How Video Games can Make us Better Thinkers


Ani Gere-Miller

I started playing Cookie Run Kingdom at a time when I was in desperate need of a hobby that wasn’t art-related, and that game consumed every moment of my life that wasn’t spent at school or working on personal creative projects. But while I was playing the game, a funny thing happened. So in the game, there are multiple game modes. Stuff like a level-by-level progression gamemode, a city-building gamemode, an online PVP gamemode, that kind of stuff. In terms of actual game design logic, this was most likely done so that when one game mode was on a cooldown timer, the player still had something else to engage with, but these multiple game modes allowed me to develop a routine when it came to playing. I would log in, enter my city, assign my buildings to craft resources either for quests or upgrades, play through the main story until I ran out of lives, do a few bounties, maybe do some PVP, upgrade my characters with the resources I had acquired during my play session, return to my city to collect my resources, rinse and repeat. And whenever one task was getting too hard for me, I would switch to another task until I had the strength, upgrades and resources required to complete my main task. Then I started to think. Why do I have a healthier, more consistent schedule playing a video game than I do in my day-to-day life?

So let’s talk about video games in general. The thing that separates video games from something like, say, a movie, where all you have to do is sit still and stare at a screen in order to experience it, to get the most enjoyment out of a game, you have to actually engage with it and, well, play it’s game. Sometimes, in order to progress in a game, you’re forced to use your brain. You have to look at the situation logically and figure out an actual strategy and method in order to get through and progress. You can’t just run into a field full of level-fifty orcs with nothing but a helmet and a stick and hope for the best, you have to plan. In order to get the most satisfaction out of beating a level, you have to feel like you actually put in genuine effort, time and resources into completing it. That’s the mark of truly good game design in my opinion. It makes you think rather than just making you feel stimulated.

The thing is, the strategies and methods that video games teach us to use could be applicable to real life situations, as ridiculous as that may sound. Maybe someone who plays a video game could start seeing daily real-life challenges through video game logic and, through that, find a way to tackle the problem in a practical way. Let’s say you failed a math quiz. If you just immediately retake the quiz with no planning or thinking in between your first and second attempt, you will most likely fail again. Much like how immediately replaying a difficult level with zero changes in your strategy will most likely lead to the same results. Instead, you have to take some time away to prepare. You can study, do brain exercises or work on something else. Much like how if a level is too hard for you, you can redo previous levels to get more EXP and maybe aim for a higher score with your added skills while you’re at it, sketch down a strategy on a sheet of paper, or watch a let’s-play and borrow their strategy. If you spend that cooldown time wisely, when you retake the quiz, you’ll come out with a success. I started applying this to myself when I noticed my routine playing Cookie Run Kingdom. Whenever a creative task was too much for me, I would work on something different until I felt confident enough to tackle my main task.

In the article titled Studies: Playing Video Games Can Make You Smarter by Kristy Simon, the author states “Perez said that video games increase the fluid intelligence of individuals regardless of their age. Note that fluid intelligence is the ability to change, meet new problems, and develop new tactics and counter-tactics without prior knowledge or experience.” and “‘Gamers see the world differently,’ said Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry. ‘They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.’” These statistics prove my thesis statement by showing that video games are, indeed, having a notable impact on real-world psychology. And as a bonus, age doesn’t seem to be a factor.

I feel like this is what makes video games special to me. And while most scientists like to focus on the possible negative effects of playing video games like insomnia, antisocial behavior and obesity, I believe video games are much more valuable and teach us more than most people think. They’re a way of training our brains without making it feel like pointless work. They help us develop methods to achieve our goals both in games and in real life. They give us a new perspective on work and the drive to succeed at something, whether we realize it or not. Everyone plays video games for different reasons. Whether as a form of escapism, a way to connect with others, or just a simple activity to kill time. But no matter what your playstyle is, there’s probably some way that you’re learning from the experiences you get from playing games and becoming a better thinker because of it. Much like I did.