The human brain is undoubtedly the most intricate machine on Earth. Our eyes, ears, and other sensory organs constantly send information to our cortex. In turn, it uses all this information to build experiences and memories from extraordinary occurrences, great travels to the simplest things such as remembering what was on the shopping list or the name of the vet who specializes in exotic pets.

The more clearly our brain registers this information, the better we can respond to it and store it, so that we can remember it and use it at a later time. Learning specialists are constantly looking for ways to improve brain functions so as to facilitate information retention and skill development.

Games have been incorporated in learning materials for a long time but lately, with the newest technology it is easier than ever to use them in order to train the brain.

Are games the best brain-training tactics?

Games can improve problem-solving skills

Facing challenges is part of any job these days and having the tools to deal with and overcome them is very important. Time is of the essence when making decisions and studies have shown that gamers tend to solve problems with more speed and accuracy. Fast-paced games require quick thinking and immediate reactions to avoid being eliminated. In real-life situations, active gamers have a better sense of what is going around them and are able to make decisions faster, according to scientists from the University of Rochester.

In their study, participants aged 18 to 25 were split into two groups. One group played 50 hours of the action-packed first-person shooter games “Call of Duty 2” and “Unreal Tournament,” and the other group played 50 hours of the simulator game “The Sims 2.” The action game players made decisions 25% faster in a task unrelated to playing video games, without sacrificing accuracy.

For instructional designers, the possibilities are limitless. E-learning is the perfect environment for acting out complex challenges in game form in order to increase the employees’ problem-solving capacities.

Games boost the creation of new memories

It’s not news that games are used to get children to remember things such as the days of the week, the seasons or names of different colors. Yet in the adult years, playing games also has a positive impact on memory. A study conducted by the University of California set about to measure the impact of 3D gaming on new information acquisition.

The researchers found that the students who played 3D video games improved their scores on the memory tests, and by a considerable margin: their memory performance increased by about 12 percent, which the researchers say is the amount memory normally decreases between the ages of 45 and 70.

Craig Stark, the lead researcher declared that: “It’s quite possible that by explicitly avoiding a narrow focus on a single … cognitive domain and by more closely paralleling natural experience, immersive video games may be better suited to provide enriching experiences that translate into functional gains.”

Immersive learning and the use of interactive 3D environments are already part of today’s corporate training repertoire. Adding the game component will only improve participant engagement and results.

Games stimulate mental cognition and produce positive brain changes

For a while there was a heated debate about the impact of video games have on those who play them. Some suggested that there is a negative side as they might lead to antisocial behavior, obesity or even violence. Of course we can all agree that overdoing it can be rather detrimental to the individual but in all fairness that is the case with pretty much everything.

A study dating back to 2014 and conducted by researchers Adam Eichenbaum, Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green states that there are some undeniable long-lasting positive effects of video games on basic mental processes — such as perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. Most of the research involves effects of action video games — that is, games that require players to move at great speed, keep track of several items at once, hold a good deal of information in their mind as one never knows when it might come in handy, and make split-second decisions.

Many of the abilities tapped by such games are precisely those that psychologists consider to be the basic building blocks of intelligence. What this means is that engaging in complex games is one of the best forms of training for the brain. Since the main goal of corporate learning is to increase job performance, helping employees develop the ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously, have a greater mental flexibility and overall executive cognitive functioning can only prove beneficial.

Conclusion

With all the specialized literature supporting the great benefits games and learning in a gamified have, L&D specialists can’t possibly ignore this immense potential for improving e-learning material. The majority of today’s workforce is thoroughly familiarized with online gaming and using it for development purposes can only engage and delight them.

Author: Raluca C

Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.