Let’s learn about the benefits of playing video games

Video games may help young people hone some real-world skills

a boy sitting in front of a desktop computer and wearing headphones raises his hands and smiles in celebration

Playing video games may not only help teens relax and have fun — it may help them hone some real-world skills.

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Thirteen-year-old Willis Gibson recently made gaming history. On December 21, he became the first person to beat the Nintendo game Tetris — more than 30 years after the game’s release. Tetris has no official ending. But Gibson reached such a high level that the game’s coding glitched and crashed.

Until now, this Tetris-breaking feat had been achieved only by artificial intelligence. Such clever computer software has been besting human experts at an increasing number of video and board games.

Gibson plays Tetris about 20 hours per week. (He plays competitively under the name Blue Scuti.) That’s a lot of time — but not that much more than many kids spend on video games. Poll results from 2020 suggest that around 40 percent of teen boys and 20 percent of teen girls in the United States play video games every day. Of those who play daily, about half reportedly play three or more hours per day.

That amount of screentime has a lot of adults concerned. Long periods of time spent sitting have been linked to physical and mental health issues. But a few studies have hinted there are potential benefits of gaming, too.

Video games often demand quick problem-solving and close attention. So it may not come as a surprise that young gamers have done better than non-gamers on some memory and attention tests. Other research has shown that playing video games in a group can boost young people’s communication skills. It can also ramp up their ability to adapt to new situations.

That’s not to say gaming is a healthy choice for everyone all the time. But it does make some experts think that virtual game play — in moderation — can help people gain real-world skills.

Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started:

Playing video games may improve your memory and attention A study of more than 2,000 kids finds some beneficial changes in their brains and behavior. (1/2/2023) Readability: 6.3

Video games level up life skills Playing games in a group can strengthen abilities such as communication and resourcefulness. (9/27/2017) Readability: 7.9

Science is helping kids become math masters Video games could help students grasp abstract math concepts for classes like geometry. (5/20/2019) Readability: 6.7

Video games have a long history of being used as tools for scientific research.

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Want to try your hand at the puzzle game Gibson recently defeated? Play Tetris online!

Maria Temming is the assistant editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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