Space-bending game is a better brain-trainer than actual brain-trainers

I’m making a note here: Huge success. There is now concrete proof that playing Portal 2 is better for improving all sorts of brain skills than more serious educational games designed to do the same. Portal 2, in case you don’t know, involves solving puzzles in three-dimensional space using “portals” that create doorways between two points.

A scientific study was recently conducted by the psychology department at Florida State University that showed a marked difference between various brain-based skills of people who played eight hours of Portal 2 compared to others who played eight hours of Lumosity. Lumosity is an educational game specifically designed to teach the same sorts of spacial awareness, problem-solving and lateral thinking that Portal 2 naturally encourages through its entertaining game mechanics.

Here’s an excerpt from the study’s overview:

“In this study, we tested 77 undergraduates who were randomly assigned to play either a popular videogame (Portal 2) or a popular brain training game (Lumosity) for 8 h. Before and after gameplay, participants completed a set of online tests related to problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Results revealed that participants who were assigned to play Portal 2 showed a statistically significant advantage over Lumosity on each of the three composite measures: problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Portal 2 players also showed significant increases from pre-test to post-test on specific small- and large-scale spatial tests while those in the Lumosity condition did not show any pre-test to post-test differences on any measure.”

Hah! Take that, old fuddy-duddies who think games are a waste of time. It has long been my belief that gamers learn more, and faster, because they’re having fun while essentially solving problems and applying their minds as they play, and so this result doesn’t surprise me.

However, it must be acknowledged that Gamasutra added that the study wasn’t exactly conclusive, even though it’s clearly stated in the study’s overview that definite differences were measured between the two groups’ cognitive abilities before and after testing. But perhaps because there were only 77 participants the conclusions drawn won’t necessarily apply to everyone. Still, it’s a good indication that games are beneficial to at least some people’s brains, and at this point, that’s enough for me.

For a taste of the clever puzzle-solving goodness of the Portal series of games, head over to this website and fire up the Portal Flash game. You won’t regret it, and will probably leave feeling smarter than you did going in.

[Source – Gamasutra]


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