Playing games is one of the oldest forms of entertainment known to humanity, expressing both our competitive instincts and our social ones. Games and activities bring people together; even in today’s virtual world we’re still finding ways to challenge our friends and colleagues in the latest social game, or teaming up with gamers in another continent during online multiplayer games and battles.
But did you know that playing games can actually boost your brain, and in some cases rewire it for the better? Read on to discover more…
The Hidden Power Of Video Games
Since the early days of the console era, video games have been championed by some sectors of society and much maligned by others. The massive spectrum of video games in existence means that of course there will be some titles that are more suited to a mature audience, in much the same way that some movies and television shows are strictly 18+, but that doesn’t mean video games are bad as a whole.
In fact, playing video games actually brings with it a whole heap of benefits, not least improving cognitive abilities, memory, and problem-solving skills. Video games even teach accountability as pursuing in-game goals and objectives triggers the same dopamine release that pursuing real life ones does, so the brain ‘learns’ to associate perseverance and accomplishment with positive feelings.
Numerous scientific studies have been conducted into the impact of playing video games on the adult brain, and many of them are showing fascinating trends and patterns.
A recent study conducted by a group of academics into the effect of 3D platform games on executive brain functions concluded that 30 minutes of game-playing exercise a day could actually heal aging brains. Participants in the study displayed an improvement in vital cognitive processes that, when combined together, lead to problem solving and reasoning.
Poker Is A Mental Game
It’s well known that professional poker players have some of the sharpest and most responsive brains, putting them on par with pro chess players. Thanks to the Internet, and the addition of free to play games and online resources covering things like the mechanics of poker, the game is now easily accessible and can be played without a financial stake, opening up its brain-boosting power to people from all walks of life.
But what exactly is its brain-boosting power? Well, how does rewiring the brain sound?
Playing poker is closely linked to a process called neuroplasticity, literally the creation of brand new neural pathways in the brain. Performing any activity consistently and consciously on a regular basis can achieve a similar result, but what makes poker particularly effective in terms of neuroplasticity is what it asks of the brain to play it.
Poker is a very challenging game, requiring extremely high levels of focus and concentration. Players also need to be able to control their emotions – and their responses and reactions to their emotions, as well as develop keen intuition. Then there’s all the decision making that a poker player will need to do during one single hand of a game. Therefore, the more a player has to work these skills, the more they will develop.
In terms of real life application, playing poker on a regular basis may not win you one of those coveted World Series of Poker bracelets, but it will improve your effective decision-making abilities, help you keep a handle on strong emotions, and teach you to trust your gut instincts.
Easy ways to integrate games into your life
Video games and poker are two specific and strong examples of just how powerful playing games can be when it comes to keeping your brain sharp, smart, and healthy, but there are also many easy ways you can get similar benefits without needing to invest in a gaming console, or start learning a complex discipline.
The plethora of brain training apps that are now available may have the scientific world in a spin as to their efficacy, but there’s no denying that real people all across the world are seeing improvements in their cognitive abilities after spending time exercising their brains in this way.
But you don’t even have to download a special app or visit a specific gaming platform in order to top up your brain power on the daily. Classic games like Scrabble and Words with Friends will help keep the cobwebs away, general knowledge and trivia quizzes will strengthen your recall and retention abilities, and even listening to audiobooks and podcasts will keep you focused and attentive.