Only a few years ago, the common consensus was that video games offered little more than entertainment. Some even believed they distracted people from education, jobs, and living their lives. That couldn’t be any further from the truth, however, as we now understand that gaming offers a myriad of benefits –– including the improvement of cognitive abilities. Even something as simple as board games can lead to the development of real skills.
Cognitive ability is a catch-all term for a variety of different brain functions, including the likes of problem-solving, planning, learning from experiences, thinking abstractly, and comprehending complex ideas. These are functions we use in every element of day-to-day life, which speaks to why various kinds of games are a lot more beneficial than many assume; they help to hone the skills we use every day!.
So, what types of online games should people play if they want to improve their cognitive abilities?
Massively Multiplayer Online Video Games
Final Fantasy, World Of Warcraft and EVE Online. Chances are, you’ve heard of at least one of these games. Taking place in massive worlds, which are densely populated with other human characters, MMO titles test players’ cognitive abilities by tasking them with working alongside other players toward group objectives (like taking down powerful monsters or other players). The battles in these games can last hours, and test players’ spatial awareness, timing, and ability to allocate resources. They are also a great way to make new virtual friends, which is to say they help players to exercise social intelligence as well.
Played in various forms across the world, blackjack is a derivative of a global game titled “twenty-one.” Unlike in some other casino card games (like poker, which we’ll speak to more below), blackjack challenges players to compete against the dealer rather than each other. In doing so however, players can improve their critical thinking, mathematical abilities, and reasoning, all by assessing and reacting to the information that’s available. Mathematics plays a particularly key role in blackjack, with skilled players often being able to measure the cards in play to gain a better understanding of their chances to draw a given card or win a certain bet.
Played online and in person, poker offers a number of cognitive benefits. First and foremost, the game tests and exercises recall. In a practical sense, players need to memorize various poker terms to be able to play regularly, and recall them at a moment’s notice. More abstractly, skilled players also exercise their memory in trying to keep track of opponents’ moves and tendencies on the fly. Beyond recall, meanwhile, the general complexity and moving parts in poker also force players to utilize creative reasoning and social intelligence as they attempt to out-play opponents. In short, it’s a game that can make you sharper in a number of ways.
Probably the most demanding genre on this list, first-person shooters pit players against one another on online battlefields. The likes of Call Of Duty, Battlefield, and Counter-Strike have been scientifically proven to improve players’ cognitive abilities. A study in 2015 found that players who had spent considerably more time in first-person shooter games were more reactive while playing than those who hadn’t. Who says all those hours of Call Of Duty didn’t add up to anything, eh?
Social games, which are heavily focused around the interactions of players, are also great for improving cognitive skills. Among Us, which took the world by storm last year, forced players to compete against one another in a number of different situations. Specifically, it’s “crewmates” versus “imposters,” with players on both sides needing to employ logic, reasoning, and spatial awareness in order to succeed –– all while relying on social cues to try to gain the edge.
These categories cover quite a lot of ground, all things considered, and speak to the fact that many types of gaming really do offer cognitive benefits.