Could playing video games help boost your career?

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
·4 min read
Overjoyed African American millennial man relax on couch in living room play video game using joystick gamepad, happy biracial young male gamer rest at home engaged in digital virtual activity
Studies have suggested action-based games can help sharpen people’s cognitive abilities such as reaction speed. Photo: Getty

When you think of things that can help you get up the ladder at work, gaming probably isn’t the first to come to mind. However, there’s a growing body of research that suggests playing video games can help boost key skills that can be applied to real life workplace situations.

Gaming usually involves being thrown into problematic scenarios or facing challenges which test your ability to adapt to new situations and develop solutions. And when we play with other people, it forces us to assess our ability to communicate and work well in a team. The games don’t have to be educational either — studies have suggested action-based games can help sharpen people’s cognitive abilities such as reaction speed.

A 2017 study led by Matthew Barr, a lecturer in information studies at the University of Glasgow, found that playing video games actually improved student communication skills, resourcefulness and adaptability — and may even have a role to play in higher education.

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Over an eight-week period, undergraduate students in the Arts and Humanities were randomly assigned to either an intervention or a control group. Previously validated, self-report instruments to measure adaptability, resourcefulness and communication skills were administered to both groups. The intervention group, who played specified video games under controlled conditions, showed improvements in communication, adaptability, and resourcefulness scales compared to the control group.

“The findings suggest that such game-based learning interventions have a role to play in higher education,” Barr said. “Modern video games often require players to be adaptable and resourceful, and finding multiple ways of accomplishing a task. The way games are designed often encourages critical thinking and reflective learning, commonly cited as desirable attributes in graduates.”

Although some games are designed to test and improve things like memory, the games in the Glasgow study were all commercial titles for entertainment, including Minecraft and Lara Croft, among others.

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And while ignoring your work to play games probably isn’t going to boost your productivity, research suggests playing for a few minutes during a break or on your lunch may be beneficial.

In fact, a team at the University of Arkansas and the Key Laboratory for NeuroInformation of the Ministry of Education of China demonstrated that just one hour spent playing video games can have a positive effect on the brain. The research team found changes in brain activity and increased focus in gamers who had spent one hour playing the League of Legends video game.

It’s worth noting that the study was conducted in a very small group of participants — just 29 men — so its results should be interpreted with caution. But other studies support the idea that a short break from work can help refresh your mind and decompress, making you more efficient when you return.

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Gaming can also help with stress relief by providing a distraction from worries, too. Getting stuck into a game can be a form of escapism, allowing you to feel more refreshed when you head back to work.

In fact, a recent groundbreaking study of 3,274 adult gamers found those who play video games for long periods of time tend to report feeling happier than those who do not. The Oxford Internet Institute research, released in November, focused on two games: Nintendo's Animal Crossing and EA's Plants vs Zombies. Unusually, the developers of the games shared anonymised data about how long each participant had played. These logs were then linked to a survey in which the players answered questions about their wellbeing.

“Previous research has relied mainly on self-report surveys to study the relationship between play and wellbeing,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and lead-author of the study.

“Our findings show video games aren’t necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a persons’ well-being. In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people’s mental health — and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players.”

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