Is it just a game, a waste of time, when you spend some time playing your favorite games online? This is a question each of us asks themselves after playing online games for several hours continuously. Of course, nobody wants to waste their time without gaining anything in return. The good news is that there are indeed some online games that actually improve your cognitive skills and make you ‘smarter’.
Facts About Cognitive Improvement From Online Games
Video games have been the source of contention among parents, legislators, and the companies that create these games.
One popular belief held by some was that video games, especially first-person shooter games, cause increased aggression and violence.
However, this has not been proven because researchers have not found a link between such games and violent tendencies.
There have also been claims that video games ‘rot’ players’ brains. This is perhaps based on surveys that showed most Americans spend at least 3 hours a week on video games. Adolescents spend the most time playing, 97% spend at least 1 hour each day, according to the Pew Research Center.
Once again, this belief has been proven wrong through plenty of research that has actually shown the opposite to be true. Based on over 100 scientific studies, scientists found that playing games increased one’s attention and visuospatial skills. The brains of long-term gamers in the studies were found to have a larger right hippocampus, which is important for understanding visual and spatial relationships between objects. This is essential in education because these skills are crucial in fields such as science, engineering, technology, and mathematics.
Because games also require a person’s full attention, playing games was also found to improve both sustained and selective attention. Gamers’ brains were more effective at focusing on demanding tasks compared to non-gamers due to the time they spent fully-focused on their games. Such a skill can be important in education and in the workplace.
In addition to this, there are additional benefits of improved motor skills and social skills. Because online games connect individuals from around the world regardless of age, gender, or nationality, players have improved social skills from these interactions.
It would appear that there are a lot of misconceptions about playing online games and their impact on mental health. In fact, you may already be convinced to increase how much time you spend gaming online. Not so fast! While there are many advantages in these online games, the biggest danger is in addiction. Game developers are constantly working on how their games can be more interesting, challenging, and exciting. For the players, this is a constant source of dopamine released in the brain with every win.
It’s even more addictive today because nearly all games can be accessed on mobile phones, meaning that people can keep playing anywhere they go. The danger is that the already improved social skills acquired from online gaming may be ultimately erased through decreased contact with people.
Which Games Produce the Highest Cognitive Improvement?
In general, we have seen that gaming does improve a gamer’s cognitive skills, which go on to improve other areas of their lives. That being said, not all games are created equal, and there are some with higher benefits than others. For instance, games that relied on strategy had the greatest impact on cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to allocate the brain’s resources in different circumstances.
When scientists conducted a study of individuals playing StarCraft, the individuals were found to retain more information from different sources simultaneously. This is what cognitive flexibility refers to. In contrast, first-person shooter games only resulted in improvements in low-level aspects of thinking such as processing visual information. Sure, the latter group was able to think faster, but they could only focus on one task at a time.
What If You Don’t Like These Games?
While these studies were conducted on popular video games such as StarCraft, Sims, Call of Duty, etc., it’s possible to extrapolate these findings and apply them to many other games. For example, all casino games are often associated with luck and gambling, but this is usually the wrong assumption. Indeed, most casino games such as slots and roulette rely heavily on luck, poker and other card games depend on skill and strategy.
Every year, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament is held in Las Vegas with huge prizes. Last year’s 1st Prize was $10 million. There have been some consistent winners in the event with Phil Hellmuth capturing 15 WSOP gold bracelets. This would not be possible if poker depended on luck. Besides, have you ever heard of a slots tournament? No! Because there would be no point when it all depends on luck.
Instead, being a good poker player requires you to keep track of the value of your cards and while doing the same for your opponents. This is very similar to the StarCraft study conducted by scientists, meaning that playing poker can have the same impact on your cognitive flexibility. Furthermore, there are other card games that can produce the same effect and also lead to your cognitive improvement.
How To Make The Most Of Your Opportunity At Cognitive Improvement
So, you now know that you can play poker and some other card games to increase your cognitive flexibility. But it’s important to also approach this in the right way to make the most of this opportunity. For one, you need to find a good online casino that you can trust with your money because you won’t be able to focus on your game as long as you’re worried about losing money.
In addition, it is preferable that the casino offer live dealers and a responsive platform. A smooth and uninterrupted experience will make the experience as close to reality as possible and allow you to focus on the game. Besides, live dealers have the added benefit of interacting with real people and improving your social skills along the way too.