Gaming and Decision-Making

Video games have exploded in popularity in recent years, and have become deeply engrained in pop culture. With such popularity comes an increase in playing time, and an increase in scrutiny into what gaming is even good for. Many people see gaming as a couch potato activity or a way to just kill time, others see it as a way to hone your decision-making skills. Researches wanted to take a look into the impact gaming can have on the brain, particularly when making decisions.

The study split 47 participants into two groups, those who played video games for more than 5 hours a week, labeled as “gamers” and those who played less than 5 hours a week, “non-gamers”. Those in the gamers group were a mix of different genre players, from First-Person Shooters to Real-Time Strategy. Participants in both groups were placed into an fMRI and were asked to complete tasks while undergoing a scan.

The results of the study looked great for gamers. Gamers had lower response times and better accuracy in their decision-making compared to the non-gamers. The gamer group showed higher levels activation response in areas of the brain associated with sensorimotor and cognitive processing. The researchers also observed gamers made no trade-off between the accuracy of a response and a speed of the response, which they claim indicated video games are “a good candidate for cognitive training as it pertains to decision-making”.

The research was a good small peak into the benefits of gaming but comes with some drawbacks. The limited participant pool is one big issue. Another such limitation is the study didn’t separate based on differences in playing, for example playing on the phone vs computer, which could show also show intra-gamer differences. Lastly, the sample of participants was pretty young, with an average age around 20 years old. It would be best to have a wider age range to see if those decision-making benefits last or are seen in older players.

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