Game For Your Brain

The cognitive benefits of playing video games


Lyra Thompson, Opinion Writer

Are you a person who likes to play video games in your free time? If so, maybe you’ve heard your grandparents talk about “kids these days” always playing video games and “corrupting their minds.” They think that sitting in front of a TV or computer and gaming is a waste of time.

I disagree.

Studies have shown that playing video games actually has many cognitive benefits including: improved hand-eye coordination, memory, perception, attention, decision making, and reaction time. There have been tests and experiments conducted that compared the brain functions of frequent and casual gamers with non-gamers.

Strategy games, such as Age of Empires and World of Warcraft, require players to think carefully about how to reach the desired outcome – whether it’s beating an opponent or growing your resources – within the specific rules of the game.

In many action and adventure games, the player is given instructions about a quest they must complete before setting off. Having to recall these instructions as you play can improve your memory.

According to studies from the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, gamers were able to sustain attention and focus on demanding tasks, more so than non-gamers. Often in video games, the player has to focus on a target or spend time figuring out a difficult puzzle. You have to be very observant to notice clues to solving a puzzle, a fast-moving opponent, or where you need to go next on your adventure.

Playing video games can also make you a better multi-tasker. The very act of playing video games is multi-tasking. Players have to pay attention to what’s happening on the screen while also being aware of the keyboard or controller. With many games, the player also has to keep track of many things all at once – resources, levels, side quests, etc.

In my personal life, I play a lot of video games. Many of the games I play are games that exercise my creativity. Whether it’s creating characters in The Sims or building cities in Minecraft, many games allow you to be creative and experiment. 

I also play games that involve a lot of puzzles and problem-solving. In Cities: Skylines, I have to figure out how to get power to my entire city while spending as little money on power lines as possible, or how to have the right balance of residential, commercial, and industrial properties in my city. Another game I’ve played is a virtual escape room, which is obviously full of puzzles.

Of course, anything in excess can become addicting. If you play video games every waking hour of the day and neglect schoolwork or personal needs, that’s a problem. But all this evidence goes to show that gaming in your free time, in moderation, can actually be very beneficial to your brain’s development. So, the next time someone tells you to stop playing video games or you’ll damage your brain, you can tell them you’re actually doing the opposite.