Are you a gamer? If so, you’ve got fun, new challenges, competition, stimulating scenarios, and psychic rewards at your fingertips. Add the convenience and low cost of playing and you get widespread popularity. According to The Entertainment Software Association, 53% of us from ages 18-49 play computer or video games, with about 20% more males than females participating. And according to an article in March 6 issue of The Wall Street Journal, maybe more of us should be playing. The reason? Recent research suggests benefits that go far beyond the experience of the moment.
Results from a number of studies suggest that electronic gaming can:
- Sharpen decision making
- Increase creativity
- Speed thinking
- Improve focus
- Boost brain function
- Enhance motor skills
Far from being the slacking-off, time-wasting activity that many perceive it to be (and which it may in fact be for some people), electronic gaming apparently has the potential to raise all of our games if we give it a chance. It’s probably no coincidence that a number of companies that are seen as “creative” have various games around their workplaces that employees can play.
Early research has shown that, similar to many other activities, computer and video games change our brains, and the combination of the required concentration and the resulting rewards seems to strengthen our neural connections. However, much remains to be learned, so this is still fertile ground for ongoing research. There is a large Canadian study underway with 150,000 participants designed to provide more-detailed understanding of how these games affect us.
At the same time, many of the studies performed so far have been relatively small, of limited duration, and conducted in tightly controlled environments. And the jury is still out with respect to possible negative consequences of many of these games. This is especially true with game violence—and the effect it may have on our brains and our behavior. Some brain scans of young men playing violent video games have shown causes for concern. There’s also a real irony in some of the data—some of the violent action games produced the strongest beneficial effects on the brain. Also, there are the always-lurking dangers of overdoing it—becoming obsessive and compulsive to an unhealthy extreme.
At any rate, the studies point to an intriguing possibility—maybe we can step up our game by stepping up our gaming. Sounds like a lot more fun than many other self-improvement techniques. And if game playing boosts our creativity and our thinking on the job—producing better results for our clients and our company—well, that’s a game where everybody wins.