Yes, Video Games Can Make You Smarter — Depending On What Type You Play

To anyone whose parents ever made them shut off Grand Theft Auto (or Crash Bandicoot or Spyro, for those of us who liked our games a bit lighter) and "go the heck outside," we feel your pain, and we're here to tell you: You were right all along. New research shows that video games don't actually melt your brain like we were led to believe as children. In fact, they can have serious cognitive benefits — provided you play the right kind. In the video below, Trace Dominguez from Discovery News breaks video games down into three categories: action, puzzle, and strategy. While puzzle and strategic games have been found to have their own positive impacts on our brain function, Dominguez focuses on the benefits of play action games, like first-person shooters, for most of the video. The inherent violence in most action video games has made this the most controversial genre, and therefore the most difficult to defend. But, citing research from the University of Geneva, Dominguez makes a convincing case for games like Call of Duty and Halo; their open-world layout and reliance on teamwork ultimately increase players' ability to multitask while processing a constant influx of visual and audible information. At any moment in an action video game, players have to know their goals, the goals of anyone they are playing with, and anything that could get in the way of accomplishing those goals — all while moving farther into the game's world. All of these different problems are visible on the screen in some way, and researchers have found that players are able to keep track of all of them while successfully concentrating on one task at a time. They maintain a forward trajectory while being able to quickly recall more long-term plans and strategies, all because the game calls for it. Dominguez puts it best when he says action video games are an opportunity for "active learning," where the players are actually testing out their ability to adapt to rapidly changing scenarios and then solve new problems, all in a controlled setting. So, while video games don't exactly have a direct effect on your intelligence (we're still waiting on a game that will help us remember the quadratic formula), they certainly can improve your cognitive function. In this way, video games help to lay a foundation for quicker learning later on. Check out the full video for more info on how video games can affect our brain function and even our personalities.

More from Mind

R29 Original Series