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13 Cognitive Benefits Kids Get from Playing Video Games

It turns out that gaming is more than just a lot of fun

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2022
cognitive benefits of gaming

Contrary to the traditional belief that gaming is merely an addictive source of entertainment and diversion, recent research has proven that gaming has numerous benefits, and key among them is the development of cognitive skills in both children and adults. Just as physical exercise helps in improving and strengthening your muscles, cognitive games help to indulge your brain in constant stimulation, thus improving the brain’s performance.

Here are 13 of the top cognitive benefits of playing video games.

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1. Improves coordination
2. Improves problem-solving skills
3. Enhances memory
4. Improves attention and concentration
5. It is a great source of learning
6. Improves the brain’s speed
7. Enhances multitasking skills
8. Improves social skills
9. Sparks an interest in world history
10. Can create an interest in Computer Science
11. Can improve self-esteem
12. Can reduce symptoms of depression
13. Decreases stress levels

1. Improves coordination

When an adult or child is playing a video game, they are not merely staring at the monitor inertly. The action on the screen provide a lot of mental stimulation. To play, they will need to coordinate their visual, audial, and physical activity.

2. Improves problem-solving skills

Video games involve certain rules. This means that players need to think carefully before making any move to ensure that they stay within the required rules of that particular game. Players must make split-second decisions that will determine whether or not they advance to the next level. Many games also include puzzle elements or quests that require algorithmic levels of execution to complete.

3. Enhances memory

Playing your favorite video game may require both visual and audial memory. The player is required to read or listen to the instructions that might only be provided at the beginning of the game. Hence, the need to remember them throughout the entire game. Mastery of the keys on your keyboard helps you easily move your characters in the game. This helps improve your memory, whether short-term or long-term.

4. Improves attention and concentration

Video games – especially action games – have proven capable of capturing the player’s attention for the entire period of the game. This is brought about by the player’s need to achieve certain objectives within the game in order to progress to the next level.

5. It is a great source of learning

Gaming is beneficial not only to adults and teenagers but to children as well. Many modern educational institutions incorporate video games as a teaching methodology. This helps these children improve their academic skills by providing video games that are specifically aimed at enhancing their cognitive and creative skills.

6. Improves the brain's speed

While gaming, the brain receives multiple stimulations, both visual and audial. According to research, individuals who play video games frequently process these stimuli faster than others. These stimuli ensure that the brain is continuously working to interpret them.

7. Enhances multitasking skills

An action game, for example, may require you to be very observant. It requires you to be able to move your joystick or keys while looking at the various features on your screen, such as energy levels, oncoming adversaries, remaining ammunition, available time, and other factors, all of which are vital to winning. This ensures that the player can observe and react accordingly to all requirements of that particular game.

8. Improves social skills

Online gaming enables many players to engage in a particular game simultaneously. As such, there is constant communication among players, which in turn results in the development of meaningful relationships. This helps players meet new friends while also strengthening bonds with their old friends.

Of course, even though computer games can be socially beneficial, there is also a need to play them in moderation. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. In this case, playing video games excessively can negate whatever positive social effects moderate game-playing might ordinarily bring. Parents need to watch for signs that their children are developing antisocial behavior and retreating too much into their gaming world. This could be a sign of video game addiction.

It is also important to pick the right game as not all of them provide the same cognitive benefits or are similarly age-appropriate. Small children should not be exposed to violent games.

9. Sparks an interest in world history

Certain games can take kids back to different time periods and totally immerse them in history. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is a perfect example. This open-world action-adventure line by Ubisoft has transported millions of young minds to the time of ancient Greece, the Renaissance, and the American Revolution, to name a few settings.

10. Can create an interest in Computer Science

Many Computer Science majors at top schools report that they first developed a passion for coding and Computer Science after becoming obsessed with how computer games actually worked. In fact, many coding classes and programming languages for beginners, such as Scratch, introduce coding concepts in the form of coding actual simple games.

Though computer games might be beneficial, there is a need to play them in moderation. It is also important to pick the right game as not all of them provide the same cognitive benefits or are similarly age-appropriate. Small children should not be exposed to violent games.

11. Can improve self-esteem

Whether through the cooperative mechanics of large-scale multiplayer gaming or through satisfying single-player action, games appear to promote positive self-esteem. Several studies point toward both self-reported and observed increases in self-worth and wellness directly correlated to gameplay.

12. Can reduce symptoms of depression

A recent study out of Oxford, in cooperation with game makers Nintendo and Electronic Arts, used players’ motivation levels as markers for well-being. They also applied the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE) as an additional subjective measure. In nearly every case for over 500 participants, there was a noticeable increase in well-being, extrinsic motivation, and intrinsic motivation.

13. Decreases stress levels

The Oxford study used two games — Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville — that are rated E for everyone. That means their content is suitable for children, and they each have somewhat cartoonish art design. This may create an environment in which positive outcomes are more likely. But another study published in the journal European Psychologist took a different approach.

This study deliberately frustrated participants with increasingly difficult, deceptively simple equations until their stress levels were elevated. It then had them play one of three games:

  • Hitman: Blood Money - An overtly violent videogame in which you play as a hired killer
  • Call of Duty 2 - A realistic first-person shooter experience of WWII
  • Madden 2007 - A realistic football game

A fourth group played no games to act as a control.

The study showed that exposure to violent video games acted as a significant predictor of reduced stress and depression following a frustrating task.