How Video Games Boost Brain Power
Video Games Improve Your Mind
You have probably heard that video games rot your mind a million times. Experiments are showing that the exact opposite is true. The reality is that video games make you smarter, raise IQ, and boost brain power.
In an experiment done at the University of Minnesota, participants who played an action oriented video game for 50 hours could make faster decisions with just as much accuracy as those who didn't play the action game. Tests showed that the ability to perceive both visual and auditory information improved.
Some specialists have questioned the validity of the ADD disorder due to the ability of those diagnosed to concentrate on certain tasks like playing video games. It turns out that video games actually help those with ADD disorder. While playing games, the brain of those with ADD will often release small amounts of dopamine. The dopamine reinforces the action of concentrating and helps reinforce learning.
Games like Civilization and Masters of Orion require the player to make complex decisions. The effects of a decision can be much later in the game. Winning the game requires long term thinking and yet rewards it in a sufficiently short amount of time to create a powerful learning effect.
Even games like Doom 3 can require a player to ration his resources while playing. Wasting ammo from his most powerful weapons on weaker monsters may make killing the boss creatures impossible.
Games like chess have often been prescribed for children suffering from ADD. The concentration, focus, and patience required to win at the game has been shown to have beneficial effects outside the game. In the past, this would have required a partner. Today, the computer can double as the partner when no one is available.
Solving Complex Problems
While some games are getting simpler for the general population, other games are increasing in complexity. There are also games that try to appeal to different players by allowing various levels of play.
For example, many adventure games in the past only allowed game saves as certain points. A player would have to master a level before continuing in the game. Today, most adventure games will allow the player to save at any point.
Diablo 2 appealed to both types of players by offering both a soft core and hard core mode of play. Casual players could use soft core which allowed their characters to die an infinite number of times without consequences, while players who liked to challenge themselves would use hard core mode where a character's death would be permanent. This hard core mode would require careful thinking, planning, and playing. A single mistake could cost a player weeks of hard work.
Starcraft 2 pushes the requirement to think and reason to a whole new level. The number of units greatly outnumber the number of pieces in chess. Many of the units have multiple abilities and these abilities can change throughout the game. The game uses two types of resources and requires mastery of several different skills to play effectively.
More important though with Starcraft 2 is the need to allocate attention to different aspects of the game simultaneously. Starcraft 2 is known as an RTS (real time strategy) game and the players cannot stop and waste time to make the perfect decision. Focus and attention become another valuable resource. Waste too much mental energy and time to create a perfect economy and you may fail to scout out important information before it is to late.
This brings us to a valuable point about the latest games. Our ability to drive a car or cook a meal is mostly learned reflexes. Watching television, listening to a lecture, or reading a book is the passive adsorption of information. The most important and greatest ability of the human brain though, is the ability to make complex decisions.
For most of us, these decision are never more complicated than what to have for dinner, what movie to watch, or which book to read. Complicated decisions like which college to attend, how to vote, or who to marry are rarely made. Without practice, we perform poorly on the most important and complicated decisions we make in our life. We need to boost our brain power.
However, video games allow us to practice decision making without real life consequences. If I lose at Civilization due to mismanaging my economy, my life is unaffected. Vote for a president that can't balance a checkbook though and there could be drastic real life consequences. It is certainly better to learn these important lessons from playing a video game than to learn them through real life experiences.
So when you are busy mastering a new video game, don't feel guilty. You are not wasting your time. While you are playing, your mind is improving. Your intelligence is going up and you are boosting your brain power. So concentrate on your game and play hard. It is all good for you.