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Can Playing Games Benefit Your Brain?

Playing games is linked to a number of physical, mental and emotional benefits, far beyond their entertainment value. From improved concentration and reaction times to dexterity, attention to detail and even memory, there are a huge range of demonstrable gains that come from choosing to play – no matter your age.

While perhaps most closely thought of as an activity for kids and young people, adults are increasingly appreciating the well-being benefits of gaming, and the impact playing games can have on the brain. The average age of a gamer in Europe is 31, and the proportion of elderly gamers continues to rise year on year.

It’s not just conjecture. Science is increasingly finding links between gaming and a host of physical and mental benefits. It’s official – gaming is good for the brain.

The Mental Benefits of Gaming

Gaming presents an array of mental benefits, including mental health benefits, for those who choose to play. Mental stimulation, feelings of accomplishment and achievement, emotional resilience and more all stand to benefit from the experiences of gaming, and strategic video games have been linked to improvements in mood, anxiety, depression and general happiness.

While it might seem like the benefits of gaming are innocuous, studies are casting ever more light on the true gains for mental health – from the escapism of gaming at a minimum, through to the tangible impacts of gaming on the brain and mental well-being, observed time and time again in research.

There are also cognitive benefits to gaming that cannot be ignored. Increasing volumes of academic research are pointing to improvements in attention, memory and decision-making skills, as well as multitasking and mental flexibility. There are also suggestions that job-related skills can benefit from regular gaming, including things like hand-eye coordination, working memory and even more specialised practical skills.

A study by Rosser et al., 2007 found that inexperienced surgeons with a gaming background were able to outperform the most experienced surgeons in their discipline, with similar observations in other studies on aerial drones pitting gamers against non-gamers. Aside from being fun, it’s clear gaming has a lot of value to add.

Meeting Social Needs

Gaming can also be highly social, helping meet our inherent need as humans to socialise and interact with others. Online bingo, for example, is one of the most social (and popular) forms of online gaming, enjoyed by millions of players around the world. One of the main benefits of playing at online bingo sites is the social aspect, with players chatting and supporting each other through bingo chat rooms.

Unlike in other gambling-based games, bingo players actually will each other to win, and celebrate the successes of themselves and other players together. There’s even specific bingo lingo for it, like WTG! (Way to go!) and GL (Good luck) which players share with each other as they chat and socialise around the game.

Online bingo sites also recreate the traditional bingo hall for a new age, predominantly acting as a place for players to socialise and chat, in chat rooms as well as through side games and quizzes. Players don’t even need to leave the comforts of their own homes to enjoy the benefits of online bingo – especially ideal for those with mobility or health issues who might not otherwise get the chance to socialise outside of the home.

Gaming in Old Age

Gaming has a key role to play in helping older people, both mentally and socially, as they age. Older players can benefit from improved memory, dexterity and coordination, with some studies even suggesting keeping the mind active through gaming can help ward off dementia.

There’s also the impact of reduced loneliness, particularly with highly social games like online bingo, as we mentioned earlier. Loneliness has long-proven links to adverse health outcomes, particularly in the elderly, and anything that can help stave off those effects is to be welcomed.

The accessibility of gaming is also a factor, as a hobby people can participate in at any age. Even the oldest in society can choose to game online, or even just play board games where they lack the technical skills. Without requiring much in the way of physical impact, it’s the perfect hobby for those approaching their more senior years.

For older players, gaming is much more than just a way to pass some time. It comes with important mental, social and wellbeing benefits that can help keep minds and bodies younger for longer.

Playing Games Can Help

At its core, playing games is fun and relaxing, and everybody of any age needs fun in their lives. But the serious benefits of gaming, whether that’s online games, board games or any other kind, shouldn’t be overlooked.

From the mental benefits regular gamers exhibit at any age, through to the acute benefits for the elderly or for those susceptible to loneliness, gaming has the potential to significantly improve lives. No matter the form it takes, gaming really can help the brain, and the person, live more fulfilling lives.   

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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