Disproportionately studied in the past for its negative implications, gaming as a pastime has received a surge of new research looking at its benefits. As such, improvements in response time, stress alleviation, and the stimulation of critical thinking are often cited as healthy consequences of delving into video games. One research article from the American Psychological Association identifies and explores four categories of benefits: cognitive, social, emotional, and motivational benefits. While the research continues to increase, it's clear that games provide practical benefits that translate into real-life scenarios.

As an interactive medium, games offer players ways to develop various useful skills. From first-person shooter games to MMOs, video games combine motivation, entertainment, and interaction to craft a unique learning environment. The bonus is that players don't even realize how much information they're retaining. Enhanced language acquisition, better navigational skills, and improved situational awareness are only some of the skills players might get from gaming.

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Boosting Vocabulary and Enhancing Communication Skills Through Gaming

Joel and Ellie on the cover of The Last of Us game

Video games enable players to enhance their expressive (speaking and writing) and receptive (listening and reading) skills. According to one 2018 study, video games have a notable impact on language acquisition and learning, especially when it comes to vocabulary and pronunciation. Not only are games interactive, which promotes active learning, but they are also uniquely motivating by being entertaining. These linguistic benefits of gaming are most useful to foreign language speakers and young gamers.

For single-player games, receptive skills are honed through continuous exposure to cutscenes, voice acting, dialogue, subtitles, quest descriptions, and even in-game music. A story-rich game like The Last of Us, for example, creates an intriguing setting and has been praised for its engaging narrative. For many gamers, a complex game like this can offer a distinct motivation to closely follow the story. When a player's linguistic knowledge falls short, they can rely on visual and contextual cues, which promotes incidental learning. While games are becoming more narratively complex, they're also increasingly social.

Couch co-ops, team-based tactical shooters, and MMOs are hugely popular, leading gamers to flex their offline and online expressive skills. Being able to keep cool and effectively communicate is crucial when playing a first-person shooter like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Ready or Not. Without assigning roles, noting enemy locations, and communicating strategies, players won't see much progress. This cooperation and competition facilitate proficient communication. However, games like Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft also foster online communities where players discuss the game's content and socialize.

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Improving Map Reading, Navigation, and GPS Skills With Video Games

A split image featuring gameplay screenshots of Split Second, F-Zero and Auto Modellista

For racing game enthusiasts and fans of free-roaming RPGs like the Grand Theft Auto series, hurtling through the game's streets can seem inconsequential in day-to-day life. However, having to track mini-maps and continuously orient oneself might impact real-world navigation skills. In a high-stakes gaming environment, players only have split seconds to take heed of their surroundings, glance at maps, and consider their routes.

Practicing this active repositioning in a racing game or fast-paced adventure game makes using a GPS and following directions more intuitive in the real world. Aside from improving spatial awareness and virtual navigation, there's also reason to believe that games can be helpful as training tools for driving. According to a 2016 research article from the Psychological Science Journal, visuomotor control and lane-keeping skills are more developed in action gamers.

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How Video Games Develop Situational Awareness and Problem-Solving Skills

L.A. Noire Game poster

Situational awareness refers to the ability to perceive and effectively respond to an environment or circumstance. By consistently engaging in problem-solving, a person will refine this skill. In video games, problem-solving often forms a core part of the experience. Game developers know that gathering information, understanding this information, and processing it to make the correct decision is key to progression. A puzzle-platform game like Portal takes advantage of this and helps gamers hone these skills. Gamers must also be confident in surveying the game's surroundings, NPCs, and context.

Filtering important information and analyzing the entire environment can become second nature to players. A game like L.A. Noire builds on this necessity to be situationally aware. In the neo-noir title, players must interrogate characters and investigate crime scenes. Using a technology called MotionScan, the game uses realistic facial expressions for players to analyze as part of their investigations. Missing seemingly inconsequential changes in an NPC's expression or overlooking evidence can have massive consequences. As such, playing a detective mystery game like this enables gamers to practice reading non-verbal and contextual cues, which can translate directly to real-life scenarios.

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Picking Up Practical Skills Through Playing Video Games

Assassin's Creed Origins Bayek holding bow in front of pyramid and landscape

The ability to learn new skills through video games is undeniable. In fact, a genre of games known as "serious games" has long been used as a way for people to train and practice skills. Primarily appearing as simulations, these games can also be employed as training solutions for professionals. Common examples are medical simulations and flight simulations. Despite this, most players will garner new skills from video games without setting out to do so.

Playing a title from the beloved Assassin's Creed series might open a player's eyes to historical facts or figures. Although they are fictional, these games use real events as the basis of the story. Being immersed in an interpretive historical world often opens players up to learning about different representations of the past that don't conform to master narratives. Similarly, video games might enhance a player's geographical skills by reflecting accurate world maps. Despite their casual nature, survival games like Raft could also teach players about rationing and even saltwater distillation techniques.

A person won't become a survival expert or a pro detective by buying the latest video game, but they can pick up some handy skills. While every game genre will differ, all video games have something practical to offer. With the rise of realism and attention to detail in the industry, the skills advanced by playing video games will continue to increase.