Can Playing Games Make You Smarter?

If, for a long time now, you have been trying so hard to shake off the addictive habit of playing games in a variety of forms, you will feel relieved to know that it may not be that bad at all. In fact, playing board and video games, or even competitive sports, may make you smarter– or do they? Let’s delve deeper into each type and understand what they do to help promote a person’s cognitive function.

Board Games

If you’re a sucker for Monopoly, Scrabble, or Backgammon, you will be pleased to know that these games not only help you kill boredom; they make you smarter, too! Here are the reasons why.

1) Board games make you ‘number smart.’

For the longest time, playing board games has been linked with the development of the mind, especially in young people. According to Dr. Gwen Dewar of Parenting Science, games such as chess and Mastermind help hone a person’s logical-mathematical intelligence – brilliance that is often found in scientists, mathematicians and investigators. As per Howard Gardner, theorist of “Multiple Intelligences,” these number/reasoning smart individuals demonstrate exceptional skills when it comes to quantifying, calculating and carrying out mathematical problems. He adds that logically-mathematically intelligent people are stellar at perceiving connections and relationships, using abstract and symbolic thought, as well as thinking inductively and deductively. In fact, a 2006 study conducted by Neller et. al showed that the game “Clue” was an effective tool in teaching students the concept of deductive logic.

2) Board games make you ‘people smart.’

Since board games involve a number of participants, studies conducted by social scientists show that they help in the development of interpersonal intelligence skills as well. The reason for such is the fact that the games involve competition – and collaboration at certain times. As a result, they help the person understand and interact with others more effectively.

3) Board games make you ‘word smart.’

Some board games, such as Scrabble and Boggle, offer numerous benefits when it comes to the development of linguistic intelligence. Word smart individuals are proficient in using language to appreciate complex meanings. Since these games stimulate the mind to sift out letters immediately, they enhance the individual’s understanding of language. With these board games, a child can grow up to become an acclaimed journalist, novelist or pubic speaker.

Apart from Clue, Scrabble and Boggle, here are some other board games that can help improve your brain capacity:

Chess – Studies show that chess helps improve children’s logical-mathematical intelligence. A 2008 research conducted by Scholtz demonstrates that those who studied chess 1 hour per week fared better in counting and addition, compared to children who received 4-5 hours of math instruction weekly.

• Number-line board games – Such games that involve the movement of pieces through sequentially-numbered areas were proven to improve number intelligence as well. Studies show that children who played number-line board games exhibited better mathematical skills than those who did not.

• Mastermind – In 1987, Wood and Stewart published a research that shows the benefits of Mastermind.  The study showed that college students who participated in the research enhanced their critical thinking abilities, making them less prone to errors in reasoning.

Video Games

Video games might have earned notoriety for being violent and addictive, but most experts suggest that they are highly effective in improving a person’s mental faculties.

1)Video games enhance logical-mathematical intelligence.

According to Dr. Alan Weiss of Arizona State University (ASU), video games teach a person to think critically. He adds that they help stimulate the brain, encouraging the player to come up with revolutionary solutions and adaptations. Best of all, the enhancement in critical thinking proves applicable and valuable in real-life scenarios. ASU Literacy Professor James Gee supports Weiss’ observations as well. In fact, he adds that video games even help in the enhancement of an individual’s problem-solving and decision-making faculties. Since they enable the player to make smart choices and solve seemingly-unsolvable problems, video games help a person improve his analytical thinking abilities.

Just like board games, the effect of video games on a person’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills shows that it makes one smarter by developing his logical-mathematical intelligence. Such individuals are known to be experts in sequential reasoning, abstract reasoning and inductive/deductive thinking.

2) Video games enhance interpersonal intelligence.

Apart from helping players become ‘number smart,’ video games are effective in transforming a once-awkward person to a people-smart one in the long run. The way they foster collaboration skills is attributed to the multiplayer and massive multiplayer options of said games. Because of the need to collaborate and interact, to work in teams or to go against other groups, a video game player learns how to interact better with other people and understand their predicaments. Individuals with interpersonal intelligence, more often than not, end up as leaders amongst their comrades.

3)Video games enhance spatial intelligence.

Spatial Intelligence is another acumen that is improved in video game players. Games such as “Little Big Planet” for Playstation 3 helps a person become ‘picture smart’ because it calls for the use of spatial reasoning, mental imagery and image manipulation. As a result, they improve their spatial analysis skills, helping them to think bigger and outside the box.

4) Video games enhance bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Previously, video games have been confined in the realms of entertainment and recreation. But because of its numerous benefits, especially in the development of bodily and kinesthetic intelligence, they are being used in vocational training as well. Since video games can help a person improve his hand-eye coordination and manipulation skills, medical schools, military and police academies are making use of these programs to help their employees ‘train’ for the scenarios that lie ahead. And why not? Simulation games can help wannabe-doctors improve their surgery skills without costing life and limb; while they can aide soldiers and policemen enhance their tactical knowledge without getting caught in a dangerous crossfire.


Sports might focus on the development of physical abilities, but they have positive effects on the mind as well. Here are some reasons why athletic endeavors can help you become smarter.

1) Sports enhance bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

The foremost smartness that is developed in sporty people is of course, their bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Because of the rigorous practice and physical conditioning activities with training and playing, athletes can immediately improve their physical skills, as well as their capacity to manipulate objects.

Practice makes perfect, they say – and with the strict practice regimens involved in sports, athletes are able to improve the union of their minds and bodies. As a result, they can shoot balls and jump over hurdles – as if there are no obstacles lying in front of them.

2) Sports enhance interpersonal intelligence.

More often than not, sports involve playing with a team and going up against competitors. Interacting and communicating with others is almost always done on a regular basis. The ability to entertain different points of view, as well as sensitivity to other’s thoughts and feelings usually come into play. Because of the social nature of sports, athletic people get to improve their interpersonal intelligence.

The development of ‘people smartness’ is not only beneficial to the athlete, it is advantageous to his team as well. People smart athletes usually end up as team leaders, because of their ability to communicate well and understand the thoughts of his fellow players.

3) Sports enhance intrapersonal intelligence.

Sports boast of numerous benefits, and one of them is the improvement in self-esteem. By playing sports, athletes get to ‘feel good’ about themselves because of the breakthroughs in their game – i.e. breaking personal records or setting an all-time high score. They feel that they are better than they were before – and that they could do anything, as long as they set their minds into it.

In this essence, a player become self-smart because of the way he practices and plays his games. He gets to understand himself fully – his skills and limitations. He ends up utilizing his skills and working on his limitations. Equipped with self-awareness and self-appreciation, a ‘self smart’ athlete is able to go where no one wishes to go.

4) Sports enhance spatial intelligence.

Quarterbacks and point guards are just some of the many athletes who demonstrate impressive spatial intelligence. With the help of sports, these individuals get to improve their three-dimensional thinking abilities. Because of their capacities in spatial reasoning and mental imagery, they get to map out plays right in the middle of an ongoing play. They can create scenarios that favor their team.

This intelligence, in fact, is what fuels most wins. In effect, both parties are on the winning side. The athlete gets to improve his brains – and his enhanced faculties, in return, pave the way for the triumph of the team.

With countless researches pointing to the benefits of board and video games to a person’s intellectual capacity, there is no reason why you should not spend an hour or two playing these with family or friends. Whatever age group you fall into, these games present a host of benefits that you may just use as an excuse to keep playing. Have fun!

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