Can Playing Video Games Make You Smarter?
Early video game concepts date as far back as the 1950s, and they continue to evolve today. We’ve come as far as Virtual reality no longer being just a dream from science fiction, but a near-complete experience with the invention of gadgets like the DSCVR Virtual Reality Headset, or the innovations of MindMaze.
The media can sometimes portray the increased time that children and adults spend playing games on consoles, tablets, computers, and phones in a negative light, with concerns over video game addiction and messaging at the forefront.
But what about the positives? What if playing video games can actually help a person to develop skills, make them smarter, and improve hand-eye coordination? In some cases, it turns out that they can.
Playing to Learn
Using video games as a tool to foster engaging and meaningful learning is not a new concept. Children of the 90s and early 00s, will remember the strategizing--and frustration-- inherent to playing The Oregon Trail. Even before our pioneer characters died of dysentery and our wagon axles broke in half, pilot training programs made use of flight simulators to train airplane pilots via a safe and realistic platform. Today, some programs are even using video games to train surgeons.
Games like Minecraft are being used in more and more classrooms around the country. MinecraftEdu (recently purchased by Microsoft), allows teachers to structure a sandbox-style play environment around any curriculum. Students can work together to learn the scientific method, build farms, or take advantage of turtle robots to learn basic programming. Not only do these activities improve team-building skills, but they give students the chance to develop and practice technological literacy.
While it’s easy to praise the educational value of games like MinecraftEdu, what about other popular titles like HALO, Super Mario, etc.? A study conducted by researchers Adam Eichenbaum, Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green links long-lasting cognitive skills to the playing of video games, action games specifically. In their article, Video Games: Play That Can Do Serious Good, the aforementioned researchers came to the following conclusion.
“...games are being used, off the shelf, for a variety of practical purposes. Today’s video games are much more than entertainment. They are also weapons in the fight against declining mental capacities in old age. They promote job-related skills. And they are a model of how to teach children complex and difficult tasks and abilities.”
The above findings suggest that video games have endless learning potential for all levels and types of gamers. While they may have the potential to become addictive, it’s quite possible that the benefits outweigh the risks.
So the next time you squish a goomba or smash that little cube of whatever into bits, remember that good time management and awareness can allow you to enjoy the benefits of playing video games, while also staying healthy and engaged with other forms of life and learning.
Get smart and game on!
Eichenbaum, Adam, Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green. "Video Games Play That Can Do Serious Good." American Journal of Play, The Strong, 7, no. 1 (2014): 50-72