Games to Keep You Young
Are video games the new fountain of youth?
The Real Benefits of Games continued...
The brain-boosting benefits depend on the type of game, says Anne
McLaughlin, PhD, psychologist at North Carolina State University. “They’ve
tried games that didn’t work,” she says. “For example, you might think that
people learn to rotate things really well by playing Tetris. But studies didn’t
find much of an effect. So you got better at Tetris, but you didn’t get better
at parking your car.”
Existing research shows that novelty is a catalyst for learning, McLaughlin
says. “If you’ve done Sudoku your whole life, you’re not doing anything new,”
she says. “Completely new tasks form new pathways in your brain. So it seems
more likely that something challenging and new would be a lot more effective
than something that’s challenging but you’ve been doing it forever.”
With a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, her research
team is examining what types of games might help slow the effects of aging on
the brain. The four-year study will look at the benefits that may transfer from
solving puzzles in the game universe to the daily grind of the real world.
Stress Relief and Social Time
TerryAnn Holzgrafe, 45, a teacher of disabled students in Rio Rico, Ariz.,
plays the spelling game Bookworm Adventures both for fun and as a teaching tool
in her classroom. She also formed a Bookworm Adventures’ ladies club, a group
of 40-something women who gather at a local coffeehouse to discuss game
“These games have the unusual ability to de-stress as well as engage one’s
brain,” she says. “I play them to relax at various points during the day, and I
play them very late at night when I’m having trouble sleeping.”
There’s a real value at the emotional level, says Kornel, who enjoys Guitar
Hero. “Reducing stress can help with clarity of thought,” he says.
Michael Caputo, 47, owner of an advertising agency in the North Quabbin
Region of Massachusetts, gets a kick out of playing Rock Band with his kids and
appreciates the ribbing that goes along with the intergenerational
entertainment. “Rock Band has music I like and music they like. They deal with
me singing ‘Green Grass’ and ‘High Times’ and I deal with them singing ‘Dani
California,’” he says.