Everyone loves playing addictive games on their phone – be it Angry Birds, Temple Run, or the recently very popular Flappy Bird. These games usually come in the form that will severely waste your time, yet you still can’t stop playing. I, myself have spent countless hours on Flappy Bird without getting past my high score of 26. Yes, it’s pitiful, but it’s completely addictive!
However, the question remains, are these games useful in any way?
A medical laboratory in the University of California, San Francisco tries to answer that question. Taking a small look into one of their labs reveal something that you wouldn’t expect in normal hospitals: video game consoles hooked up to flat screen TVs.
“When scanning the brains during gameplay, we’re able to find the weak areas in the brain and enhance them through powerful experiences.”
Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Associate Professor
Neuroscience Imaging Center, UCSF
In the case of addictive games, like flappy bird or even a classic game like Tetris, the games are unwinnable, which is why so many people keep playing them. When we’re playing with these types of games, it’s like we’re trying to fix something. Subconsciously, we’re saying “If I can just get this bird through one more of these pipes, I’ll win. I’m going to save that little bird, and the whole world can finally be a peaceful place.”
At the UCSF, their researchers claim that they will be able to create games that will be so addictive that everyone will be trying desperately to win them, yet at the same time offering benefits to the brain. They’ve actually already created a game, for that matter – NeuroRacer. In NeuroRacer, players drive a car while trying to identify road signs and ignore other signs that are irrelevant. Relatively simple, the participants – some of which were elderly adults – that they’ve asked to play the game showed better memory and attention skills in the real world.
This isn’t the only type of research to back this up, though. In 2007, psychologists from Iowa State University also noted that surgeons who played videogames were 27% faster and made 38% less mistakes during surgeries. Additionally, fairly recently, neuroscientists from the University of Rochester made claims that FPS (first person shooter) players made improvements in visual attention, mental reasoning, and decision-making. Heck, even you could probably attest to having increased cognitive abilities just due to extended periods of Tetris.
With this craze of smartphone games, it might just be essential, though, to create a widely mainstream game that is incredibly addictive, yet has the capability to enhance mental capacities. In an era where a lot of time in the day is spent on the phone, this might just be the thing we need.