Currently, there is no real evidence that games will improve cognition and ward off things like Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is good, then , that I do not play games for that reason. For me, it has been a hard won effort in discovery learning because I have no predisposition to playing electronic games at all. I used to be a person who thought games were rather trivial activities and not the sort of thing I should be doing. I have discovered, however, in a technological world, there are some real benefits to playing games.
1. Games familiarise you with the device and peripherals. Now when I get a new device, no matter how big or small, I load games. They familarise me with how the device works, which buttons, gestures, keyboard functions to use and show me whether the sound is clear and whether the device is running smoothly and has good graphics.
2. They make you read the whole screen. Games teach you to absorb information from all over the screen. I notoriously place my vision in the centre of the screen and skim down. I trained in speed reading. Great for printed text. Not so great for screens. A game will get you to pay attention to all areas of the screen.
3. Even if they do not improve your brain function they give you feed back about your brain. I use games because they tell me how my brain is. I know if I cannot think properly because I am tired. I know what the issues are and I am then aware I need to compensate for woolly thinking, or forgetfulness or the fact I can’t be bothered playing a game. All of this is useful feedback for daily living and will often alert me to knowing for sure I need more sleep or I am coming down with something.
4. Games force you to think outside of your comfort zone. A game will force you to think and rethink, to change and adapt and become more flexible in your thinking and approach because you are outside of your safe and secure thinking patterns. Games will always challenge how you think and how you approach things. The positive side of that is you become a very confident thinker.
5. Games are stress busters. If you have the right games, you can use 10 or 15 minutes of playing that game to re-establish calm and ordered thinking. Some games take you through routines which just get to to reconnect with balance so that you are then grounded again.
I play word games, match three games, puzzle games, hidden object and long term ,open ended building games. I have different games for different times and moods. Long term games I play on a regular basis. Other games I play according to the amount of time I have available. Now that I play games, I can understand students better who play games and I can have better conversations with them as a teacher. I can have better conversations with students who lose themselves in games. Some do and I don’t know that we have any good studies about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Other people have lost themselves in books or films. There is a point at which this is avoidance behaviour but it is also very common for people to pick a good film or book , just to get out of themselves for a bit so they can deal with real life. Games might have a role to play there, in that sense too, but since there is an addictive aspect to games, I would want to know there have been some decent studies to look at this properly and impartially.