Every time a new year arrives, we're presented with another chance, another year to improve, progress, and evolve--to re-invent ourselves and inch towards perfection. Yes, nobody's perfect but at least we can try to be as close to it as possible, right?
Our society is kind of obsessed with perfection, or striving towards it, to be honest. Every year we see more megapixels in a camera, more lens on a smartphone, a faster processor, a more powerful engine, a stronger material vs. diamond, a larger storage capacity, a thinner laptop, a fatter bank account.
Bigger, better, faster, stronger.
It's all about gaining that edge.
So what if I told you that there's something you're missing out on that's going to help you gain an edge this year while enjoying the heck out of it?
Can you guess it?
Ready to give up?
Okay, so the answer is: playing video games.
This is probably the last thing on your mind, right? But read on, because we have a good feeling you'll change your mind right after.
According to the Fall, 2014 issue of the American Journal of Play, an article by researchers summarizes the long-lasting positive effects of video games on basic mental processes--such as perception, attention, memory, and decision-making.
Most of the research involves effects of action video games—that is, games that require players to move rapidly, keep track of many items at once, hold a good deal of information in their mind at once, and make split-second decisions. Think CS:Go, DoTA 2, PUBG, Fortnite, etc.
Many of the abilities tapped by such games are precisely those that psychologists consider to be the basic building blocks of intelligence.
Dr. Peter Gray of Psychology Today had listed some of the findings that have come from this sort of research:
• Improved visual contrast sensitivity.
Fifty hours of action video game play (spread over ten to twelve weeks) improved visual contrast sensitivity (the ability to distinguish subtle differences in shades of gray).
• Improved spatial attention.
Green & Bavelier (2012) found that action video gaming improved performance on the ability to locate, quickly, a target stimulus in a field of distractors--a test that has been found to be a good predictor of driving ability.
• Improved ability to track moving objects in a field of distractors.
Action games improved the ability of children and adults to keep track of a set of moving objects that were visually identical to other moving objects in the visual field.
• Reduced impulsiveness.
Action games improved performance in a test of the ability to refrain from responding to non-important targets.
• Overcoming dyslexia.
Dysexia, in at least some cases, seems to derive from problems of visual attention. One study showed that as few as 12 hours of video game play improved dyslexic children’s scores on tests of reading and phonology. In fact, the improvement was as great or greater than that achieved by training programs that were explicitly designed to treat dyslexia.
• Improvements in executive functioning
Executive functioning refers to a person’s ability to allot his or her mental resources (such as perception, attention, memory) in ways that allow for rapid, efficient problem solving or decision-making. Many experiments have shown positive effects of video-game training on measures of executive functioning.
• Improved ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously.
50 hours of experience on an action video game significantly improved performance on a test called the Multi-Attribute Task Battery, which is modeled after skills required in piloting aircraft. It involves using a joystick to keep a target centered on a screen, monitoring fuel levels, responding to lights on an instrument panel, and listening and responding to radio communication. High scores on this test correlate well with real-world piloting performance.
• Increased mental flexibility.
A number of researchers have shown that experience with action video games improve people’s abilities to switch rapidly and without error between tasks that have conflicting demands.
• Reversing mental decline that accompanies aging.
Cognitive flexibility, attention, working memory, and abstract reasoning all tend to decline with age. Many experiments, with elderly participants, show that video game play results in improvement in all of these abilities. One study found that such play led not just to cognitive improvements, but also to better self-concepts and enhanced qualities of life in elderly participants.
• Improvements in job-related skills
Many studies indicate that video games improve job performance, especially for jobs that require good eye-hand coordination, attention, excellent working memory, and quick decision-making.
A correlational study revealed that young, inexperienced surgeons who were also avid video gamers outperformed the most experienced surgeons in their field. In an experiment, novice surgeons who were provided with experience with video games improved their performance in laparoscopic surgery compared with a control group of surgeons who did not have that experience.
Apparently, playing video games can really give you an edge. Not only does it sharpen the mind and reverses aging, you're also enjoying as well! Even though it sounds so weird and counter-intuitive, this year, make it a point to get your game on!