Video games play a part in many people’s lives. From Bejeweled and Candy Crush, to League of Legends and the Sims, video games come in many different genres and serve to entertain people in a myriad of ways. In fact, over 59% of Americans play video games, and the average age of the players is actually surprisingly high–31 years old.
When I was growing up, my mom told me to not play too many video games because it would make me stupid, but she also bragged that in the late 80s, she was the Queen of the Arcade because of her quick reflexes. Studies have shown that people who frequently play video games make faster, but equally accurate, decisions compared to people who do not play video games. However, many parents and students still consider games a distraction. But what if games could serve a useful purpose by helping prepare people for tasks that require concentration?
Image Source: Rene Johnston
A small study by Dr. Jessica Skorka-Brown and others found that just by playing Tetris for as little as three minutes can improve concentration and reduce addictive cravings, including drugs, coffee, sexual intercourse, and more video games. In this study, 31 undergraduates were tracked outside of the laboratory for a week. Half the students were prompted to report their cravings, while the other half were prompted to report their cravings, play Tetris, and then report their cravings again. Surprisingly enough, playing Tetris weakened all types of cravings, including video games, drugs, food, and activity cravings. Over a period of 40 trials of playing the game, the effect on the group that played Tetris remained about the same. The researchers believe that Tetris and other games could become important tools to help people break habits by reducing cravings, since the effect of playing Tetris on craving reduction was not a diminishing one.
Researchers believe that Tetris helped reduce the cravings for addictive substances and behaviors because playing Tetris occupies a section of the brain that imagines consuming the cravings. In simpler terms, it’s simply too difficult for our brain to play Tetris and imagine what we’re craving at the same time. Dr. Skorka-Brown and her colleagues believe that these properties of Tetris will help Tetris and other video games become valuable therapy tools for addicts seeking rehabilitation.
Feature Image Source: Sugar Cravings by Livin’ Spoonful