Following the gaming glut resulting from all those video games that Santa brought, readers may be wondering whether there could possibly be a positive side to the compelling obsession that gaming can elicit.
The good news is that there can be! It is easy to see time spent on a games console as time wasted, but there is evidence to the contrary. The skills needed to succeed in online games are also eminently transferrable to the world of work. These characteristics can enhance creativity, improve productivity and help build collaborative teams.
According to the American Psychological Association, playing video games may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception. The study found that playing some games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions just as well as academic courses designed to enhance these same skills. When gaming, almost every part of the brain is working to help achieve higher-level thinking. Depending on the complexity of the game, participants may have to think, strategise, and analyse, sometimes quickly and under pressure. Many gamers develop complex problem-solving skills and thus video games can be a great way to stimulate and develop the mind.
Many popular games are multi-player and often require collaboration to overcome hurdles and create solutions. Diverse teams are shown to be desirable both in terms of creativity and productivity and gamers are often uniquely placed to deploy their well-honed skills to help organisations achieve their goals. The World Economic Forum is clear that being a team player is a highly desirable characteristic for tomorrow’s workplace.
“Video games change your brain,” according to University of Wisconsin psychologist C. Shawn Green. Playing video games changes the brain’s physical structure in similar ways to when learning to read, playing the piano, or navigating using a map. In the same way exercise builds muscle, the powerful combination of concentration and the build-up of neurotransmitters like dopamine effectively strengthen neural circuits.
Games can teach skills in a fun and interactive manner, particularly ones which can be difficult to learn in the real world. Gamers can get their hands on useful skills such as strategy making, leadership skills, team management, and others depending upon the type of game they are engaged in playing. Additionally, gamers often have enhanced attention to detail and decision-making skills. A single, seemingly small decision can either lead to victory or defeat and so gamers must pay proper attention to the slightest details.
There is much focus these days on the tangible value of resilience, but we often forget that gamers are invested in games that, by their very nature, involve failing repeatedly. This is no accident – games designers are adept at setting the difficulty of tasks such that failure is ‘likely but not inevitable’. Because gamers feel like they were close to succeeding even when they fail, this motivates them to keep playing until they succeed. In dealing with failure and frustration gamers have to re-frame the problem and meet the challenge. They understand the need to apply themselves assiduously to problem solving and skill development until they succeed.
In the same way, gamers may well have skills that will enhance the creativity of teams in the workplace. Inevitably, gamers have to take risks and explore ideas with others in order to scope out solutions as they seek to overcome immediate online challenges. In doing so, they develop a mindset that appreciates the link between taking risks and gaining rewards, motivated by their gaming experience. Gamers are, by definition, curious people, and have problem-solving as a central part of their DNA.
Cloud-based platforms with hyper-realistic 3D computer graphics of various parts of the human body are increasingly being used to train doctors in surgical techniques and in the use of various tools and drugs. Medical device and pharma companies are now using high-end, interactive demonstrations and training sessions to sell their products. Research suggests that doctors perform better in terms of accuracy, skill, and speed using gamified approaches compared to conventional study methods using cadavers and mannikins.
Like a lot of things if taken to excess (food being just one notable mention!), video games can be distracting and, in some cases, even addictive. But the positives should also be considered. They are a great way to de-stress and improve cognitive function. It is never a good idea to use gaming to hide away from the world, but as long as the time spent gaming is not excessive, it can develop and enhance employability skills.
25+ Positive & Negative Effects of Video Games, According to Science – Raise Smart Kid Ronaldo Tumbokon, October 30, 2022 Accessed 09/12/2022
Video gaming may be associated with better cognitive performance in children Accessed 09/12/2022
Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds (apa.org) Accessed 09/12/2022
Brains on Video Games Daphne Bavelier, C. Shawn Green, Doug Hyun Han, Perry F. Renshaw, Michael M. Merzenich, and Douglas A. Gentile Accessed 09/12/2022
10 Surprisingly Healthy Benefits of Gaming – HeadStuff Accessed 13/12/22
How Cloud Tech for Gaming is Being Applied to Health Care Accessed 21/12/22
We also gratefully acknowledge the helpful input from colleagues in the Computer Science Department when writing this blog.