While the world has been sheltering in place to deal with the current pandemic, many of us have turned to games as a source of entertainment and distraction. These games might include any variety of goals from problem solving, to word games, to simple sandbox games (like Animal Crossing). Interestingly, playing these games might not just be a way to blow off some steam. According to experts, playing games might be a way to develop strategic thinking, communication and a number of other skills.
Problem solving, strategic thinking and creativity
The first advantage that is brought to mind when looking at
the benefits of games is the development of cognitive skills like problem solving and strategic thinking. Games provide an environment with defined goals and minimal distractions. This type of environment calls for players to weigh options and attempt to predict future events through problem solving and strategic thinking (click here for more details).
As we all know, practice is key to developing a skill. In a low risk environment like this players are free to try new ideas, creatively solve problems and think of new strategies with minimal risks. As the players move through the game they are honing their skills. These problem solving skills can then be translated into real world problem solving scenarios. Interestingly, this has been demonstrated by psychologists who say “that action video games, such as Halo, can speed up decision making” and that “real-time strategy games can promote our ability to think on the fly and learn from past mistakes” (full article here). Moreover, this study showed that participants who played the more complex versions of the game performed better in the cognitive tasks following the game session.
Time management and prioritization
As mentioned earlier, playing video games can help to develop a wide range of skills. Specifically, it has been shown that games can promote time management and prioritization (See Full Article here). Many games have strict time limits meaning that you must work efficiently and prioritize in order to accomplish your goal. Similar to the other skills that we have or will mention, practicing prioritizing in the game can leak into other areas in life. Thus, prioritizing in the game can lead to better performance in the rest of your life.
Set goals and remain patient
Anyone who has played their fair share of games knows that often games require ‘long’ term strategies and plan development in order to achieve the final goal (more details). For video games this could mean hours of defeating levels that are steadily increasing in difficulty. For board games it might mean something more like rolling dice for hours on end to gain the critical resources needed to win the game.
In either instance two critical aspects are at play. First, the behavior is goal directed. There is a clear long term goal and the player must achieve many short term goals in order to achieve it. Second, the player must demonstrate a level of patience in their pursuit of that long term goal. Thus, in both cases, as you progress through the game you are gaining experience in both goal setting and patience. Two important skills that can help in various other aspects of life.
Increased communication and ability to read people
Oftentimes games can have a collaborative component that requires extensive communication. If that is the case, games can help to develop your teamwork and communication skills (See here for more). Afterall, succeeding in cooperative games relies on how well you work as a team. This skill can translate into any number of areas in life, but especially into the workplace. Communicating efficiently, effectively and clearly can help you to get projects done faster. Getting projects done faster means a more productive team.
However, even in games that are competitive you can develop your communication skills. In many games negotiations and attempting to predict what your opponent’s next move might be are critical to winning the game. Learning how to read people can be a necessary skill for the business world. Imagine, for instance, how much easier contract negotiations could be with a well developed understanding of human behavior and motivations. Games can help you to develop those skills.
Happier and reduces stress
Finally, games are just plain good for your mental health (see here). Playing games can help to decrease your levels of stress, induce a state of flow and generally just make you happier. There is an abundance of evidence supporting this idea, but I don’t need to cite it. Just look at your own life. Playing games can reduce stress which, along with just being generally more pleasant, can allow for better work performance, longer life and better immune system functioning just to name a few benefits.
So don’t feel guilty about sneaking in a little bit of time to relax by playing your favorite games. Here at Jonajo we encourage it. In fact, we created a strategy game called Juroku Musashi (available for free here) that can help develop all of the skills that I have mentioned and give you some well deserved stress reduction. Have fun!