Have you caught Fortnite fever? Or maybe you’re still playing Candy Crush on your commute. (Hey, no judgment!)
Well, you have lots of company. Sixty percent of Americans play video games daily, according to a 2018 report, and 183 million of them play at least an hour a day, says game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal. Globally, people are spending 3 billion hours a week playing video games.
That’s a whole lot of screen time. But wait — it turns out that’s not bad news. In fact, a slew of studies have found that even short bouts of immersive gaming can deliver important cognitive and analytical benefits to both young and old.
Adept at any age
In 2013, researchers at the University of California at San Francisco tested a group of 60- to 85-year-olds on a 3D race-car game that demanded multitasking in the face of various distractions. After just 12 hours of training over the course of a month, the participants showed improvements in both working memory and sustained attention. Better yet, testing six months after the training ended showed that the senior gamers had retained their new skills. So organizing gaming circles in nursing homes and senior centers could be just what the doctor ordered.
First person shooter (FPS) games, especially, have been found to sharpen cognitive skills. A 2014 paper in the journal American Psychologist noted that compared to control participants, first-time FPS players “show faster and more accurate attention allocation, higher spatial resolution in visual processing, and enhanced mental rotation abilities.”