Sometimes, a research study will come along that confirms what you have often suspected but have never had the evidence to state with complete confidence.
But here goes nothing: playing online games can help to improve your critical thinking and ‘open-mindedness’.
That has been confirmed by the British Journal of Educational Technology, whose study found that ‘gamers who play strategy games scored higher on actively open-minded thinking’.
So, all those hours playing World of Warcraft have not been for nothing.
In all seriousness, anyone who plays games with a strategic element will, at times, be forced to open their minds to new ways of thinking.
You may be stuck on a particular level and need to think ‘outside of the box’ to beat a particular enemy or solve a unique puzzle.
For children, this can be very helpful to their cognitive development.
What is critical thinking?
There are different definitions of critical thinking, but a good way to consider it is that to think critically, you should be able to take information and use that to make smart decisions that will ultimately enable you to achieve a certain goal.
By thinking critically, you can also test your own mindset and preconceptions, while being able to defend your particular position on something.
Of course, critical thinking may just help you to get past that end-of-level boss.
When playing a game on your own, you will be solely reliant on your own critical thinking to help you to complete it.
If you get stuck, you will be required to think critically, and perhaps look for a solution in a way that hadn’t initially come to mind.
When playing with a partner or in an online multiplayer game, the need to extend your critical thinking and to align your goals and work cohesively as a unit will help to foster teamwork and other key skills that can be deployed at school, college, in your workplace or even in other facets of your life.
There’s a side branch of critical thinking – reflective learning – that is crucial here too.
Reflective learning enables us to learn from our mistakes or solve a problem using information we have learned, and again this skill helps to strengthen our brains and engender feelings of open mindedness, seeking solutions that don’t come to us right off the bat.
One of the unique things about critical thinking is that it is a holistic skillset, and one that can be used in other areas of gaming where strategy isn’t always needed.
For example, if you are playing online real slots where your success comes down to luck, you still need to be able to critically think about where games sit on the risk/reward spectrum, and where on that scale you are most comfortable.
Using critical thinking
Those that display critical thinking in their gaming are able to adapt their mindset in the real world.
Resourcefulness and adaptability are just two terms we can use in conjunction with critical thinking, and it goes without saying that these can be useful in our studies, our jobs and in our everyday lives.
You may also gain experience in making quick decisions under time constraints, with some games using countdown clocks and the like to put added pressure on the player.
So, the next time somebody questions your love of gaming, just tell them that you’re sharpening your critical thinking skills.
Those could prove vital to your successes in the future.