in action VG trainees. Perception, spatial cognition and top-down attention were the three cognitive domains with the most robust impact [ 40 ].
Homer et al. [ 41 ] examined the effectiveness of a custom-designed VG (‘alien game’) in a group of 82 healthy adolescents (age range 14–18 years; average = 15.5 years) trained to play for 20 min per week for 6 consecutive weeks. Such a digital game was devised to target, in a fun way, the specific executive ability of shifting, as the ability to shift between tasks or mental sets, hypothesizing that after playing the ‘alien game’ over a period of several weeks, adolescents would show significant improvements in the targeted ability. Pre- and post-test measures of another executive ability, inhibition, as the ability to control a prepotent response, were also recorded in order to examine the extent to which training would transfer from one executive ability to another. Significant advantages both in shifting and in inhibition abilities were found, providing evidence that VGs can be effective tools for training executive abilities [ 42 , 43 ].
Similarly, Oei and Patterson [ 44 ] examined the effect of action and non-action VGs on executive functions. Fifty-two non-VG gamers played one of four different games for 20 h. Pre- and post-training tests of executive function were administered. The group that trained on the physics-based puzzle game, demanding high level planning, problem solving, reframing, strategizing and new strategies from level to level, improved in several aspects of executive function. In a previous study, the same authors [ 45 ] instructed 75 non-gamers, (average age 21.07 ± 2.12) to play for 20 h, one hour a day/five days a week over four weeks. They compared effects of action and non-action games to examine whether non-action games also improve cognition. Four tests pre- and post-training were administered. The results showed that cognitive improvements were not limited to training with action games and that different games improved different aspects of cognition. Action VGs have even been used to treat dyslexic children [ 46 , 47 ]. Only 12 h of action VGs, for nine sessions of 80 min per day, significantly improved reading and attentional skills [ 48 ].
Moreover, several meta-analytic studies provide evidence that action VG training may become an efficient way to improve the cognitive performance of healthy adults. Wang et al. [ 49 ], in a meta-analysis, found that healthy adults achieve moderate benefits from action VG training in overall cognitive ability and moderate to small benefits in specific cognitive domains. In contrast, young adults gain more benefits than older adults in both overall cognition and specific cognitive domains.
In summation, the studies on VG effects, by different methodologies, document both in adults and in children significant positive outcomes in different cognitive domains. Such performance improvements may be paralleled by functional brain remodelling [ 14 ].
3.2. Video Games Effect on Attention and Addictive Behaviors
Attentional problems are accounted as a crucial area of focus on outcomes of intensive game-play practices in children and adolescents. However, literature on the topic appears inconsistent. While some research has found mixed results [ 50 ] or a positive effect [ 51 , 52 , 53 ], or no relationship between VG practice and attention, other studies have linked VG playing with greater attention problems, such as impulsiveness, self-control, executive functioning, and cognitive control [ 53 , 54 , 55 ].
Gentile et al. [ 56 ], examining longitudinally, over 3 years, a large sample of child and adolescent VG players aged 8–17 (mean = 11.2 ± 2.1), suggested a bidirectional causality: children who spend more time playing VGs have more attention problems; in turn, subjects who have more attention problems spend more time playing VGs. Therefore, children and adolescents with attention problems are more attracted to VGs (excitement hypothesis), and, in turn, they find it less engaging to focus on activities requiring more control and sustained attention, such as educational activities, homework or household chores (displacement hypothesis). According to such hypotheses, and to the operant conditioning model [ 57 , 58 ], VGs, providing strong motivational cues, become more rewarding for impulsive children and teenagers [ 51 ] who, in such contexts, experience a sense of value and feelings of mastery that they do not experience in their daily relationships [ 59 ].
Actually, any modern VG is a highly engaging activity with a variety of attractive cues, such as, for example, violence, rapid movement, fast pacing and flashing lights [ 60 , 61 ]. According to the attractive hypothesis [ 56 ], it may provide a strong motivation and support for attention and even become addictive, especially in subjects with problems maintaining attention in usual, monotonous and poorly engaging tasks. Therefore, paradoxically, a greater VG exposure may improve visual attention skills involved in such engaging play [ 26 ], but it may impair the ability to selectively focus on a target for lasting time, without external exciting cues.
Probably, in line with the bidirectional causality framework [ 56 ], such rewarding conditions could become the psychological context for the structuring of addictive behaviors, such as a sense of euphoria while playing, feeling depressed away from the game, an uncontrollable and persistent craving to play, neglect of family and friends, problems with school or jobs, alteration of sleeping routines, irregular meals and poor hygiene [ 14 ]. The most psychologically fragile subjects may be most attracted to an engaging and rewarding activity, ensuring an effective compensation to their fragility [ 14 ]. However, the topic of video game addiction continues to present today many outstanding issues. There is a large consensus that ‘pathological use’ is more debilitating than ‘excessive use’ of VGs alone [ 62 , 63 , 64 ]. Addictive behavior appears associated with an actual lowering in academic, social, occupational, developmental and behavioral dimensions, while excessive use may simply be an excessive amount of time gaming. According to Griffiths’ suggestions, ‘healthy excessive enthusiasms add to life, whereas addiction takes away from it’ [ 65 ]. However, it is sometimes difficult to identify the clear line between unproblematic overuse of gaming and the pathological and compulsive overuse that compromises one’s lifestyle and psychosocial adjustment [ 66 , 67 , 68 ]. Therefore, there may be a risk of stigmatizing an enjoyable practice, which, for a minority of excessive users, may be associated with addiction-related behaviors [ 69 , 70 ]. Przybylski and colleagues, in four survey studies with large international cohorts (N = 18,932), found that the percentage of the general population who could qualify for internet gaming disorders was extremely small (less than one percent) [ 71 ].
In such a discussion of the pathological nature of VGs, another outstanding question is whether pathological play is a major problem, or if it is the phenomenological manifestation of another pathological condition. Several studies have suggested that video game play can become harmful enough to be categorized as a psychiatric disorder, or it could be a symptom of an underlying psychopathological condition, such as depression or anxiety. Moreover, the functional impairments observed in individuals with game addictions are also thought to be similar to the impairments observed in other addictions. Neuroimaging studies have shown that the brain reward pathways which are activated during video game playing are also activated during cue-induced cravings of drug, alcohol or other type of substances abuse [ 72 , 73 , 74 ].
Some longitudinal studies [ 14 , 75 , 76 ] proved that pathological addictive behaviors, such as depression, are likely to be outcomes of pathological gaming rather than predictors of it [ 77 , 78 ]. Lam and Peng [ 79 ], in a prospective study with a randomly generated cohort of 881 healthy adolescents aged between 13 and 16 years, found that the pathological use of the internet results in later depression. Similarly, Liau et al. [ 80 ], in a 2-year longitudinal study involving 3034 children and adolescents aged 8 to 14 years, found that pathological video gaming has potentially serious mental health consequences, in particular of depression.
In summary, attention problems and addictive behaviors in the context of VGs should be addressed in a circular and bidirectional way in which each variable can influence the others.
3.3. Video Games Effect and Prosocial and Aggressive Behaviors
The positive impact of video games also concerns the social and relational dimension, as occurs in the VG training of prosocial or educational skills. Several studies have reported that playing prosocial VGs, even for a short time, increases prosocial cognition [ 81 ], positive affect [ 82 ] and helping behaviors [ 13 , 81 , 82 , 83 , 84 , 85 ], whereas it decreases antisocial thoughts and the hostile expectation bias, such as the tendency to perceive any provocative actions of other people as hostile even when they are accidental [ 13 , 86 ]. Such findings have been found in correlational, longitudinal and experimental investigations [ 82 , 85 , 87 ].
In four different experiments [ 13 ], playing VGs with prosocial content was positively related to increased prosocial behavior, even though participants played the VGs for a relatively short time, suggesting that VGs with prosocial content could be used to improve social interactions, increase prosocial behavior, reduce aggression and encourage tolerance.
Following experimental, correlational, longitudinal and meta-analytic studies provided further evidence that playing a prosocial VG results in greater interpersonal empathy, cooperation and sharing and subsequently in prosocial behavior [ 87 , 88 , 89 , 90 ].
Such literature’s data are consistent with the General Learning Model [ 91 , 92 ], according to which the positive or negative content of the game impacts on the player’s cognition, emotions and physiological arousal, which, in turn, leads to positive or negative learning and behavioral responses [ 12 , 93 , 94 , 95 ]. Therefore, repeated prosocial behavioral scripts can be translated into long-term effects in cognitive, emotional and affective constructs related to prosocial actions, cognition, feelings, and physiological arousal, such as perceptual and expectation schemata, beliefs, scripts, attitudes and stereotypes, empathy and personality structure [ 83 , 91 ].
In the same conceptual framework, educational video games have been found to positively affect behaviors in a wide range of domains [ 12 ], school subjects [ 96 ] and health conditions [ 97 , 98 ]. In randomized clinical trials, for example, diabetic or asthmatic children and adolescents improved their self-care and reduced their emergency clinical utilization after playing health education and disease management VGs. After six months of playing, diabetic patients decreased their emergency visits by 77 percent [ 99 ]. Therefore, well-designed games can provide powerful interactive experiences that can foster young children’s learning, skill building, self-care and healthy development [ 100 ].
Violence in VGs is a matter of intense debate, both in public opinion and in the scientific context [ 101 , 102 ]. A vast majority of common opinions, parents and educators consider the violence of VGs as the most negatively impacting feature to emotional and relational development of youth and children. Actually, studies agree on the negative impact of violent video games on aggressive behavior. Several meta-analyses have examined violent VGs [ 6 , 7 , 8 , 103 ] and, although they vary greatly in terms of how many studies they include, they seem to agree with each other. The most comprehensive [ 8 ] showed that violent VGs, gradually and unconsciously, as a result of repeated exposure to justified and fun violence, would increase aggressive thoughts, affect and behavior, physiological persistent alertnes, and would desensitize players to violence and to the pain and suffering of others, supporting a perceptual and cognitive bias to attribute hostile intentions to others.
Similarly, experimental, correlational and longitudinal studies supported the causal relationship between violent VGs and aggression, in the short- and long-term, both in a laboratory and in a real-life context. A greater amount of violent VGs, or even a brief exposure, were significantly associated with more positive attitudes toward violence [ 104 ], higher trait hostility [ 105 ] and with increased aggressive behaviors [ 106 ], physical fights [ 107 ] and aggressive thoughts [ 108 ] and affect [ 109 ]. In a two-year longitudinal study, children and adolescents who played a lot of violent VGs showed over time more aggressive behaviors, including fights and delinquency [ 110 ]. Saleem, Anderson and Gentile [ 82 ] examined the effects of short-term exposure to prosocial, neutral and violent VGs in a sample of 191 children of 9–14 years old. Results indicated that while playing prosocial games increased helpful and decreased hurtful behaviour, the violent games had the opposite effect.
In summation, the overall literature data support the opinion that violent video games, over time, affect the brain and activate a greater availability to aggressive behavior patterns, although some researchers have pointed out that the negative effects of violent VGs are small and may be a publication bias [ 14 , 111 ].
The focus of the current overview was to identify, from a functional point of view, the most significant issues in the debate on the impact of VGs on cognition and behavior in children and adolescents, in order to provide suggestions for a proper management of VG practice.
Overall, the reviewed literature agrees in considering the practice of VGs as much more than just entertainment or a leisure activity. Moreover, research agrees that any debate on the effectiveness of VGs cannot refer to a unitary construct [ 14 ], nor to a rigidly dichotomous approach, according to which VGs are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ [ 1 , 12 , 112 , 113 ].
The term ‘video game’ should be viewed as an ‘umbrella term’ that covers different meanings, far from a single unitary construct [ 14 , 114 ]. Furthermore, VGs and their effects should be approached in terms of complexity and differentiated by multiple dimensions interacting with each other and with a set of other variables, such as, for example, the player’s age and personality traits, the amount of time spent playing, the presence of an adult, the game alone or together with others and so on [ 115 ].
Gentile and colleagues [ 116 , 117 , 118 , 119 ] have identified five main features of VGs that can affect players: 1. amount of play; 2. content; 3. context; 4. structure; and 5. mechanics. Each of these aspects can produce or increase different thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
However, the content effects, individually focused, are frequently overemphasized. According to the General Learning Model, children would learn the contents of the specific games and apply them to their lives. Nevertheless, a violent game using a team-based game modality may have different impacts than a violent game using a ‘free for all’ game modality. Although both are equally violent games, the former could suggest teamwork and collaborative behaviors, while playing in an ‘everyone for oneself’ mode could foster less empathy and more aggressive thoughts and behaviors [ 8 , 88 ].
Likewise, the outside social context can have different effects and it may even mitigate or reinforce the effects of the content. Playing violent games together with others could increase aggression outcomes if players reinforce each other in aggressive behavior. Instead, it could have a prosocial effect if the motivations to play together are to help each other [ 120 ].
According to the dominant literature, the psychological appeal of video games may be related to an operant conditioning that reinforces multiple psychological instances, including the need for belonging and social interaction [ 57 , 58 ]. On such drives and reinforcements, the playing time can expand, and it may become endless in addicted subjects. However, the amount of play, regardless of the content, can become harmful when it displaces beneficial activities, affects academic performance or social dimensions [ 52 , 121 ], or supports health problems, such as, for instance, obesity [ 122 , 123 , 124 ], repetitive strain disorder and video game addiction [ 76 , 83 ]. However, a greater amount of time inevitably implies increased repetition of other game dimensions. Therefore, it is likely that some associations between time spent and negative outcomes result from other dimensions, and not from amount of time per se. Moreover, children who perform poorly at school are likely to spend more time playing games, according to the displacement hypothesis, but over time, the excessive amount of play may further damage academic performance in a vicious circle [ 116 ].
VGs can also have a different psychological appeal in relation to their structural organization and the way they are displayed. Many structural features can affect playing behavior, regardless of the individual’s psychological, physiological, or socioeconomic status [ 125 ], such as, for instance, the degree of realism of the graphics, sound and back-ground, the game duration, the advancement rate, the game dynamics such as exploring new areas, elements of surprise, fulfilling a request, the control options of the sound, graphics, the character development over time and character customization options, the winning and losing features as the potential to lose or accumulate points, finding bonuses, having to start a level again, the ability to save regularly, the multi-player option building alliances and beating other players [ 125 ].
The more or less realistic mechanics can also configure the game differently and affect fine or gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination or even balance skills, depending on the type of controller, such as a mouse and keyboard, a game control pad, a balance board, or a joystick.
Therefore, VGs may differ widely in multiple dimensions and, as a result, in their effects on cognitive skills and behavior [ 3 , 33 ]. Moreover, the different dimensions may interact with each other and with the psychological, emotional and personality characteristics of the individual player and context. Even the same game can have both positive and negative effects in different contexts and for different subjects.
The current analysis of the literature, therefore, supports the need for further experimental and longitudinal research on the role of multiple characteristics of video games and their interactions. A wide-ranging approach dynamically focused on the multiple dimensions will allow a deeper theoretical understanding of the different aspects of video games.
Nevertheless, according to common opinion, the violence would always have a negative impact on behavior, especially in pediatric subjects. However, a strictly causal relationship between violent VGs and aggressive behavior appears rather reductive [ 126 , 127 ]. Aggressive behavior is a complex one and arises from the interaction of a lot of factors. Therefore, violent VGs, with no other risk factors, should not be considered ‘per se’ the linear cause and single source of aggressive or violent behavior. Antisocial outcomes can be influenced by personality variables, such as trait aggression, or by a number of the ‘third variables’ such as gender, parental education, exposure to family violence and delinquency history [ 83 ]. According to social learning theories [ 128 ], aggressive behavior would arise from repeated exposure to violence patterns [ 129 ]. Therefore, children who have other risk factors for violent or aggressive behavior, such as violent family patterns, excessive amount of time spent playing, playing alone, and so on are more likely to have negative consequences from playing violent video games.
An alternative theoretical framework [ 126 , 127 ] assumes that violent behavior would result from the interaction of genetically predisposed personality traits and stressful situations. In such a model, violent VGs would act as ‘stylistic catalysts’ [ 127 ], providing an individual predisposed to violence with the various models of violent behavior. Therefore, an aggressive child temperament would derive from a biological pathway, while the violent VG, as a ‘stylistic catalyst’, may suggest the specific violent behavior to enact.
Conversely, playing prosocial VGs, even for a short time, increases prosocial cognition, affect and behaviors in children and adolescents [ 13 , 81 , 82 , 83 , 84 , 85 , 89 ]. Several intervention or training studies showed that a prosocial VG should activate experiences, knowledge, feelings and patterns of behavior relating to prosocial actions, cognition, feelings and physiological arousal. In turn, in line with the General Learning Model, [ 91 , 130 ], recurrent prosocial behavioral scripts produce new learning, new behavioral patterns and emotional and affective cognitive constructs [ 83 ].
Moreover, several studies emphasize the educational and academic potential of VGs that may become effective and ‘exemplary teachers’ [ 12 , 82 ] providing fun and motivating contexts for deep learning in a wide range of content [ 12 ], such as school learning [ 96 ], rehabilitation activities [ 46 , 47 ], new health care and protection behavior development and the enhancement of specific skills [ 97 , 99 , 100 ]. Similarly, the literature data document that the intensive use of VGs results in generalized improvements in cognitive functions or specific cognitive domains, and in behavioral changes [ 1 ]. Actually, VGs involve a wide range of cognitive functions, and attentional, perceptual, executive, planning and problem solving skills. They can, therefore, be expected to improve different perceptual and cognitive domains. However, on a methodological level, the impact on behavior and cognition cannot be simplistically viewed as the linear result of a causal relationship between VG and performance. For instance, subjects with better perceptual abilities are likely to choose to play and, as a result, their increase in performance may reflect their baseline level rather than the effects of the game.
Studies focused on the attentional functions in VG playing reported inconsistent data. Playing action games may improve attention skills implied in a specific game. However, according to the attractive hypothesis [ 56 ] and operant conditioning theory, children and adolescents with attentional problems may be attracted by the motivating and engaging VG activities. On the other hand, children and adolescents with a wider VG exposure show greater attention problems [ 53 ]. The relationship between VGs and attention, then, seem to be approached in terms of bidirectional causality [ 56 ].
Similarly, since VGs and their cues appear more pleasant and desirable, a large amount of attractive VG exposure can lead to addiction and impair ability to focus on effortful goal oriented behavior [ 131 ]. However, the literature does not yet appear to agree on the objective diagnostic criteria for classifying behavioral game addiction [ 132 ].
In the fifth edition appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [ 133 ], the diagnostic criteria for Internet Gaming Disorder included both specific internet games and offline games. However, this has led to some confusion as to whether excessive video games must necessarily occur online [ 134 , 135 ]. According to some authors, since ‘Internet addiction’ includes heterogeneous behaviors and etiological mechanisms, the term ‘video game disorder’ or simply ‘gaming disorder’ would be more suitable [ 136 , 137 ], while the term ‘Internet addiction’ appears inappropriate. Individuals rarely become addicted to the medium of the internet itself [ 137 , 138 ]. Moreover, it has also been supported theoretically [ 135 ] and empirically proven [ 139 ] that problematic internet use and problematic online gaming are not the same.
The debate on the relationship between pure game addiction behaviors and game addiction in comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders appears still on. Some researchers have argued that game addiction, as a standalone clinical entity, does not exist [ 140 ], but it is simply a symptom of psychiatric illnesses such as major depressive disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Equally poorly defined is the question of genetic predisposition and vulnerability to game addiction.
Likewise, the relationship between clinical symptoms and changes in brain activity and the dynamics by which video games triggers such widespread brain plasticity needs to be more clearly defined.
The current analysis of the literature provides strong evidence on the power of video games as highly motivating and engaging tools in the broader context of cognitive, emotional and relational development of children and adolescents. However, the effectiveness of such tools does not arise exclusively from their content, but it results from a set of variables interacting each other.
Video games, beyond their content, can favor pathological aggression, withdrawal, escape from reality and reduction of interests. Virtual reality becomes more attractive than the real one and can become the ‘non-place’ to escape from the complexity of everyday life. Recently, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, health authorities have forced populations to stay home and children and adolescents may experience an exacerbation of exposure to video games.
Parents, educators and teachers should ensure an educational presence, monitoring times and modalities of VG practice in a broader context in which children and adolescents live with a wider repertoire of interests, without losing social and relational engagement. Moreover, pediatric health care visits may be a great opportunity to support parents helping children to deal with media and video games.
On these assumptions, as practical suggestions to prevent or mitigate addictive behaviors, parents and educators should enforce the golden rule as the educational presence of the adult.
Moreover, in line with the literature, the core values to prevent a negative impact of video games should be focused on a few rules to be proposed with assertiveness and authority: 1. set a clear time limit to play, 2. prefer games that can also be played with family, 3. alternate video games with other games and activities, 4. avoid highly addictive games, 5. keep a social life in the real world.
Conceptualization, D.S., L.D.F. and G.L.; methodology, D.S., E.G.; formal analysis, D.S., E.G. and L.D.F.; data curation, E.G. and L.D.F.; writing—original draft preparation, D.S., E.G. and L.D.F.; writing—review and editing, D.S.; supervision, D.S. and G.L.; funding acquisition, D.S. and G.L. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
This research received no external funding.
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Video Games Could Improve Your Decision-Making Skills
W ant to be a better decision maker? Get yourself an Xbox or a PlayStation.
While detractors might write them off as wastes of time, video games actually have some side benefits that are extremely useful for business leaders. In fact, a recent study shows that people who play video games frequently show enhanced brain activity and elevated decision making skills.
Georgia State University, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tools, scanned the brains of both gamers and non-gamers. Subjects were able to observe a cue followed by a display of moving dots, then asked to press a button in either their right or left hand, depending on which direction the dot moved.
Gamers were both faster and more accurate with their responses.
“These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills ,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alters the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.”
It’s not just decision making. Video games build a number of soft skills that are useful in business, researchers have found over the years.
For instance, a study published in the American Journal of Play in 2014 found that the fast-pace of many video games requires people to keep track of many items at once and make split-second decisions, positively affecting perception, attention, memory and decision-making, which many psychologists consider the core building blocks of intelligence.
And four years earlier, The University of Rochester found that playing action-oriented games gives players better vision, better attention and better cognition. Those improvements help with activities like multitasking, navigating around town and reading small print.
Different game types build other sorts of skills. Puzzle games teach problem-solving. Real-time action games improve fine motor skills, memory, response time and the aforementioned hand-eye coordination. Strategy games encourage players to make plans, manage resources and balance competing objectives.
Video games also offer people who are introverted or who might struggle with real-world interactions the chance to be a vital part of a team — and sometimes to lead that squad. That's an incredibly empowering sensation for someone who might be too young to do so at work (giving them experience), overlooked by colleagues or who suffers from a lack of self-confidence.
Perhaps most importantly? Video games can build empathy, a critical skill among leaders . In Salaam , for instance, players live the life of a refugee, avoiding bombs, finding water and searching out energy points, as they journey from a warzone to a peaceful life.
Adventure games with a strong story component, such as The Last of Us , get you emotionally invested in characters. That's not uncommon in any entertainment medium. But in games, you get to make decisions for those characters. If you make a bad choice, they pay the consequence and that decision could affect the rest of the game. The player learns something from that.
Not sure what game to try as you look to build your skills? Here are a few suggestions:
Brain Age – Who would have thought a game designed to keep your brain sharp would go on to sell over 4 million copies and launch a franchise? But the way the questions in this title are worded makes it more an exercise in fun than homework.
Portal – Gamers remember Portal for the grin it brought to their face and GLaDOS's witty insults. But it's also an educational game hidden in an action sheepskin. It's about problem solving and spatial relationships and requires strategy, planning and creative insight.
Civilization – Sid Meier's beloved series is as close as you can come to a living history book. Players learn the principals behind the names and dates in their books. It doesn't teach actual history, but its in-game encyclopedia is full of useful facts. And players learn strategy at the same time.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.
Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including CNNMoney.com, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and CNBC.com.
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Your Gaming Skills Can Help You Shape Your Career
- Igor Tulchinsky
Video games are fast-moving, dynamic, and anything but static. Your career can be too.
Studies have shown the benefits of gaming — whether it’s better spatial awareness, faster cognitive processing, or improved mental health, social skills, and decision-making capabilities. Here are some ways you can harness the unique skills and lessons gaming has taught you to shape your future working life.
- Don’t settle. Video games are fast-moving, dynamic, and anything but static. Your career should be too. Every job requires some combination of problem-solving, strategy, and teamwork — just like every video game. But not every company you encounter will be as solutions-oriented, innovative, or collaborative as you might desire. Aim to find an organization that will value you and your skills.
- Challenge your beliefs. How often have you written off a video game before even playing it? We all have internal biases that can alter our perception of the world. The same is true for our careers — you likely have personal beliefs about certain companies, industries, and job titles. Just like you shouldn’t judge a game by its popular presentation, you shouldn’t with jobs either. Instead, take the time to speak to people on the inside.
- Try again. Fail again. Fail better. We’re often too afraid to fail in real life because we believe we won’t get a second chance. In some ways, that’s true — there are no extra lives here. But just like in video games, we can test hypotheses, experiment, process variables, and establish new ways of understanding our world.
- Have patience. Video games can be repetitive. The same can be said for work, and our lives in general. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The patience and hard work are what make the glorious cut scenes, rare achievements, and final fights worth it. In your career, the work you put in now will pay off long-term, too.
- Think like a creator. Game developers often employ transformational creativity. This is when designers, often drawing on leaps forward in technology, drive revolutionary changes in the entire video game ecosystem. One way to cultivate transformational creativity in your work life is to embrace adjacency. If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas or find yourself making the same errors when addressing a task, try thinking about how other, adjacent disciplines might approach a similar problem.
Growing up in the golden age of video games, it was hard not to feel like you were living two lives at once.
- IT Igor Tulchinsky is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of WorldQuant, LLC, a global quantitative asset management firm. He was previously a portfolio manager at Millennium.
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The Link Between Video Games and Stress Relief
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Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
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Much has been written about video games, and quite a lot of it is negative. We have feared that video games are making our children less social and more violent, and making us all more stressed. There's been significant research on the topic, and some good news has come out of it: Video games can actually be good for our stress levels!
Research on the Connection Between Gaming and Stress
Most gamers report that playing video games—even violent games—is a way to relieve stress and enjoy playing with friends.
However, much of the research conducted on video games comes with the presumption that games are stressful or even psychologically harmful. While this isn’t the whole story, there is some evidence to support this assumption.
Some studies show that a stressful in-game situation leads players to experience a stress reaction in real life. Other studies have found that when people play violent games, they are more likely to act aggressively in laboratory-based scenarios. For instance, players who played violent games for 20 minutes were more likely to blast a loud noise at another subject when given the chance, which was considered an indication of aggression.
Another study found that teens who played violent games experienced minimal increases in feelings of aggression, though the increases were barely detectable; teen girls experienced a slight increase in stress .
What Research Shows About How Video Games Help Relieve Stress
Much of the research that has found a link between video game violence and aggression does not actually show a clear link between exposure to in-game violence and real-world aggression. (For example, most people who are video game players are not walking around blasting strangers with loud noises after playing their games; this is something mainly found in lab settings where subjects are asked to do so.)
Similarly, while there may be some stress responses triggered by games, overall self-assessments provided by gamers failed to show a link between problems with social life, academic behavior, work behavior, or physical reactions (stress), showing that, if there is a negative effect, gamers themselves are not aware of it and its effects on their lives.
One study examined players as they played either competitive or cooperative games. As predicted, there was a difference in stress levels after playing, and those who played cooperatively experienced a greater decrease in stress levels, but the difference was slight—both groups experienced decreases in stress by playing the game.
In addition, both groups retained positive feelings toward the other players, though there was slightly higher regard for those who were cooperative. This is another way in which video games can provide positive social experiences and a decrease in stress.
Another study used a survey of 1614 game players to examine the use of computer games as a tool for stress recovery. Results showed that games are indeed used as a coping tool after exposure to stressful situations and strain and that this “recovery experience” is a significant facet of the gaming experience.
Researchers also examined the relationships among work-related fatigue, daily hassles, social support, coping style, recovery experience, and the use of video and computer games for recovery purposes and found that people who more strongly associated gameplay with stress recovery used video and computer games more often after exhausting and stressful situations .
In addition, participants’ level of work-related fatigue and exposure to daily hassles were both positively associated with the use of games for recovery. Participants with emotion-focused coping style showed a higher tendency to use games for recovery than participants with problem-focused coping style.
The relationship between work-related fatigue and game use for recovery purposes was moderated by social support. The stress buffering function of video and computer games was more important for participants receiving less social support . These participants showed a stronger relationship between work-related fatigue and the use of games for recovery than participants receiving more social support.
How We Can Use Video Games for Better Stress Relief
Video games can provide us with a safe and fun outlet for developing our emotional awareness and coping skills .
One study from the Behavioral Science Institute in The Netherlands studied proficient gamers who were playing Starcraft 2 to determine if their in-game coping mechanisms were related to their overall stress levels. What they found was that several players who became upset during gameplay found useful coping strategies to handle their negative emotions .
The most useful strategies were those that either sought a resolution to the negative feelings (either by problem-solving or by using personal coping strategies ) or ones that sound out social support from other players.
One key difference between those who coped well and those who were less effective copers was the ability to monitor their own feelings and internal states—what is known as interoceptive awareness—and then take steps to maintain a healthy balance, either by making beneficial decisions to change their situation for the better, or by seeking support. In fact, most games reward players for being able to manage their emotions and work toward solutions in the face of stress.
In understanding what worked best for these gamers, we can use this information in our own lives: developing our own interoceptive awareness and using it to maintain emotional balance is a vital part of healthy coping. Even more importantly, by playing games, we can provide practice scenarios for developing these skills in a way that is non-threatening and fun, which is one of the advantages of playing games.
Another study also showed that action-based video games not only reduce stress but can sharpen cognitive abilities such as reaction speed. This can help gamers think more quickly on their feet and likely be more proficient in problem-solving , which can reduce stress in other ways as well.
Overall, there is significant evidence that video games are not only fun, but they can be great stress relievers as well for many reasons.
Recommended Video Games for Stress Relief
Here are some recommended video games to help relieve stress.
These games can be picked up and played for a few minutes, and then put down again. They can include simple challenges, short matches of gameplay, or the ability to stop and save at any time.
Casual games are enjoyable because they can offer a quick break, a challenging-but-not-stressful experience, and a change in focus. Some casual games include Animal Crossing , Tomodachi Life , or Pokemon X for the 3DS, or this list of casual games for the computer .
These games involve challenges that can be completed with other players. There are several benefits to this. One of the main benefits is that players can create a network of friends through the game, which can be comforting and may also be empowering. We enjoyed playing games with friends when we were young, and this need doesn’t necessarily go away in adulthood.
Another benefit of cooperative gameplay is that players can help one another, offering symbolic support and enabling one another to develop problem-solving skills. These positive experiences and “wins” can feel empowering and build resilience to stress.
As subjects have reported, cooperative gaming can relieve stress and create positive feelings among players. These games can be played on handheld gaming systems, over the computer, or even via social media sites like Facebook.
Games With an Explicit Stress-Management Component
Some games were actually created to help players learn to manage stress more efficiently. While these games aren’t necessarily as “mainstream” as some of the others, they can be especially helpful for stress relief.
Some games train players in meditation while others can even train in biofeedback, helping players build skills in these powerful stress management techniques that can be used in virtually any stressful situation.
Games that teach stress management skills are rare, but there are a few. An older game that teaches biofeedback is known as Relaxing Rhythms by Wild Devine , which uses finger sensors to provide in-game feedback.
There is also a "brain-sensing headband" known as Muse , which provides feedback for meditation: you listen to nature sounds as you meditate, but once your mind begins to wander, the atmospheric nature sounds become more intense until you bring your thoughts back to the present moment. This is a device that seems to fall somewhere between "game" and "tool," but can be enjoyable and more interesting to many new practitioners of meditation.
One very promising game is called Champions of the Shengha, and it allows players to wear a sensor in real life and become more powerful in the game by remaining calm as they play it, facilitating mindfulness practice. (Watch a video here about how Champions of the Shengha works.)
Champions of the Shengha is a remarkable game in that it encourages the practice of emotional mastery and allows players to become more powerful in the game as well as in real life as a result. It's ideal for teens and others who may have a difficult time learning stress management techniques like mindfulness, but love playing games. It is still in development but should be available in the near future.
Games That Build Skills
These games can build brain power or specific abilities. The benefit is that not only can they help to take your mind off of what is stressing you, they can help you to build executive function abilities that can help you to solve problems and stay organized in your regular life--abilities that can relieve stress!
Skill-building games can be puzzle games (like crossword puzzles that you can play online or on a handheld game device) or they can be games that require quick thinking. This includes games like Brain Age , Brain Age 2 , Brain Age Concentration Training or Big Brain Academy , which can be played on the Nintendo 3DS; WeBoggle, a Boggle game that can be played for free online; language-teaching games like My Spanish Coach , or any of a number of games that make you think quickly.
Games You Really Enjoy
Really, any game that you truly enjoy can be a stress reliever. Virtually any game that you find to be truly fun can be beneficial by providing an escape from daily stress, a break from patterns of rumination, or a way to build positive feelings. Play, tune into your feelings during and after you play, and see what you enjoy the most!
Video Games to Avoid
Basically, if you enjoy a game, it is probably a good stress reliever for you. Games with a strong social component, particularly a cooperative one, may be especially beneficial as stress-relief tools. (They can also be time-consuming or even addictive , so be careful about that.)
Finding a game that doesn’t require a huge time investment and allows for casual involvement (rather than carrying a stiff penalty if you need to quit a game after a certain amount of time or play only for limited amounts of time) may be less stressful as well, for obvious reasons.
Ultimately, pay attention to how you feel during and after you play. Make adjustments based on your observations.
Hasan Y, Bègue L, Bushman BJ. Violent video games stress people out and make them more aggressive . Aggress Behav. 2013;39(1):64-70. doi:10.1002/ab.21454
Ferguson CJ, Trigani B, Pilato S, Miller S, Foley K, Barr H. Violent Video Games Don't Increase Hostility in Teens, but They Do Stress Girls Out . Psychiatr Q. 2016;87(1):49-56. doi:10.1007/s11126-015-9361-7
Roy A, Ferguson CJ. Competitively versus cooperatively? An analysis of the effect of game play on levels of stress . Computers in Human Behavior. 2016;56:14-20. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.020
Reinecke, L. (2009). Games and Recovery: the Use of Video and Computer Games to Recuperate From Stress and Strain . Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, Vol 21(3), pp. 126-142. doi:10.1027/1864-1184.108.40.206
Lobel, A., Grancic, I., and Engels, R. (2014). Stressful Gaming, Interoceptive Awareness, and Emotion Regulation Tendencies: A Novel Approach . Cyberpsychology, Behavior And Social Networking, Vol 17(4). doi:10.1089/cyber.2013.0296
Dye MW, Green CS, Bavelier D. Increasing Speed of Processing With Action Video Games . Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2009;18(6):321-326. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01660.x
Ferguson, C.J. (2015). Do Angry Birds Make for Angry Children? a Meta-Analysis of Video Game Influences on Children's and Adolescents' Aggression, Mental Health, Prosocial Behavior and Academic Performance. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, pp. 646–666.
- Ferguson, Christopher J.; Trigani, Benjamin; Pilato, Steven; Miller, Stephanie; Foley, Kimberly; Barr, Hayley. (2016). Violent Video Games Don’t Increase Hostility in Teens, but They Do Stress Girls Out. Psychiatric Quarterly , Vol 87(1), pp. 49-56.
- Hasan Y; Bègue L; Bushman BJ. (2013). Violent Video Games Stress People out and Make Them More Aggressive. Aggressive Behavior , Vol. 39 (1), pp. 64-70
- Lobel, A., Grancic, I., and Engels, R. (2014). Stressful Gaming, Interoceptive Awareness, and Emotion Regulation Tendencies: A Novel Approach. Cyberpsychology, Behavior And Social Networking , Vol 17(4).
- Reinecke, L. (2009). Games and Recovery: the Use of Video and Computer Games to Recuperate From Stress and Strain. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, Vol 21 (3), pp. 126-142.
By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.
- Posted June 29, 2021
- By Emily Boudreau
- Learning Design and Instruction
- Technology and Media
Parents and educators alike may wonder why a child can spend hours playing Minecraft but can’t engage with an app that runs through multiplication facts with the same focus. Why are some games more “fun” than others?
“What’s really motivating about a good learning game is the learning,” says Louisa Rosenheck , researcher at MIT’s Education Arcade Lab and a an adjunct lecturer at HGSE. “Humans like to learn, and we like to get better at things.” But, she observes, many games used in classrooms or that are deemed “educational” tend to focus on content and procedural skills, and don’t necessarily encourage learning that sparks intrinsic motivation and genuine engagement.
With this in mind, Rosenheck and a team of other researchers at the Education Arcade Lab developed a series of design principles that inform the development of what they term “ resonant games ” — games that are open ended, exploratory, allow learners to make connections to bigger systems and concepts, and promote deeper learning overall.
Choosing a Good Learning Game
Parents and educators need to be able to navigate a tremendous amount of content and options when selecting games that will engage children in authentic learning. While not an exhaustive list, Rosenheck notes that good games will:
- Give players agency or choice in the way they play or their goals in the game.
- Spark curiosity, making players ask more questions and wonder how things work.
- Provide “hard fun” — an appropriate level of challenge that is engaging and satisfying.
Importantly, games with structures that promote these features avoid the trend of “gamification” — a superficial way of spicing up a learning task with extraneous elements like points, badges, and leaderboards. But these features are often separate from the learning experience, serving to “trick” kids into learning. Instead, games that put authentic learning first focus on deeper concepts, exploration and experimentation, and developing a sense of accomplishment by building skills and applying them to real-world contexts by:
- Spending time on playing and figuring things out for themselves, rather than instruction or explanation.
- Providing feedback to a player so they can form their own understanding of the game’s systems.
- Helping players make connections with real systems and authentic problems — for example, focusing on conceptual math, rather than drilling addition facts.
Going Beyond Entertainment
Many adults have a tendency to truncate or limit game time, but it’s important to understand that fun and learning can often be one and the same. Instead, the challenge may not just be to find a high-quality game, but to find ways to support kids in making meaningful connections between their play and the world around them. Adults can also add structure and depth to games by providing opportunities for reflection and conversation. To better support game-based learning, educators and caregivers can:
- Talk to kids about what they’re playing on their computers. A great starter question is “what have you figured out?”
- Emphasize skills like persistence or working through frustration. Games provide a valuable opportunity to reinforce social emotional learning in addition to academic competencies.
- Recognize that these games provide children with a chance to build social connections and that during the pandemic, online games have been a major social support. Cutting out computer time isn’t just cutting back on screen time but could also limit social interaction.
- Let go of some control. Instead of devoting time to explaining how a game works, let kids explore and carve out time for reflection and sharing instead.
- A good game puts the learning first and doesn’t rely on bells and whistles to motivate kids to engage with its content.
- Leave room for kids to explore and solve problems independently, as figuring out the rules is half the fun. The teacher or caregiver shouldn’t feel they must have all the answers.
- Encourage conversation and reflection to connect the game with the real world. This could take the form of parents talking to their kids or kids talking about the game with their own social networks.
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Monday, October 24, 2022
Video gaming may be associated with better cognitive performance in children
Additional research necessary to parse potential benefits and harms of video games on the developing brain.
On Monday, April 10, 2023, a Notice of Retraction and Replacement published for the article featured below . The key findings remain the same. The press release has been updated, in line with the retracted and replacement article, to clarify that attention problems, depression symptoms, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) scores were significantly higher among children who played three hours per day or more compared to children who had never played video games.
A study of nearly 2,000 children found that those who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more performed better on cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and working memory compared to children who had never played video games. Published today in JAMA Network Open , this study analyzed data from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study , which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other entities of the National Institutes of Health.
“This study adds to our growing understanding of the associations between playing video games and brain development,” said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D. “Numerous studies have linked video gaming to behavior and mental health problems. This study suggests that there may also be cognitive benefits associated with this popular pastime, which are worthy of further investigation.”
Although a number of studies have investigated the relationship between video gaming and cognitive behavior, the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the associations are not well understood. Only a handful of neuroimaging studies have addressed this topic, and the sample sizes for those studies have been small, with fewer than 80 participants.
To address this research gap, scientists at the University of Vermont, Burlington, analyzed data obtained when children entered the ABCD Study at ages 9 and 10 years old. The research team examined survey, cognitive, and brain imaging data from nearly 2,000 participants from within the bigger study cohort. They separated these children into two groups, those who reported playing no video games at all and those who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more. This threshold was selected as it exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics screen time guidelines , which recommend that videogaming time be limited to one to two hours per day for older children. For each group, the investigators evaluated the children’s performance on two tasks that reflected their ability to control impulsive behavior and to memorize information, as well as the children’s brain activity while performing the tasks.
The researchers found that the children who reported playing video games for three or more hours per day were faster and more accurate on both cognitive tasks than those who never played. They also observed that the differences in cognitive function observed between the two groups was accompanied by differences in brain activity. Functional MRI brain imaging analyses found that children who played video games for three or more hours per day showed higher brain activity in regions of the brain associated with attention and memory than did those who never played. At the same time, those children who played at least three hours of videogames per day showed more brain activity in frontal brain regions that are associated with more cognitively demanding tasks and less brain activity in brain regions related to vision.
The researchers think these patterns may stem from practicing tasks related to impulse control and memory while playing videogames, which can be cognitively demanding, and that these changes may lead to improved performance on related tasks. Furthermore, the comparatively low activity in visual areas among children who reported playing video games may reflect that this area of the brain may become more efficient at visual processing as a result of repeated practice through video games.
While prior studies have reported associations between video gaming and increases in violence and aggressive behavior, this study did not find that to be the case. Though children who reported playing video games for three or more hours per day scored higher on measures of attention problems, depression symptoms, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to children who played no video games, the researchers found that these mental health and behavioral scores did not reach clinical significance in either group, meaning, they did not meet the thresholds for risk of problem behaviors or clinical symptoms. The authors note that these will be important measures to continue to track and understand as the children mature.
Further, the researchers stress that this cross-sectional study does not allow for cause-and-effect analyses, and that it could be that children who are good at these types of cognitive tasks may choose to play video games. The authors also emphasize that their findings do not mean that children should spend unlimited time on their computers, mobile phones, or TVs, and that the outcomes likely depend largely on the specific activities children engage in. For instance, they hypothesize that the specific genre of video games, such as action-adventure, puzzle solving, sports, or shooting games, may have different effects for neurocognitive development, and this level of specificity on the type of video game played was not assessed by the study.
“While we cannot say whether playing video games regularly caused superior neurocognitive performance, it is an encouraging finding, and one that we must continue to investigate in these children as they transition into adolescence and young adulthood,” said Bader Chaarani, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and the lead author on the study. “Many parents today are concerned about the effects of video games on their children’s health and development, and as these games continue to proliferate among young people, it is crucial that we better understand both the positive and negative impact that such games may have.”
Through the ABCD Study, researchers will be able to conduct similar analyses for the same children over time into early adulthood, to see if changes in video gaming behavior are linked to changes in cognitive skills, brain activity, behavior, and mental health. The longitudinal study design and comprehensive data set will also enable them to better account for various other factors in the children’s families and environment that may influence their cognitive and behavioral development, such as exercise, sleep quality, and other influences.
The ABCD Study, the largest of its kind in the United States, is tracking nearly 12,000 youth as they grow into young adults. Investigators regularly measure participants’ brain structure and activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and collect psychological, environmental, and cognitive information, as well as biological samples. The goal of the study is to understand the factors that influence brain, cognitive, and social-emotional development, to inform the development of interventions to enhance a young person’s life trajectory.
The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study and ABCD Study are registered service marks and trademarks, respectively, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit www.nida.nih.gov .
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov .
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B Chaarani, et al. Association of video gaming with cognitive performance among children . JAMA Open Network. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.35721 (2022).
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The Impact of Gaming on Education: How Video Games Can Enhance Learning
1. gaming makes the learning process fun, 2. it helps players develop problem-solving abilities, 3. gaming boosts creativity, 4. it promotes independent learning, 5. players learn and form connections while gaming, 6. gaming helps students boost their brain function.
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Home » Blog » What Video Games Can Help Improve Problem Solving Skills
What Video Games Can Help Improve Problem Solving Skills
- June 9, 2022
Problems are part and parcel of our daily lives. We all stumble across life with numerous issues at any given point in time. Some can solve them easily, while others take time. What is the difference between these two? It is their approach towards the problem.
Problems can be a blessing in disguise, and one needs to be able to see the potential of self-improvement in them.
One of the easiest ways that you must consider for improving your problem-solving skills is by playing video games, solving puzzles, online casino games, and more. Problems delay your thoughts, your actions, and all your plans. Without striving to overcome all these stumbling blocks in your direction, the possibilities of getting stuck in between traffic lights are high. You don’t want your goals to be messed up! So training your mind to break the loop and progress through reasoning will help build your problem-solving skills.
Fat Santa free play is available for a demo game, you can absolutely test your instinct and decision-making skills.
Grand Theft Auto (GTA)
If you are in a situation of being given a lot of tasks, time and deadlines, try to act like you are the character of GTA. Multi-tasking can improve your problem-solving skills because you are challenged to continue your work without any disturbances. You become more focused on accomplishing goals and finding solutions even if you receive tons of tasks on your desk.
As a matter of fact, video games have become more complicated. In order to assess the comprehension level of an individual in terms of business, work, and other community relationships, they prove to be good tools.
MOBA Games (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)
How can you solve problems logically if you are afraid to socialize? Do you have trust issues when working with somebody? Your social abilities are advantageous, especially when you are strategizing solutions and are involved in teamwork.
These MOBA games , such as DOTA, Mobile Legends, League of Legends, and more, allow you to set up your microphones, headsets, or even cameras in order to talk to your teammates during the game. You can detonate obstacles in one snap through collaboration. It helps build one’s social skills and opens one’s mind to a lot of avenues.
Call of Duty
There is no doubt that Call of Duty is very well-known because it trains you to be a visual observer, and your spatial awareness is also stimulated. COD teaches you to become goal-oriented, and that makes you a good example of a solution provider.
Given a situation, if you were monitoring the system of your company used by different departments and suddenly program errors started to occur. Your resilience to not break under pressure is the only thing that can save you during the said crisis. This is just an example of how Call of Duty influences your problem-solving strategy.
Another tip to take note of improving problem-solving skills is judgment and prediction. Poker is very popular amongst gamblers for its need for the right judgment abilities. Betting a higher coin value will increase the bet amount, and you will have to create a good card combination to aim for the jackpot. This is where you can brush up on your judgment skills and get yourself a win. Once you hit it, you can half or double your stakes. Do not compromise a good prediction because you may end up going home and broke.
4 Problem Solving Aspects that Video Games Enhance
As Albert Einstein once said , “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” This quote encourages everyone to keep on learning and reading in order to advance and develop our existing problem-solving skills. And when speaking of video games, there is a pool of skills that you can further develop.
Video games are created involving ways to train the player to think wisely and precisely no matter what the situation is. Offline and online games can be designed in different genres, but most challenging games, such as strategy games, require the player’s good analysis and reasoning capabilities. If you can analyze a difficult situation, then you are strong enough to surpass it.
Video games are very influential, especially if you are just at home and recently bought your PS5. If you are the person who excels in creativity while trying to win an opponent’s battle plan, you can counter your problems with a super skill.
The devil is in the details. They distract you from accomplishing your to-do list and ended up with a day-over. Video games enhance your focus and attention to get you to the desired point. You are trained to observe every single detail of a situation. This skill will also help you in enhancing your approach to a particular challenge.
Enhanced Visual Memory
Like a jigsaw puzzle, you are challenged to shape yourself from being shattered into pieces by your frustrations. When playing with puzzles, you become more attentive to remembering each piece, the size, color, shape and picture. Your memory is enhanced visually in order for you to identify the correct pieces and make your moves.
Tips for Playing Games
Gaming does not only involve fun time but also remarkable mental strategies. In order to be able to maximize the chances of success, one has to carefully create strategies.
Below are some pointers for approaching a challenge:
- Be careful with your time and plan ahead.
- Choose your battles wisely and never play if you don’t understand the game rules.
- Stick to a particular genre or a game if you want to master and entrust your winnings.
- Take advantage of the streams and gameplay because these may help you win or update your strategy.
- Lastly, do not disregard classic or ‘children’ games, such as chess or tic-tac-toe, because they are the backbone of most modern strategy games.
Games like chess force you to consider a wide array of possibilities and outcomes. It enhances your pattern recognition skills, and helps you learn to think strategically. Chess.com has apps for iPhones and Android devices.
We are all players in life. Sometimes we take home the crown, and sometimes we arrive home as losers. Winning your problems is the jackpot that everyone wants to achieve. Thanks to online game
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14 Video Games That Will Improve Your Problem-Solving and Strategy Skills
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Planet coaster, red alert remastered, call of duty series, forza horizon 4, mass effect, final fantasy, starcraft series, grand theft auto v, civilization series, titanfall 2 series, bejeweled 3.
Video games train your problem-solving skills by getting you to find solutions to complicated problems. They allow players to try out different things to figure out which one works best. Keeping this in mind, here are a variety of our favorite video games that will improve your problem-solving skills.
Running your own themepark isn’t that straight forward. You will be presented with numerous problems from which you’ll need to solve. From unhappy guests to budget problems, your moves will result in you winning or losing the various scenarios on offer. This great game will also allow you to explore your creative palate as you design the themepark of you dreams.
If you’ve never played the Red Alert series from EA (originally Westwood), then you’re in for a treat. It’s a fine series that truly marked the RTS genre. However, the remaster brings fresh attention to the series and it will also enable you to master your problem solving and strategy making skills. You’ll need to bankroll your army by collecting ore, purchase units and buildings, and then decide if and when to attack your opponent(s). Exciting? Absolutely. You’ll be smarter too from playing this game.
Feeling as though you’d love to delve into real-estate? Perhaps you could test-out your skills with the old-school board game, Monopoly. This game is all about decisions and, well, luck. There are numerous editions of this video game, launched on various platforms. Interestingly, this game first appeared as a video game back in 1985.
Another board-game that can be best played on a tablet. Chess is a game of problem solving and strategy. You’ll need to make the right moves, learning the power of each piece. With the Queen the most important and powerful unit, you’ll want to protect and utilize
How does a first-person-shooter make this list? Well, unless you decide to aimlessly run around firing, it’s your strategy that will make the difference, and that, of course, involves problem solving, too. Call of Duty is an FPS video game franchise developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. The game originally focused on games set in the Second World War. Over time, the developers have set the games in this series in futuristic worlds, the Cold War, and outer space. As part of a trained squad, you will play through the chaos of war. In addition to authentic squad tactics and movements, each soldier’s unique personality and training will come out on the battlefield. Call of Duty helps players to improve their spatial intelligence and visual attention skills.
Set in an open-world based in a fictionalized Kingdom of Great Britain, this racing video game was developed by Playground Games. The publisher of Forza Horizon 4 is Microsoft Studios, and it features a route creator that allows you to create races using customized routes. The game also features a dynamic weather system depicting the change of seasons. In the game, the environment changes depending on the season; for instance, Derwentwater freezes in winter, allowing the player to drive on the ice and reach areas that are inaccessible during other seasons. This fast-paced video game can improve your ability to make correct decisions when you are under pressure.
Set in the year 2183 within the Milky Way galaxy, Mass Effect is an ARPG (action role-playing game) that was developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. It’s the first installment in the Mass Effect game series. In the game, a highly advanced machine race called Reapers has threatened the existence of civilization. The player takes on the role of Commander Shepard and you have to stop a rogue agent who’s planning to carry out the Reapers’ galactic invasion. You need to complete multiple quests that involve squad and vehicular combat, space exploration, and interaction with NPCs (non-player characters). This game can help you learn how to evaluate your options quickly and correctly.
Final Fantasy, an anthology science fantasy media franchise, was created by a Japanese video game company called Hironobu Sakaguchi. It was developed and published by a Japanese video game holding company called Square Enix. The franchise centers on fantasy and science RPG games. Each game has different plots, settings, and characters. Character names are often derived from pop culture, languages, history, and mythologies of cultures from different parts of the world. Fantasy role-playing games can help to train players how to evaluate their options faster and accurately.
Set in a science-fiction universe, this military science fiction RTG requires strategic thinking. It tests and refines the player’s information-gathering skills. You’ll assume the role of three characters throughout the game. The game story is presented in several ways, including an instruction manual, conversations within the missions themselves, and briefings to each mission. StarCraft can improve your ability to solve real-life and imaginary problems.
Grand Theft Auto V was developed by a New York City-based company known as Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. It’s the fifth game in the Grand Theft Auto series. The game offers you the option to explore Los Santos and Blaine County world in 4K resolution and beyond. You’ll also get the chance of experiencing the game running at 60 FPS (frames per second). Because players assume the role of a criminal, this may help to train them how to quickly process and keep track of information in high-stress situations.
Civilization, a turn-based strategy 4X game, was developed and published by an American company known as MicroProse. Players are tasked with leading the human civilization throughout several millennia. They can do this by controlling different areas, including military, research, trade, government, urban development, and exploration. The player can also control individual units in the game and advance the conquest, exploration, and settlement of the world. The game teaches you how to work as a team to solve problems and become productive at work.
Titanfall 2 is a multiplayer first-person shooter game that was developed by Respawn Entertainment. The publisher of Titanfall 2 is an American video game company called Electronic Arts. The player controls mecha-style exoskeletons, their pilots, and Titans. The game is set in science-fiction war-torn outer space colonies and features fast-paced future warfare. Players have the tactical ability to regenerate speed boosts, invisibility cloaking, and x-ray vision. The game can help you learn how to formulate and execute strategic plans to solve problems.
This hack-and-slash ARPG was developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It’s the third installment in the Diablo series. The gameplay revolves around the player defeating increasingly difficult enemies to obtain stronger equipment. You’ll fight enemies using various character class skills that you can customize by talent trees and equipment. Enemies are divided into monster families defined by their location, combat style, and theme. Diablo IV can improve your cognitive abilities and allow you to find solutions to problems faster when you are in a difficult situation.
This tile-matching puzzle game was published and developed by PopCap Games. It’s the fifth installment in the Bejeweled series. In the game, the player has to swap one of the on-screen gems with an adjacent one and form chains of at least three gems of the same color. This game can teach you how to relax and reduce stress, which is important when you want to solve a problem.
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How video games help children develop problem-solving skills?
Hear this out loud Pause Problem solving skills/decision making skills Traditionally video games train problem solving and strategy development skills by getting the player solve increasingly complicated problems . In many cases there is a time pressure which develops speed and decision making skills.
How games are useful in problem-solving?
Participation in problem-solving activities and games enables you to practise cognitive actions, helping you develop and improve skills like creative thinking. These games help you with cognitive growth, as you can recall the rules, remember consequences, and use logic to make informed decisions.
What type of video games improve problem-solving skills?
Puzzle games teach problem-solving. Real-time action games improve fine motor skills, memory, response time and the aforementioned hand-eye coordination. Strategy games encourage players to make plans, manage resources and balance competing objectives.
Do you think video games help children learn and develop thinking skills?
Video games can also help children learn how to think and make decisions quickly which are skills that are needed in the fast-paced world. Children develop confidence through gameplay because they are able to solve and win through trial and error.
Can video gaming help solve real problems?
Contrary to popular belief, video games can genuinely advance science and technology while also being an addictive pastime. Video games have recently gained a whole new perspective by encouraging kids to major in STEM subjects and assisting with problem-solving in the real world.
How Gaming Affects Your Brain (Andrew Huberman)
How video games can help to improve problem-solving and creativity?
First, video games encourage problem solving by requiring players to find creative solutions to overcome obstacles within the game. Whether facing puzzles, combat strategies, or logic challenges, players must think quickly and make informed decisions to advance through the game.
How do video games help critical thinking?
In video games, sometimes surprising events occur that “catch” players off guard, forcing them to think quickly to overcome the obstacles that arise. Playing video games improves one’s ability to make effective decisions in dynamic environments, a valuable skill in the real world as well.
What are the positive and negative effects of video games on children?
Video games can be used to help improve test scores, teach life and job skills, improve brain function, and encourage physical exercise. Because video game addiction can negatively impact social and physical health, parents should be aware of the symptoms.
How do video games help kids focus?
Processing information uses energy, so individuals who excel at visual selective attention—who can narrow their focus and block out distractions—are using their brains more efficiently. Students who spent one hour playing video games demonstrated improved visual selective attention and changes in brain activity.
Why do games help children learn?
Research has shown that games are essential for healthy development in early childhood and beyond. Play lets children practise what they know, and also what they don’t. It allows them to experiment through trial and error, find solutions to problems, work out the best strategies, and build new confidence and skills.
Do video games help develop skills?
However, the benefits of videogames include improved powers of concentration, creativity, memory, languages and teamwork. Videogames can make it easier to learn educational contents and develop cognitive skills.
How can problem-solving skills be improved?
5 ways to improve your problem solving skills
- Identity and understand the right problem. …
- Research the systems and practices behind the problem. …
- Visualise the problem. …
- Brainstorm creative solutions. …
- Identify the best answer.
How can online games improve thinking skills?
Research by the Queensland University of Technology has found that games can improve thinking skills in children. Games often require children to follow instructions, consider their actions, and respond to problems. This can help develop important thinking skills, such as: awareness of the environment.
Can computer games improve problem-solving skills?
Playing games is not only entertaining, but also beneficial for your cognitive abilities. Games can improve your memory, attention, spatial reasoning, and mental flexibility by requiring you to process and manipulate information in different ways.
How do games help students learn math?
The game helps them learn how to count and identify numbers. Playing math games together can also help you get a better sense of your child’s strengths and challenges. And if your child wins (or just has fun) playing a math game, it can boost confidence.
Why are problem-solving activities good for developing game sense?
An essential element of the Game Sense approach is the use of modifications to emphasize learning through problem-solving. By modifying games, the main characteristics of the game are retained while particular aspects of the play can be highlighted, to encourage thinking.
How video games improve children’s social skills?
Online video games can allow players to talk to others and make friends at their current ability level even when they are not emotionally or physically able to leave their homes. This can help build the skills and confidence necessary to try it in-person.
How do video games affect children’s creativity?
For example, a Michigan State University study featuring 500 12-year-olds found that “the more kids played video games, the more creative they were in tasks such as drawing pictures and writing stories.”
Do strategy video games improve intelligence?
A study conducted by Gnambs et al. found that while playing video games can result in a tiny hit to school performance, they don’t affect a child’s intelligence. According to some preliminary research, strategy games can increase older adults’ brain functions, and perhaps even protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Are video games helpful to children?
Can Playing Video Games Be Good for Kids? Some games might improve kids’ hand–eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Video games that require kids to move or manipulate the game through their own physical movement can get sedentary kids moving — but not as much as if they actually played outside or did sports.
Are video games beneficial for kids?
What does the new study say about video games and kids? Kids who played video games for three or more hours a day did better on tasks associated with memory and impulse control. They also had changes in areas of the brain that are involved in working memory, faster reaction time, problem-solving, and attention.
How video games affect children’s wellbeing?
Gaming over extended periods of time might have a negative impact on kids’ physical and mental health. Gaming-related inactivity can contribute to problems including obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, and a lack of general fitness. Furthermore, playing video games too much might affect one’s mental health.
How do video games teach problem-solving?
Traditionally video games train problem solving and strategy development skills by getting the player solve increasingly complicated problems. In many cases there is a time pressure which develops speed and decision making skills. Studies have shown that playing video games also increases creativity in young people.
How does gaming help brain development?
Essentially, the more you learn, the more your brain can adapt. “Like stimulants, video gaming can increase gray matter in the brain,” says Dr. Manos. “Gray matter provides interconnectivity and allows parts of your brain to communicate with other parts of your brain and advance your self-perception.”
What are the mental benefits of video games?
Gaming, when used positively, can be a really helpful way to look after your mental health. This is because it can give us a space to unwind, relax and take time out from the pressures of daily life – just like reading can, or going for a walk.
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