Non-gamers may say that video games can ruin your social life or harm your brain, but studies say otherwise. Video games are popular among kids and even adults, but do they improve focus and concentration? We’ll find out.
Recent research suggests that playing video games can alter the regions of the brain that are responsible for visuospatial skills and attention. For instance, playing video games affects a person’s attention. Some studies discovered that gamers display improvements in selective attention and sustained attention. The areas of the brain involved in attention require less stimulation to sustain attention on challenging tasks.
Aside from improving focus and concentration, video games can also improve mood. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, simple and short games can make a person happier. Deeply immersive and complex video games can be therapeutic. Video games affect the brain in different ways, and you’ll learn more about it in this article.
How Video Games Affect the Brain
According to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, one hour of playing video games can improve the ability of the brain to focus. The research team observed 29 male students who were classified as non-experts with less than half a year of experience playing League of Legends and experts with at least two years of experience. The visual selective attention of the participants was assessed before and after the game. The team discovered that the expert gamers had a higher score on the initial assessment and had more brain activity compared to the non-experts.
Visual selective attention pertains to the ability of the brain to focus on significant visual information while blocking out less important information. Those with exceptional visual selective attention can suppress distractions and narrow their focus. This means that they are using their brain more efficiently since processing information requires energy.
The researchers found out that both the non-experts and experts had better visual selective attention after playing the game for an hour. Both groups got similar scores on the visual selective attention assessment afterward. Their brain activity was also similar after the video game session. According to the researchers, the results show that short video game sessions can improve attention skills and alter brain activity. However, they also said that further research is required to determine how long the changes will last.
Playing video games, however, doesn’t only affect one’s focus and concentration. It can be addictive, as well. Video games can alter the neural reward system structure and function of gaming addicts. The neural reward system pertains to a group of structures linked to motivation, learning, and pleasure. These changes are noticeable in video game addicts who are exposed to game-related prompts that cause cravings and monitored for their brain responses.
Do Video Games Improve Memory?
Since there’s evidence that video games improve focus and concentration, does it improve memory as well? A lot of video games require concentration and strategy. Video game environments are packed with stimuli due to their immersive audio and 3D graphics. Exploring the digital world of video games can have a positive effect on your memory.
The hippocampus controls spatial memory and converts short-term memories to long-term memories. When you deal with several goals and tasks while exploring a virtual world, you’re actually training this part of the brain. Keeping it in shape will improve your long-term memory as well as the ability to navigate physical space. For instance, video games may help improve your sense of direction.
A study conducted by the University of California also showed that gamers who played 3D video games got better results in hippocampus-related memory tasks than those who only played 2D games or didn’t play at all. When non-gamers played complex 3D games daily for half an hour, their memory improved. Our memory gradually declines as we get older. Playing video games on a regular basis may help keep the mind sharp as we age.
The University of California-Irvine also conducted a study on the effects of video games on the brain and found out that playing 3D video games could improve memory formation. The participants played video games for thirty minutes every day for two weeks and took memory tests that engaged the hippocampus.
Those who played 3D games scored higher in the memory test scores compared to the group that played 2D games. According to the researchers, 3D games have more spatial information and are more complex than 2D games. This kind of memory and learning requires and stimulates the hippocampus.
Strategy video games, in particular, have shown promise in improving brain function among older adults and may protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Video games may also help improve mood and memory in adults who are suffering from mild cognitive impairment. More research is needed to explore the effects of video games on the brain fully. Nevertheless, there’s evidence that video games do improve one’s ability to focus and concentrate. It’s also a fun and relaxing way to escape from the stresses of daily life.
Also check out my other article: Do Video Games Improve Memory?
What Video Games Can Improve Focus and Concentration?
Here are some of the best video games that can help boost your focus and concentration.
- First Person Shooters
First-person shooters can improve cognitive skills like reasoning, perception, spatial navigation, and memory. Gamers must have the excellent hand-eye coordination to keep track of enemies as well as their speed and aim. They simultaneously consider these factors, think fast, and make accurate decisions under stressful situations. Examples of such games include:
Titanfall allows players to have x-ray vision and invisibility cloaking. It’s a multiplayer shooter game where gamers control mech-style Titans and fight enemies in a battle-scarred outer space colony. The fast-paced action requires players to focus on the game in order to beat their opponents.
Overwatch involves fast tactical and strategic thinking, hand-eye coordination, and decision-making. Players are required to continuously assess and make accurate decisions based on various factors like enemy position, map layout, positioning, abilities, and character selection.
- Battlefield 4
Battlefield 4 involves intense fights in land, sea, and air. Players have to use various survival capabilities to beat opponents and win. This game allows players to efficiently evaluate what information can be discarded and what should be stored in their memory
- Strategy Games
Players should be flexible in playing strategy games. They should quickly adapt to changes and change tactics when needed. Strategy games can improve reasoning and working memory. Here are some strategy games that you should try.
- Civilization 6
Players have to build and advance civilization in order to become the Ruler of the World. The strategy game involves finding new technologies, instigating wars, conducting diplomacy, and fighting some of the greatest leaders in history.
Playing Starcraft can help improve a person’s brain flexibility or capability to allocate the resources of the brain in different situations. The game involves building and sustaining units to fight for dominance.
- Simulation Games
These games teach real-world skills, such as management skills. Many simulation games require math skills and allow players to make decisions based on their assessment. Examples of such games include:
- Farming Simulator
Farming Simulator allows players to work as a farmer who raises livestock and grows and sells crops to earn money. Players can control farm machinery and breed animals in the game.
- Sim City
The game teaches players how to manage limited resources and the consequences of their decisions. They have to build and maintain transport, utilities, and public services as well as zone land for industrial, residential, or commercial development.
- Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Microsoft Flight Simulator X allows players to learn the basics of flying and complete 80 missions from around the world.
- Action RPG
Players have to assess their situation and make quick decisions in order to survive. Action RPGs or role-playing games can help improve your inductive reasoning skill. Here are some of the best action RPGs.
- Mass Effect
This is a game that tests the player’s decision-making skills. It has multiple endings, so the player’s actions and decisions have a huge impact on the game.
- Witcher 3 Wild Hunt
Witcher 3 Wild Hunt requires a lot of eye-hand coordination, flexibility in handling different situations, and decision making. The player assumes the role of the monster hunter, Geralt of Riva. Witcher 3 Wild Hunt allows players to complete side quests and acquire gold and experience points to fix or buy items in the game. The game also teaches efficient management of resources and goal attainment.
- Action-Adventure Games
Action-adventure games involve problem-solving, quick thinking, and fast-paced action. These games promote strategic thinking, teamwork, creativity, and experimentation. Examples of these games include:
- Super Mario 64
Players assume the role of Mario, who is on a quest to rescue Princess Peach. Playing Super Mario 64 can help improve memory formation, fine motor skills, strategic planning, and spatial orientation.
Minecraft can help improve a child’s construction and spatial reasoning skills. The game is also being used around the world to teach children about city planning, speaking new languages and science.
Video games have a positive effect on the brain, but it can also have negative effects. Games should be played in moderation.