Video Games Could Improve Your Decision-Making Skills

Want to be a better decision maker? Get yourself an Xbox or a PlayStation.

While detractors might write them off as wastes of time, video games actually have some side benefits that are extremely useful for business leaders. In fact, a recent study shows that people who play video games frequently show enhanced brain activity and elevated decision making skills.

Georgia State University, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tools, scanned the brains of both gamers and non-gamers. Subjects were able to observe a cue followed by a display of moving dots, then asked to press a button in either their right or left hand, depending on which direction the dot moved.

Gamers were both faster and more accurate with their responses.

“These results indicate that video game playing potentially enhances several of the subprocesses for sensation, perception and mapping to action to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to illuminate how video game playing alters the brain in order to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.”

It’s not just decision making. Video games build a number of soft skills that are useful in business, researchers have found over the years.

For instance, a study published in the American Journal of Play in 2014 found that the fast-pace of many video games requires people to keep track of many items at once and make split-second decisions, positively affecting perception, attention, memory and decision -making, which many psychologists consider the core building blocks of intelligence.

And four years earlier, The University of Rochester found that playing action-oriented games gives players better vision, better attention and better cognition. Those improvements help with activities like multitasking, navigating around town and reading small print.

Different game types build different sorts of skills. Puzzle games teach problem solving. Real-time action games improve fine motor skills, memory, response time and the aforementioned hand-eye coordination. Strategy games encourage players to make plans, manage resources and balance competing objectives.

Video games also offer people who are introverted or who might struggle with real-world interactions the chance to be a vital part of a team — and sometimes to lead that squad. That’s an incredibly empowering sensation for someone who might be too young to do so at work (giving them experience), overlooked by colleagues or who suffers from a lack of self-confidence.

Perhaps most importantly? Video games can build empathy, a critical skill among leaders. In Salamfor instance, players live the life of a refugee, avoiding bombs, finding water and searching out energy points, as they journey from a warzone to a peaceful life.

Adventure games with a strong story component, such as The Last of Us, get you emotionally invested in characters. That’s not uncommon in any entertainment medium. But in games, you get to make decisions for those characters. If you make a bad choice, they pay the consequence and that decision could affect the rest of the game. The player learns something from that.

Not sure what game to try as you look to build your skills? Here are a few suggestions:

Brain Age – Who would have thought a game designed to keep your brain sharp would go on to sell over 4 million copies and launch a franchise? But the way the questions in this title are worded makes it more an exercise in fun than homework.

portal – Gamers remember Portal for the grin it brought to their face and GLaDOS’s witty insults. But it’s also an educational game hidden in an action sheepskin. It’s about problem solving and spatial relationships and requires strategy, planning and creative insight.

Civilization – Sid Meier’s beloved series is as close as you can come to a living history book. Players learn the principals behind the names and dates in their books. It doesn’t teach actual history, but its in-game encyclopedia is full of useful facts. And players learn strategy at the same time.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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