The stereotype of video gaming is that of a lazy, unhealthy person eating a lot of junk food and zoning out in front of a screen. However, with conscious cognitive gaming, you can improve your intelligence, memory, and decision-making.
By cognitive gaming, we don’t mean the former “eSports” team known as COGnitive Gaming. (eSports, or electronic sports, refers to professional multi-player video game playing in competitions. These competitions can be quite fierce and even exciting to watch!)
In our definition of cognitive gaming, we are talking about purposefully using video games to help strengthen the mind, boost the memory, and support personal development.
The Many Brain Benefits of Playing Video Games
Psychologists have discovered that, contrary to many fears about video games making people dumber, they can actually help support many mental processes we rely in daily life, including attention, accurate perception, remembering things, and making quick decisions.
Here are just some of the ways video games can help cognition:
1. Video Games May Help with Multi-Tasking
By having you switch quickly between different tasks, video games can help you improve your mental flexibility, and this can help with juggling tasks and managing multiple things at once.
2. Video Games May Keep Your Brain Young
Studies done with the elderly have found that playing video games can improve cognitive abilities and memory in older people. Cognitive gaming can also improve quality of life!
3. Video Games Can Help Improve Attention
In many action video games, you have to be focused and alert in order to respond to the threats coming at you. “Spatial attention,” which involves being able to identify important objects when many visual distractions abound, can help improve driving ability.
4. Video Games May Improve Certain Disorders
Two disorders that have been shown to improve with video games include “lazy eye” (amblyopia) and dyslexia, which may be caused by deficiencies in visual attention skills.
5. Video Games May Help Improve Job Performance
The hand-eye coordination skills developed in video game play, along with the improved levels of memory and attention, can help you in certain jobs, such as piloting and being a surgeon.
What Should You Play if You Want to Try Cognitive Gaming?
What exactly are you trying to improve through your cognitive gaming? There are many different types of electronic games you can play. Some of these games will be more conducive to improving your cognition skills than others.
Games that involve a lot of repetitive button pushing but don’t involve a lot of hand-eye coordination or challenging puzzles may not be as good for brain boosting. Figuring out which games might be best can be a little challenging, as games can be labeled one way but end up being more or less challenging to your cognitive skills.
Mindless Games (Star Trek Timelines)
Some video games are really meant to be more mindless and not involve a lot of stress, either action-wise or puzzle-wise.
For example, the game Star Trek Timelines is a hugely popular “strategy” game but it is ultimately not hugely challenging in terms of gameplay. The spaceship battles involve pushing buttons in a way that doesn’t require much skill, and many players have found that actually pushing those buttons doesn’t actually alter the result that much! (It’s more about how powerful your spaceship is.)
Star Trek Timelines is ultimately a collection game (of gathering all the different interesting and “rare” crew members from various Star Trek shows and movies). It involves a lot of repetitive tasks but not a lot of mental challenges or hand-eye coordination practice.
Action Games / First Person Shooter Video Games
On the other hand, if you truly want to challenge yourself and improve your skills, there are action video games. If you want to improve your hand-eye coordination, then action games are where it’s at. You have a wide variety of games that will test your ability to react quickly, from driving games to first person shooters, as with the Halo video game series.
Hidden Object / Hidden Object Adventure Games
On the opposite side of the spectrum are more relaxing games that won’t have you pulling the trigger every two seconds, but do challenge your brain. Hidden Object games are some of the simplest of this sort. They involve you finding objects that are “hidden” in a complicated picture.
A far more interesting spin-off in the genre are the Hidden Object Adventure games, where you travel a strange land, gathering objects and clues, and you must finish challenging puzzles to win. One of the best gaming companies in this genre is Artifex Mundi.
A variation of these types of games are the “Can You Escape?” type app games where you are stuck in a room and must find objects to solve the puzzle and leave.
Cognitive Gaming Can Be Fun!
In cognitive gaming, you have a lot of great options. Have fun!