Boost Your IQ: Boot Up a Game

Video games are good teachers. Even first-person shooters might teach skills you need for work.

It's a pretty fair bet that, today, many of you are playing with (wearing, riding, or at least enjoying) some toy you got earlier this week. Since I know a few people for whom those toys are video games, this seems like a good time to suggest that--though those games have taken a lot of grief over the years for being addictive, teaching violence, and leading to a nation of layabouts--they also teach skills necessary to working in high tech.

I'm not just making this up as an excuse to play games all day. Science supports the idea that not only do video games teach worthwhile skills but that they do it as well as other ways of learning things. And, when I say video games, I'm not talking about only learning or "sandbox" games. First-person shooters teach good stuff, too.

Studies support gaming skills

According to a 2013 study done in the Netherlands, video games strengthen cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception. And this is particularly true for first-person shooters. According to the study's authors, a 2013 meta-analysis found that playing commercially available shooter video games improved a player's capacity to think about objects in three dimensions better than other kinds of games and just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills.

"Previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics," says Isabela Granic, one of the study's authors and PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands.

Gabe Zichermann, chair of the Gamification Summit and Workshops, and co-author of the book "Game-Based Marketing" believes that playing video games make you smarter by increasing your brain's neural plasticity. In fact, he makes a funny and compelling argument for how games may be contributing to raising our collective IQ over time in this video. He also offers a prescription for keeping up with the fast-pace of change: Get into the game.

How's that for a rationalization for the weekend? Go play some World of Warcraft. It will make you smarter. It might even make you better at your job.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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