Video games tend to have a bad rap for making the players stupider, but researchers are starting to think that video games can serve as a form of "brain training." Studied have implied that playing video games might have a role in "beefing up" the player's decision-making skills and self control. With that knowledge in mind, these video games might also double as a mental gym!
A 2009 study conducted by the University of Rochester found that first-person shooting games, like Call of Duty, can actually boost the player's "contrast sensitivity function" (the ability to detect minor changes in how bright an image is for those who don't speak science). Who knew that a game built around shooting people could help you be better at driving at night?
Much like an actual sport, sports video games can help improve your hand-eye coordination. Even though you're not learning the physical skills of a sport, you're still learning strategy and decision making that would come from real life athletic scenarios. Score!
Super Mario 64 can bulk up your brain. A study found that playing the game can actually increase brain size, which, as study leader Simon Kühn states, "proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games." So while you're trying to rescue Princess Peach, you're also getting swole - brain swole.
Who knew that urban planning could be so fun? Sim City is, as the title suggests, a simulation game where the player builds a city. Zoning, maintenance of public services and dealing with the inevitable natural disaster (tornadoes, anyone?) make this game a teaching tool in how to manage the finite resources of a city and how each decision has consequences — but in a fun way.
Minecraft has been used as an education tool across the world. Kids are learning everything from city planning to science to new languages via the video game. Per Eric Klopfer, a professor and the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scheller Teacher Education Program, “Minecraft extends kids’ spatial reasoning skills, construction skills and understanding of planning. In many ways, it’s like a digital version of Lego.” It's fun and functional!
A study in which participants were asked to play the strategy game Starcraft concluded that the game in which humans are pitted against aliens can help improve your thinking. "Real-time strategy gaming selectively promotes cognitive flexibility, particularly under conditions in which players must rapidly switch between contexts while maintaining memory for both contexts,"said the study. Now what could be more human than that?
This first person shooter game puts the player in the middle of the action while increasing hand-eye coordination. As the player leads a squad of soldiers across a battlefield, the player is asked to make decisions in a (simulated) stressful situation and utilize memory.
In this strategy game, the player has to rely on critical thinking skills to become the Ruler of the World, which may or may not be required to become the Ruler of the World in real life. By advancing civilization from its historical, humble beginnings all the way up through the space age, the player has to make decisions and figure out logistics.
This physics-based puzzle game fared best in a study of whether puzzle games improve executive brain power conducted at the Nanyang Technical University. According to study co-author Dr. Michael Dr. Patterson, "This finding is important because previously, no video games have demonstrated this type of broad improvement to executive functions, which are important for general intelligence, dealing with new situations and managing multitasking." And as a bonus, this puzzle game is playable on most phones so you can get smarter on the go!
No pilot's licence, no problem. The classic Microsoft Flight Simulator gives the player the experience of flying a plane without leaving the ground. The player learns the basics of flying, including navigation and manipulation of airplane instrumentation. Not included in the game: a simulation of joining the Mile High Club.
The puzzle gamePortal stretches the brain as the player must escape from an evil lab using only a portal gun. Because the game relies on the player to figure out solutions, the game serves to improve the player's critical thinking skills — specifically with regards to thinking logically and creatively. Double duty! Portal has even started to enter the classroom as a way for students to learn subject like math, physics and how awesome their teacher is!
Because the graphics in this sports game are so life-like, it simulates the NBA experience in its ultra-realistic gameplay. The player's thumbs aren't the only thing getting a work out; the brain is forced to flex as the player makes the same decisions one would make on the court.
Since this simulator game puts the player in the shoes of a present day farmer, the player learns real-world skills, like management skills and how to effectively use resources. When taking on the role of farmer, the player has to make decisions regarding growing crops and raising livestock in order to earn money.