Video Games Can Produce Positive Effects on the Brain

I live near Blizzard headquarters in Irvine, California and recently met a pleasant, well-spoken and obviously intelligent young man who works there. When I asked what he does for the company he said, "I work in quality control. In other words, I play video games and make sure they work correctly." I told him that teenagers around the world would love his job, and he simply smiled.

To be honest, I have never been a big fan of video games even though, according to statistics released by the consumer research firm the NPD Group, two out of three people living in the United States play them. In addition, 95 percent of Americans under the age of 20 play video games. With so many people engrossed in these games, I was concerned that they could be causing a decline in our ability to think. As I have recently learned, my preconceived opinion couldn't have been further from the truth!

Shortly after my encounter with the Blizzard employee, I read an intriguing article by Amy Wilson, a writer for the Orange County Register. It was entitled "The Wisdom of Being Wired." The case she made for the educational value of popular video games, like StarCraft, has had a significant impact on the way I view these games. StarCraft, I soon learned, is one of the more popular games created by Blizzard. It is also an example of one of the many games that require higher level thinking in order for a player to have a chance of winning. In addition, players develop a number of skills that have educational value, without realizing that they are actually getting a useful education that could help them in a variety of careers later in life.

If you want to learn more about these games, and read reviews of them, you can use this direct link to StarCraft games from Amazon.com.

According to Ms. Wilson's article, people playing StarCraft must have complex problem solving abilities, be able to make decisions and implement them at the rate of five actions a second, and have an unconscious understanding of economics and higher math, including differential equations, linear algebra, analytic geometry, and calculus. Phew! That's a lot of knowledge involved in just playing a game!

In fact, a sidebar to the article also mentioned how the highly esteemed University of California at Berkeley has offered a course of study using StarCraft. The preprequisites for taking the class included several math and economic classes.

(Photo of StarCraft cover courtesy of Amazon.com.)

Advantages of Playing Video Games to Problem Solve

One of the skills you can learn from playing video games is the ability to develop problem solving skills. For example, people who play StarCraft frequently communicate online to try to solve the intricacies of the game and share what they have learned with each other. This increases the knowledge and skill of all the players involved in these collaborations.

In another example, an online puzzle video game named Foldit dealt with protein folding. It was developed by the University of Washington and it eventually went viral. People who played the game helped decode the structures of a variety of proteins, including the one that causes AIDS. In real life, geneticists used similar techniques to pool their knowledge and map the human genome. In other words, many real life scientists have honed their crowd-sourcing and technical skills by playing video games when they were young.

Playing video games is not just the way to learn how to become a video game designer, as I once thought. Instead, the same research techniques can translate into becoming a better scientist, architect, physician, engineer or mathematician. Playing one of these games is actually just a way of learning how to solve an ever more complex series of problems, and that is great for our brains. In addition, more and more researchers, from highly recognized schools such as those in the University of California system as well as the University of Rochester in New York and Michigan State University, are validating the benefits of playing these games. In fact, not only do these games improve cognitive skills, but they also appear to have the ability to enhance a child’s creativity.

While you may still not want to let your child play so many video games that they never get outside to play, allowing them a reasonable amount of time to play these games may actually increase their ability to grow up and have a successful career in a variety of occupations.

Share Your Opinion About Playing Video Games

Do you agree that it is good for our brains to play video games?

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Yes! Video games teach us the skills we need to be employed in the 21st Century!

peter120 says:

You should definately check out www.braingymmer.com/ awesome website with loads of brain training games and brain teasers. I have been a member for a bit over 3 months now and I can already feel the improvement!

Raimause says:

Video games have many benefits for problem solving, in some cases hand-eye coordination, and thinking fast under pressure. Plus, they can teach you valuable skills in dealing with people. Some of the games with difficult raids where you have to lead people to success can teach certain social skills, and I know it has caused some people to become way more confident and helped them out in their lives.

hosibinh says:

I need it for my free time

CalobrenaOmai says:

Most definitely. However this is usually more true for select genres.

JEWELSS says:

Yes, playing games improves various skill sets. However, one can get addicted and play almost 24/7. Also, many games can warp ones mind

No! We need to get outside more and stop playing so many video games!

Arachnea says:

Since I can't give a conditional answer, I will say the idea that as a result of the articles above folks will stay indoors more rather than experience the outdoors (even a trip to the trash dumpster) I had to lean closer to the no answer. I didn't know all those high tech, high IQ prerequisites went hand in hand w/playing video games. One learns something new every day.

tbonestakes says:

They certainly keep one engaged. Of course the type of game played matters as well.

Merrci says:

It's another of those "in moderation" things I think. I can see benefits, but it's so easy to get wrapped up in any game (even words for friends!) and not want to stop! It's so wonderful to be outside in the fresh air with friends, moving!

grammieo says:

Depends on the video game. I find that so many of them are violent to the nth degree and that makes an impression on the brain too! I think I would go outside more and leave the video games on the shelf myself. I know I'm on the losing side of this argument, but it's mho!

DaisyDixon says:

I agree that video games are good for our brains, and I know first hand the strategy and skills that some of these games take. I love gaming, and have been an avid gamer since I was a child. I still say that we should find a happy medium between playing video games and doing things outside of that as well. I'm gonna have to say No though, even though it's good for our minds I think too much of it can be harmful and take away from the joys in life (I have a brother who is addicted to video games, and I would love to see him outside more!)

 
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What is your opinion about the advantages of playing video games?

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  • anna-hofman-98 Jun 23, 2014 @ 2:13 pm
    This lens was really interesting - I had no idea there were so many positive effects from playing video games!!
  • eva_writes Feb 15, 2014 @ 2:16 pm
    I'm not a fan of video games so I find this lens very interesting. Thanks!
  • Arachnea Feb 12, 2014 @ 8:44 pm
    All I can say is, whoda thunk? Very compelling article, however.
  • tbonestakes Feb 12, 2014 @ 7:18 am
    Very enlightening, congrats on the LOD!
  • Feb 11, 2014 @ 7:51 pm
    Very good points. Video games definitely help in some areas. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • AussieWriter Feb 11, 2014 @ 5:40 pm
    Video games are great fun, but like everything you should play in moderation and not spend all your time playing. Great lens.
  • IanTease Feb 11, 2014 @ 3:27 pm
    If played a moderate amount I can see the advantages, compared to just watching television there must be more thought involved in gaming. Nice lens.
  • Sundaycoffee Feb 11, 2014 @ 12:29 pm
    I'm sure these games can improve one's thinking, but I doubt that they are that beneficial.
    I fear that we are slowly turning into "button-pushers", devoid of feelings and aloof to the outside world, living under the impression that, if it works on the screen, it will work in real life too.
  • Deborah-Diane Feb 11, 2014 @ 8:21 pm
    I think that you make an excellent point. It is important to have balance in life and not confuse video games with reality!
  • CalobrenaOmai Feb 11, 2014 @ 12:14 pm
    Love the amazon selections; I actually own the Super NES. Any who, the advantages of playing video games will vary per person as well as genre. There are games that designed exclusively for cognitive training. There are some RPG [both MMO and non] that have you follow a particular storyline and sometimes you have to solve problems/puzzles in order to progress.

    The Brain Age games are definitely up there for having benefits for playing. In fact, playing video games got me interested in joining the field of art. Yet surprisingly writing also became a niche at the same time. One of the most enjoyable aspects of video games, for me, is the background music.

    Can even remember hooking up the Super NES and plugging in Killer Instinct (the first one) just to listen to the background music. To keep me from doing that my brother lent me the soundtrack that came with the game. Great article. So refreshing to see an article focusing on the positive side of video games.

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