For a long time, the prevailing idea about video games was that they rotted people’s minds and had the potential to promote violence, but a new study, published in the Journal of Scientific Reports, shows that video games could give children an intellectual boost.
The study looked at 5,000 children and found that those who played more than the average hour of video games each day ended up with higher intelligence scores than those who spent less time playing games.
“Actually, I use specifically in the classroom,” said Daniel Melleno, a history professor at the University of Denver. “All the interest of [the games I use in class] is to take a culture and distill it into the perfect representation of a culture.
Melleno uses the video game Civilization VI, a turn-based strategy game, in the classroom. The video game lets players choose historical characters as they battle alongside computer-controlled opponents to grow their individual civilization from a small tribe to control of the entire planet.
“Reading a book in your dorm room surrounded by all that stuff isn’t really conducive to absorbing information,” Melleno said. “Video games require you to focus in a way that reading doesn’t necessarily require, does it? We want people to be active readers, but it’s a skill you have to learn where the video games are something of an intrinsic skill that a lot of [students] has already.”
Historical games like Civilization aren’t the only types of video games with proven benefits. Even shooting games have their benefits as they can improve things like communication, hand-eye coordination, strategizing, and executive decision-making.
The study found that the increase in intelligence could come from enriched environments that force children to tackle tasks they might not find in everyday life.
The researchers say the neural pathways involved in game performance could be involved in other types of real-world decision-making that contribute to intelligence.
“It’s really a wonderful doorway to think about history or whatever,” Melleno said. “Like, you’re learning orbital mechanics and it’s not an educational game. It’s a game where you shoot a rocket, you know? Minecraft lets you build whatever you want. Those are great things to do .