How Gaming Helps Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

min read
A person wearing headphones playing a game on their mobile phone.
BetMGM Sep 04, 2023, 2:51 PM

No matter who you are or where you’re from, people all over the world love to play games. Today, many people love spending their time playing video games. Whether it’s variety games at your favorite online casino, grand sci-fi online gaming battles, or your favorite fantasy role-playing game, there are all kinds of gaming options for you to enjoy. 

Many people primarily think of gaming as a way to escape and have fun, but did you know that many games also help you improve your critical thinking and problem-solving skills?

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of gaming on your brain and how you can more consciously use video games to improve your cognitive abilities.

The Benefits of Gaming on Your Brain

People understand that play is important for developing brains, particularly in children. Play can help people learn various skills, including attention, creativity, language, memory, math, and social skills, and it also plays an important part in people’s emotional development. You can even play games to improve critical thinking. 

But does the same apply to video games?

It turns out that gaming does offer you many benefits, including better critical thinking and problem-solving skills. HealthyGamer, an organization founded and run by Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Alok Kanojia, MD MPH, published the article “Video Games Make You Smarter: Backed up by Research.” This article shares a variety of studies that demonstrate how video games can make you smarter through the improvement of various skills, including some areas that are less obviously connected to traditional intelligence than others.

Here are some of the ways gaming can positively influence your brain that were highlighted in the HealthyGamer article.

Improves Focus, Attention, Response Time, and Predictive Accuracy

A study titled “Learning, Attentional Control, and Action Video Games” found that action video games improved attentional control, or more simply put, helped players better focus on specific objects in the game world. The study also found that gamers had faster and more accurate responses, although this was because the gamers were more able to predict a specific outcome accurately.

Increases Gray Matter in the Brain

The study “Enhanced functional connectivity and increased gray matter volume of insula related to action video game playing” found that expert players of action video games experienced increased gray matter volume and enhanced functional connectivity in parts of the brain. These areas of the brain were connected to attentional and sensorimotor networks but could also positively impact other parts of the brain and the networks in those areas. 

Enhances Your Memory

Several studies were referenced to show the positive impact on a gamer’s memory.

  • The study “Memory abilities in action video game players” found that gamers had better memories and greater accuracy than their non-gaming counterparts.
  • The study “Gender, Video Game Playing Habits, and Visual Memory Tasks” found that gamers had more accurate visual memory. 
  • An article from the University of California, Irvine, “Playing 3D video games can boost memory formation, UCI study finds,” shared how 3D games can help improve the formation of memories while also improving hand-eye coordination and reaction speed.
  • An article published by the American Association For the Advancement of Science (AAAS,) “Strategy-Based Video Games May Improve Older Adults’ Brain Function,” claims that gaming can increase the brain functions of older adults with positive signs that it might even protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • The study “Video games: Bad or good for your memory?” found positive evidence suggesting that gamers’ brains are better at monitoring and updating information, positively impacting memory.

<h3>Improves Your Ability to Problem-Solve</h3>

Multiple studies were also referenced, highlighting the positive impact of gaming on problem-solving skills.

  • The study “More Than Just Fun and Games: The Longitudinal Relationships Between Strategic Video Games, Self-Reported Problem-Solving Skills, and Academic Grades” found that playing strategy games had a positive impact on problem-solving and school grades for participants a year later, showing that there was a connection between playing strategy games and improved problem-solving.
  • The article “Video Games Linked to Academic Achievement” was published by the University of Glasgow. This article shared how a trial was done to see how video games affect young people. Matthew Barr, the Information Studies lecturer running the project, found that “Modern video games often require players to be adaptable and resourceful, and finding multiple ways of accomplishing a task. The way games are designed often encourages critical thinking and reflective learning, commonly cited as desirable attributes in graduates.”

Better Visuospatial Skills

Gamers have to make their way around virtual worlds of varying complexity, which results in improved visuospatial skills and intelligence. Again, multiple studies found strong evidence supporting this idea.

  • The study “Action-Video-Game Experience Alters the Spatial Resolution of Vision” found that video games helped novice gamers improve their visual performance, while experienced gamers already had much higher visuospatial skills.
  • The study “The effects of action video game experience on the time course of inhibition of return and the efficiency of visual search” found that video game players were faster than their non-gaming counterparts when it comes to detecting targets.
  • Finally, another study that was referenced, “Extensive video game experience alters cortical networks for complex visuomotor transformations,” showed how gaming changes the visual circuitry of the brain to be more efficient.

Increases the Speed and Accuracy of Decision-Making

The final area that the HealthyGamer article looked at is decision-making. Two studies were referenced that showed the positive impact of gaming on this.

  • The study “Video games lead to faster decisions that are no less accurate” by the University of Rochester found that action video games helped improve people’s ability to make the right decisions faster. This doesn’t only apply to video games but also to other aspects of their life like multitasking, driving, reading small print, and traveling around a town.
  • Another study titled “Debiasing Decisions: Improved Decision-Making With a Single Training Intervention” showed how interactive video games could be used to reduce a person’s bias and also improve their decision-making.

How To Use Gaming To Improve Cognitive Ability

As we’ve seen, there is significant evidence to show how gaming improves cognitive skills, including enhancing critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. 

But how does a person take advantage of this?

At the end of the day, the answer is to simply play. Whether you look for critical thinking games online, find an online action game, or even play some historical strategy games, there are many virtual gaming experiences that can help improve your cognitive ability. However, you should be aware that some games may impact certain skills more than others. For example, action games may improve your hand-eye coordination and reaction time more than strategy games, which may have more of an impact on problem-solving and decision-making.

Players should also be aware that simply throwing themselves into gaming might also have a detrimental effect. For example, if you spend too much time playing video games, there is the risk of addiction, sleep deprivation, declining performance, and many other downsides.

As with many other things in life, gaming is best done in moderation and in balance with other activities, including socializing, exercising, taking part in other hobbies, and developing other skills.

Put Your Skills to the Test or Relax With Games at BetMGM

Whether you want to put your critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the test in games like poker or blackjack, or you just want to sit back and have a good time with games like online slots and roulette, you can find it all at BetMGM. BetMGM has an incredible library of table games, live dealer games, variety games, and many other exciting casino games online. 

Register at BetMGM and play the way you want to.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.