Positive outcomes of gaming
Ever since the video games became a huge part of the digital market, being an extremely widespread and sometimes the most preferable way of spending free time, people keep on looking for the pros and cons of it. It is pointless to talk about negative consequences of gaming, as they mostly depend on a person, their psychological stability and understanding of when to stop. We won’t talk about the health problems that can be caused by video games either, as all office workers who deal with computers and don’t get enough physical activity tend to face them, as well. In this article, we will discuss only positive outcomes of gaming and, particularly, the development of cognitive abilities with its help.
First of all, we would like to remind you that cognitive abilities include numerous skills, such as concentration, memory, logic, orientation, perception, reaction rate, planning, intellect and language. These abilities begin their development from our birth and continue changing until 20–22 years. Depending on the person, this process can have a completely different rate. Nowadays, this direction of psychology seems extremely important. The scientists are particularly interested in the cognitive development of the person, as they try to expend what people are capable of. With the emergent and distribution of video games, the focus of these studies shifted onto different direction, and now the main question is: "Does gaming influence our cognitive abilities?"
Turns out that yes, it does. According to numerous tests and studies, gamers have a better memory and can perceive the information more effectively, they are prone to analytical thinking and can easily concentrate on certain problems. Thus, a regular playing process is a great “simulator” for the brain, especially when a person gradually increases the training load. Apart from this, the scientists have made a crucial discovery that different video game genres influence different cognitive abilities. For instance, shooters teach you to work in a team and react quickly, whereas strategies develop tactical thinking, increase the speed of decision-making in rigid time frames and make the brain “more flexible”. On the other hand, different video games can have some common features, too. For example, the player will always need to anticipate what will happen next and model possible action scenarios.
A notable experiment took place in Queen Mary University of London, where 72 volunteers were tested after 6–8 weeks of active playing. They were divided into two groups, one of which was regularly playing StarCraft, and the second one — The Sims. In the end, the StartCraft players managed to show better mind flexibility and reaction rate results. The director of this experiment concluded that cognitive flexibility of human mind is not static and can be properly developed with the help of video games.
The more complicated the game, the more you develop
Italian scientists of University of Padua have also conducted a very interesting experiment. They tried to examine the impact of gaming process on the children who have had difficulties in learning how to read and write (dyslexia). The group of children at the age of 7–13 year old has been regularly playing Rayman Raving Rabbids, and the game has helped them to overcome concentration problems. They started to read better and make fewer mistakes. The scientists suggested that video games teach children to concentrate, which is the most important skill in the process of learning.
Valve workers have considered this fact long before. In 2012, they released a limited version of Steam client for educational institutions. It included the free version of Portal 2 and Puzzle Maker. In Portal 2, users had to interact with physical models of different objects, and it helped to develop their intuitive understanding of such notions as weight, impulse, acceleration and gravitation.
The Portal 2 game is also worth separate mentioning, as it presents the biggest interest for the researchers of cognitive abilities. It is a puzzle that trains the brain through play. The expertiment that proved how useful it is took place at University of Florida. Its participants were divided into two groups, and had to play either Portal 2 or Luminosity (the special app for the development of cognitive abilities) for 8 hours. Right after the playing session, both of these groups were tested for their cognitive skills, and the Portal 2-group showed considerably better results. It means that Valve’s product is more effective for cognitive development than the applications specially designed for such purposes. However, we can’t make such hasty conclusions, as the amount of statistical data and more or less fundamental experiments is still too little.
Contrary to what some might think, crosswords do not help to develop cognitive abilities, as they are rather monotonous
Finally, all scientists agree that video games can be really beneficial in old age. Aging is always accompanied by the worsening of cognitive abilities: the old are usually less perceptive to something new, their reaction rate is lower, and it is difficult for them to concentrate or memorize something. The video games can help to keep the brain in a good shape, and prevent this worsening. Not only tests, but also electroencephalograms, which show an outstanding activity of prefrontal brain part (concentration, future events modeling , use of past experience), prove it out.
Apart from the results of these tests, we also have some examples from real life, and Mark Zuckerberg is undoubtedly one of them. At one of his conferences, he admitted that video games deepened his interest in computer programming. He suggested that the kids who play games now would grow up and start developing their own ones, or start being interested in programming.
Mark Zuckerberg is sure that video games evoke interest in programming and IT-industry
The researchers of cognitive abilities will have to answer many other questions, concerning gaming process and its positive outcomes. For instance, some scientists are sure that the consequences of gaming can have a long-term influence. They think that brain is similar to all other muscles, and can degrade and atrophy without proper training. It means that cognitive abilities can be developed only with a regular and gradually increasing workload.