Video Games Could Improve Your Decision-Making Skills

Oant to be a better decision maker? Get an Xbox or PlayStation.

Although detractors may consider them a waste of time, video games actually have extremely useful side benefits for business owners. In fact, a recent study shows that people who play video games frequently show increased brain activity and high decision-making abilities.

Georgia State University, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tools, scanned the brains of gamers and non-gamers. Subjects were able to observe a signal followed by a display of moving dots, then asked to press a button in their right or left hand, depending on the direction the dot was moving.

Players were both faster and more accurate in their responses.

“These findings indicate that video gaming potentially enhances several of the sensation, perception, and action-matching subprocesses to improve decision-making skills,” the authors wrote. “These findings begin to shed light on how video gaming alters the brain to improve task performance and their potential implications for increasing task-specific activity.”

It’s not just about making decisions. Video games develop a number of soft skills that are useful in business, researchers have found over the years.

For example, a study published in the American Journal of Gaming in 2014 found that the fast pace of many video games forces people to track many things at once and make split-second decisions, positively affecting perception, attention, memory, and decision-making , which many psychologists consider to be the basic building blocks of intelligence.

And four years earlier, the University of Rochester discovered that playing action oriented games gives players better vision, better attention and better cognition. These improvements make things like multitasking, navigating around town, and reading fine print easier.

Different types of play develop other types of skills. Puzzle games teach problem solving. Real-time action games improve fine motor skills, memory, response time, and the aforementioned hand-eye coordination. Strategy games encourage players to make plans, manage resources, and balance competing goals.

Video games also offer people who are introverted or who might struggle with real-world interactions the chance to be an integral part of a team – and sometimes to lead that team. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling for someone who might be too young to do it at work (which gives them experience), overlooked by their co-workers, or suffer from a lack of self-confidence.

Perhaps most important? Video games can develop empathy, an essential skill in leaders. In Hellofor example, players live the life of a refugee, dodging bombs, finding water, and searching for energy points, as they travel from a war zone to a peaceful life.

Adventure games with a strong script component, such as The last of us, you become emotionally invested in the characters. This is not uncommon in any entertainment medium. But in games, you have to make decisions for these characters. If you make a bad choice, they pay the consequences and that decision could affect the rest of the game. The player learns something from it.

Not sure which game to try to develop your skills? Here are some suggestions:

brain age – Who would have thought that a game designed to keep your brain sharp would sell over 4 million copies and launch a franchise? But the way the questions in this title are worded makes it more of a fun exercise than a homework assignment.

Gate – Players remember Portal for the smile he brought them and GLaDOS’ witty insults. But it is also an educational game hidden in a sheepskin of action. It is about problem solving and spatial relationships and requires strategy, planning and creative insight.

Civilization – Sid Meier’s beloved series is as close to a living history book as it gets. Players learn the principles behind names and dates in their books. It doesn’t teach actual history, but its in-game encyclopedia is full of useful facts. And players learn strategy at the same time.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.