The gaming industry is now so diverse and widespread that themes such as ‘brain training’ are increasing in popularity. Indeed, Science Daily hypothesizes that playing games at a young age can help grow the size of the brain and improve memory later in life. This comes in addition to other expected benefits, such as improving spatial reasoning and pattern recognition and helping to boost hand-eye coordination.
Some of the games that help to do this are the usual titles played by many worldwide. Blockbusters such as Call of Duty encourage teamwork, quick reactions and build on hand-eye coordination, whilst other titles develop different areas. Think about the last video game you played; was there a puzzle element, as you’d find in Tomb Raider? Maybe you play a word game, such as Words with Friends online, which helps boost your vocabulary. It could be argued most games have some cognitive benefits, but some are more helpful than others.
We’ve pulled together a selection of online games which have different positive impacts on the brain for you below.
One game type which has seen an increase in popularity in recent years is online poker. Across the US, states are beginning to adopt legalized online poker, and the recent World Series of Poker has helped keep it in the limelight. Poker can take many forms, from the popular Texas Hold’em to other, more obscure variants, and all can be found online. This is where the skill comes in; poker is an easy game to learn but hard to master, and serious players put a lot of time into studying. They learn the poker odds, hand ranking and different variants, plus whilst playing, they try to read their opponent. Even online, there’s an element of judgment being implemented all of the time. The same can be said for Blackjack and other games, but poker is a game of skill that will develop your math capabilities, people skills and overall judgement.
Rhythm games are straightforward to learn; they usually involve matching a rhythm you hear and repeating it. They require complete concentration to be successful and test your powers of recall and repetition. Even if you have no natural rhythm, the act of focusing so intently on the beats that you can see or hear is a great way to develop your concentration skills while also improving your hand-eye coordination and keeping your mind focused on the task at hand. It is also felt rhythm games can help build functionality within a damaged brain; the NCBI report that simply listening to an auditory rhythm activates movement-related areas of the brain. Therefore, training with rhythmic stimuli may help activate or reactivate the motor system in a damaged brain.
The description of a sandbox game is one with an emphasis on free-form gameplay, relaxed rules, and minimal goals. That doesn’t sound like one that stimulates the brain, but consider it this way; you’re alone in a new city and have to learn where to go, what to do and how to do it. A one-player sandbox game is very much about recollection, learning a map and exploring. The brain is fed constant new information, and to be a success within the game, one must learn quickly. The emphasis is on the player to learn how to do things and the consequence of their actions. There is no guidance, rather a playground in which to explore and develop. The same technique is used by therapists, who, rather than encourage their clients down a specific route, will allow them to explore and reach their own conclusion. A sandbox game is a great tool for allowing the brain to explore and conclude within its own time rather than being fed a narrative. The fact so many different backdrops and game types exist makes them even more important for learning. Indeed some, such as the Assassin’s Creed games, literally teach you about history as you play. Learning through doing is an important tool implemented globally, and a sandbox game is a modern example of that.