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Get smarter gaming! Why video and computer games have a positive impact on our brain

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They fascinate, are fun and have become an integral part of our daily lives: video and computer games are a true mass phenomenon and among the favourite pastimes of many young people. Therefore, fans from around the world are likely to be very happy about the fact that gaming is better than its reputation – and can even make you smarter. Because taking part in adventurous battles and immersing yourself in exciting roles and characters does not only keep you mentally fit, but also enhances motor skills and social competence, according to an article published in “Die Welt“.

This is due to the fact that, upon discovering new worlds, the prefrontal cortex is particularly active, similar to a game of chess. It is the part of our brain which is responsible for managing our thought processes and enables us to consciously control our actions. The more we train our prefrontal cortex, the better we are equipped to control our behavioural and emotional processes.

What is happening in your brain during the game?

For that reason, playing games also has the effect of boosting self-discipline. Self-discipline? Yes, you read that correctly, because through strategic playing, our prefrontal cortex trains how to postpone the feeling of reward. Just imagine a game of chess: It doesn’t always make sense to capture your enemy’s chessman just because it is possible for you or because you would love to do it as it might result in your enemy leading for the next couple of moves, with you having won nothing or very little. Therefore, it is smarter to pass on that short-term sense of achievement – meaning to postpone one’s reward – and instead to secure a strategic advantage.

With this kind of self-discipline, you will often reach your goal easier. This is also true for computer and video games, as you can usually master your way through a virtual battlefield much more successfully with a clever strategy than with wild shooting. Moreover, it is known that children who are not able to postpone the feeling of reward will also have problems with controlling themselves when they are adults. For this reason, it is useful to train this behaviour at an early stage. Besides from the right education, this can be successfully achieved by playing commercial games as they are fun and thus especially motivating.

Learning by playing comes easy

Our brain is able to learn even more in front of the screen or a console. For example, reaction time and concentration are being trained, and motor skills will improve. Sometimes these newly acquired abilities can be transferred from the game to reality. The major benefit: As concentration, memory and self-discipline are simultaneously required from the player, his or her multi-tasking skills will be enhanced as well.

However, the crux of the matter, according to “Die Welt”, is that is doesn’t make a lot of sense to play the same game over and over until you are an unbeatable expert. That is because as soon as your brain goes on autopilot, your prefrontal cortex will have no say in the matter anymore – so it’s smart to change your favourite game from time to time, to try out new strategies and to postpone new rewards.

Good social behaviour thanks to playing by the same rules

In addition to boosting power of concentration, computer games also promote social competences. For example, they enhance the sense of empathy and equal treatment because at the console, the same rules apply for all players – no matter if they are young or old, bulky or skinny, poor or rich.

As we can see, discovering new worlds in a playful way is not only fun, but also has a positive impact on our brain. The chance of winning will only improve by means of strategy, commitment and endurance – as well as with a little bit of luck. And even if it may not work out sometime, we keep on learning, in this case how to be a good looser. With this in mind: Go to your console and get smart gaming!

The article (in German) can be found here.