Remember when your parents would come home and chastise you for playing video games when instead you should be reading, studying, or playing outside? The argument was that video games are mind-numbing and don’t contribute in any positive ways, whereas reading and studying made you smarter and playing outside was good exercise. Well, they weren’t wrong about that – those points are very true. 

However, more and more studies are coming out, showing a correlation between video games and increased brain cognitive abilities. In other words, video games can make you smarter or reduce the effects of ageing. All those years playing video games might have actually been just as good as studying! 

Even though video games aren’t typically associated with making people smarter, these categories of games might be able to do just that. 

Who it benefits 

It’s not just children that it could benefit, even seniors who play video games can improve brain function and possibly even keep certain conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia at bay. Check out Dementia Australia for more information on this. 

Strategy games

This category might seem a bit obvious because, in order to do well at strategy games, your brain needs to plan and strategize effectively. Players also need to be able to adapt to unexpected changes or situations. Strategy games, also known as “thinking games,” can improve skills like memory, quick analysis, decision-making, and reasoning. Some popular strategy video games include:

  • Starcraft
  • Civilization
  • World of Warcraft
  • Age of Empires
  • Total War: Warhammer II
  • Stellaris

First person shooters

Yes, some of these games are a bit violent because of the nature of the genre, but players need good hand-eye coordination to be good at these games. When playing a first person shooter, or FPS, you need to be aware of your enemy’s position, where his gun is aiming, and how fast he’s moving. You need to do all of that while simultaneously aiming and shooting at your enemy and dodging other fire. These kinds of games can improve decision-making skills, reaction time, spatial navigation, and memory, although exposure to violence is probably not good for younger children, so keep that in mind. Some popular first-person shooters include:

  • Overwatch
  • Call of Duty
  • Destiny
  • Titanfall
  • Battlefield
  • Counterstrike

Puzzle games

Puzzles, like crosswords, brainteasers, are widely known to help stimulate brain activity. You have to solve problems, distinguish and figure out patterns, think critically and logically, use reasoning, and sometimes do all of that while beating a timer. The best part about puzzle video games is that they’re all fairly simple concepts with simple, easy to understand rules. They’re also not very time consuming, so you don’t have to commit to lengthy gameplay to enjoy them. There are a lot of puzzle games available on smartphones and tablets because of how simple and quick they are to play. Some classic puzzles and brain games, like crossword puzzles and Sudoku, have resurfaced as popular apps. Here are some of the most popular puzzle games:

  • Tetris
  • Sudoku
  • 2048
  • Lumosity
  • Brain Age
  • Portal

While all these games may help improve brain function, it’s always beneficial to play in moderation and balance them out with other activities like exercise, reading, and other brain stimuli. Too much gaming can lead to compulsive behaviour, which can have negative effects on the players and negate any possible benefits.