Size Matters! Grow a Bigger Brain By Playing Video Games

Proof is in the pudding, so they say.  Businesses look to the “bottom line” and growing their wallets so yes, size does matter!  In the field of education we look to grow a person’s passion for learning, learning retention and brain power.    Lifehacker quotes a study where playing games, specifically Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes over two months increased certain areas of grey matter in the brain.  Generally increased grey matter has been associated with better memory, while decreased grey matter has been associated with mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and dementia.  Specific areas of the brain that grew were related to regions responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, muscle control and spatial navigation.  Here’s an article from Huffington Post that mentions this brainy video game study and others- 9 reasons why videos games are good for you.

Does Playing Video Games Increase Learning Retention?

Brain X-RaySo if playing games increases grey matter (which we can universally agree is good) and if those games contained educational content, would that improve learning retention?  Similarly what if immediately after playing a stress-relieving game, you received instruction- would that also improve or maximize learning retention?  This blog article by 1 to 1 Schools mentions several instances that notes game play improves learning retention short-term, although video games are too “new” to scientific study for long-term data.  Anyone willing to play games for the good of science?  However, this white paper states active learning increases long-term retention.  Simulation games are a great way of fostering active learning.  It’s all in the design.  Leave us a comment if you’ve played a game that has helped you learn something new or help you learn a topic better.  Do you think in the future that you’ll tell your kids to play some video games before they do their homework?

Infographic about Neurology of Gaming


Posted on November 6, 2013, in Gamification, Pedagogy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 54 Comments.

  1. I really hope so! I hate how some people still completely look down on you if you say you enjoy playing games!

    • I think is a matter of time (for more scientific study) as legitimateness of game play gains traction, before we see across the board buy-in from educational practitioners. Thanks for commenting. What are your favorite games to play?

      • A mixture really, assassins creed, tomb raider, sims (I have phases of loving it and hating it). I generally go through phases of all my games to be honest 🙂

  2. Hermiose Dornevil

    I totally enjoyed reading this blog. I grew up playing Tetris and I still love playing it. I always believed that this game was beneficial in developing the brain because you have to thin fast on your feet. Those memory games are also amazing because they help with retaining information. I whole heartedly believe that children would be more interested in school if they included some game playing in some of the subjects.

    • Hermiose,
      Thanks for sharing your favorite game with us! It’s interesting that you mention Tetris being beneficial in developing the brain. Did you know that surgeons who played a few minutes of video games before surgery, performed better in surgery? Several studies have been done to support this, including this one described in the article. This could be attributed to practicing hand/eye coordination. It’s not far from how simulation games began in the military, simulating aircraft flight or other warcraft.

    • I completely agree with you. I remember playing Tetris as well and i really enjoyed it. I do believe games like Tetris stimulate the brain. However, there are games out there that I do not believe are beneficial.

  3. With my cousins in their early school years, I actually picked up the habit to learn retention with a few simple games from apps. They started learning basic math problems through apps such as Sushi Monster, Math vs. Zombies, and Math Magic app that drill them. And it got me curious if there was anything for me. I’m a language student and I’ve found throughout my years of studies that no matter what level your on you need to keep your practice in grammar and especially vocab. So retention games and websites are really useful for that–their easy to access and pretty fun compared to boring drill exercises.
    (I actually use “Gus On the Go” for my cousin’s Spanish practice drills and my downtime Japanese studies when I’m tired of using StudyBlue or MindSnacks app. )

    • Veronique Perez -V-

      I actually need to get in the habit of playing those educational games. I feel that there is so many games out there that I need to explore!!!!

      • Scarlett Ramirez

        Same here, I actually have never been a gamer. I remember playing some Nintendo games as a kid. I don’t know what happened that I stopped playing, but now that I have read this, and seeing how much gaming help with developing certain skills, and using important parts of the brain, I wish I would have been more of a gamer growing up. I definitely have to get myself more into games from now on. But how do we know what games are truly helping us develop these skills?

      • Scarlett,

        Thanks for your comment. As I stated to Mirna, Lumosity is a great app for memory and attention. Duolingo is great for learning languages. Here’s a ScoopIt page that addresses apps that enhance specific skills.

      • Fabio Lam EME2040

        There are a lot of cool and fun games on the free market if you have an android. I’ve downloaded a few onto my tablet just to try them out. Some fun ones are Mind Resolve, Move the Block, 4 Pics 1 Word, Brain Age Game, and Tetris. I’m even trying out Lumosity for the first time. Thanks for all the suggestions they’ve helped a lot. And I’m willing to try more if you all have some. 🙂

  4. My experience with video games along with this article solidifies my belief that gamifying the classroom can be an immense help for teachers. I played games such as Mario 64 and Lego Harry Potter, games that put the player in a dungeon area that had some complex puzzle to solve in order to move on to the next area. Activate this, hit this, run over here and move this, those sorts of games played at a young age can greatly increase a child’s problem solving capacity.

    Similarly, games that have a character progression system can often be rewarding for children and increase their motivation, a concept that can be used in the classroom. A popular game that utilizes this is Pokemon. Perhaps adapting these concepts to a classroom would increase functionality at school

  5. I really liked reading your blog. It was really interesting and it caught. I never really knew about video games being beneficial to our brains. But the things you said in this blog were true. VIdeo games require you to do repeated actions that can stengthen brain cell connections with memory and learning. It was interesting to read that dopamine is released during playing. I think schools should incorporate some type of video games in class to captures the children’s attention in the classroom.

  6. Veronique Perez -V-

    I am a firm believer that games definitely improve your memory and way of thinking. I myself feel that by playing bejeweled I am improving my brain and critical thinking. I would like to know more games that would help me out.

    • Every time I play the sushi monster game it helps me get better with my math skills. Even though it is a children’s game app I use it whenever I am bored, but it either way helps me out with my multiplication and division, so I am also a firm believer that games can help with critical thinking.

    • Ann Marie McDermott

      Exactly! And some people just can’t seem to accept that. Whether a game is meant to be educational or not, it can be an amazing resource. For example, bejeweled was not meant to be an educational game, but it does, like you said, improve your brain and critical thinking.

  7. I never knew this, but I am so thankful I read it. This is something that should be showed to teachers and anyone in the education system. And I can definitely say that video games somewhat helps with building a better memory. Whenever I used to play any video games I would memorize things a lot quicker from the game.

    • Mirna,
      If you like games to help grow your grey matter, Lumosity provides a mobile app and website that are scientifically designed to enhance memory and attention. Duolingo is also a great app for building language skills.

      • Veronique Perez -V-

        I have used Lumosity in my laptop and It has helped me a lot with my memory. I feel that I am getting an ample amount of information and it is all getting stored in my brain. I also believe that our brain has memories that rest and awake when being brought upon a certain train of thought.

  8. I do agree that through certain kinds of video gaming their is great exposure to positive learning. Due to the repetition implemented as mentioned above, after all the repetition and situations of which the games may bring about. I do know that some do require thinking at the same time the player doesn’t realize how much he or she is expose the mind to critical, logical thinking; such as the Professor Layton games on Nintendo.

    • Fabio Lam EME2040

      Very right Karina,
      The idea of having multiple lives and multiple chances to go through a level or complete a boss fight is what pushes the gamer to keep trying until they reach success. They may not realize it at first, but they’re actually building life skills they will eventually use later on, such as persistence, patience, critical thinking, thinking outside the box, navigational skills and much more. Children as young as 1 year old are already picking up Mom and Dad’s iPad or tablet and playing fun little apps, popping bubbles, cutting fruit and flinging angry birds at irate pigs. Video games are the future of education! 🙂

  9. Ann Marie McDermott

    I love this blog post. Mostly for the fact that it doesn’t only show the cons of playing video games, but also the pros.
    I always believed that video games could benefit kids in multiple ways; however, my thoughts were nothing like this. I just simply thought they helped your hand-eye coordination and critical thinking. Apparently, there was more to it than I ever imagined.
    I do believe that the cons of playing videos games is if you play them excessively. For example, a child playing video games for 5 hours every day for a month straight or longer. That, I believe, is when you will start to see the cons of playing video games. I say this because my brother is a HUGE gamer, and he loves to play games like Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Tekken, and various other fighting and war games. He doesn’t have any violent tendencies whatsoever. He also hasn’t had any negative health issues from playing them either.
    Because he doesn’t play them every single day and doesn’t revolve his world around it like most kids do.
    I believe video games are a great way to escape the real world (like people do with a book or a movie). However, it is not a place where you should take residence. Just a place to visit from time to time like mini vacations!

    • Yes! I loved the post because the media exposes video games as such a negative thing and never show the pros of them.
      I also do agree that video games are an outlet sometimes from the real world. Not even just video games but game apps too. Like I am into video games but not as much as my boyfriend is, I am more into books and it is an entertainment that turns into a mini vacation like you said.

  10. Video games are great tools and resources in the world today. Children of all ages play video games; I am a great supporter of adding video games into the educational system. The only thing I have a concern on is how the parents of the of the children will react to having video games implemented into the educational system, and how will the school board react and or edit which video games are suitable for being part of curriculum.
    I know based on experience that gaming helps I played a game called Sid Meier’s Civilization on pc and on ps3 and it helps to much I learned about all the history’s great leaders and great civilization in the world other than the Americans but others like, the Mongols, and Romans and currency and how technology advanced over time. I got a A in my history class after playing this game for a week and a half due to the fact that the game has a turn based strategy which makes you think and how to become the greatest world leader .

    • Ann Marie McDermott

      I AGREE! Unfortunately, a lot of people (like my mother at times) think video games are anything but tools and resources to enhance the mind.
      And that’s very true about the parents. Like my mom used to be, parents believe that play time and learning should be separate. But from my experience, I tend to learn better when I am having fun with it! Like, interactive activities to learn how to add or find the main idea of a story. It keeps the children motivated to keep going when your teach them through games and such.

    • Scarlett Ramirez

      Wow! I never though you could learn so much form just playing video games. That just blew my mind, what you said about your history class. I’m going to check that game out. I know history is a tough subject for many students, and it depends a lot on the way it is explained, and presented to us. Growing up I would always have trouble in my history classes. I would just hate the fact that many of my teachers made it so uninteresting. They didn’t bring the student to think critically, about the situation that these people were in. I would love to see more ideas on how games can make a subject like history, which should be one of the most interesting and exciting subjects, truly spark students imagination and critical thinking abilities. How could these games be used in the classroom? and how could we bring them to life in the class as well.

  11. Very interesting article, we usually only hear the negative side of playing video games and the negative effects that it says that it can have on the people (usually young boys) that play it. I feel that it would be very important for parents to know about this article to have a different perspective into how they react to their kids playing video games on a daily basis. This research can also be a helpful tool in our education system and even use video games to our advantage and not only as a source of entertainment. Finally I feel that besides the fact that it is now shown that it can have a positive side effect on the users brain activity it must be balanced and take both sides into consideration, but at least know with this type of discoveries we can have a more pure understanding and truth of this gaming revolution.

    • Fabio Lam EME2040

      I totally agree with you Florencia.
      Video games can be a great tool in education but should always be supervised by the parents. If the child doesn’t have a clear instruction or goals then they might just be playing to waste time or avoid doing homework. My family only let me play video games as a reward for after completing my homework. And it even helps when the parents get involved and start playing with their children. This can build a stronger family bond plus help the child feel confident that the games they play have a purpose, more than just fun, but growth.

  12. I do believe playing video games engage individuals to use their brains. It has also been proved that gaming helps individuals think strategically. It’s important to note that moderation has to be used. Some times kids and teenagers get so focused on gaming that they leave school work and social interactions behind. Parents must control the time spent gaming and kids must understand priorities. A good technique could be to reward kids with extra gaming time for good deeds.

  13. I love this Blog, Im finally a believer of playing video games. For years, my Family members are very much into playing video games on a daily bases. Many of my family members looked at playing video game as for a brain simulation activity. However, the older generation looked at it as a waste of time into a cyber realty. This much debated topic now has been laid to rest with this Amazing post by edtechnessa. One of strongest arguments in our debate with out older siblings is “If we wasted our time, how did we beat the game”. Many none gamers don’t realize that many games improve your attention spanned, creates memory training, and improves creativity.

  14. Although, I’ve never been an enormous fan of video games, growing up, I was completely addicted to Tetris. I honestly feel that games like Tetris help the brain in developing attention span, as well as alertness. Tetris is a game soley based on making the smartest and quickest moves, what better way to train your brain to think quickly? Of course, with that said, it can definitely also help with memory because you remember moves you made from past games or levels. Just like Tetris, I’m sure there are endless amounts of games that help individuals use their brains to the best of their abilities. However, I don’t believe violent video games have any positive affect on brain power, on the contrary, I think, after much time, it can cloud your ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Games like Tetris and Pacman are fun games with a positive end result!

  15. I really never knew this. I have never been a big video game person, partially because I would get too excited and forget what buttons to press. Also, I preferred reality to sitting around a television playing mindless games. However, I recently started using the lumosity app on my iPhone and I have already seen changes. Lumosity is a great way of expanding the mind and increasing memory through fun games such as matching and speed answers. I usually do not play games on my phone because I do not have time, or when I have time, I find myself other things to do that do not involve technology. With the Lumosity app, I make a point of playing it once a day to fulfill my brain exercise for that day. Who would have thought that gaming could be brain exercise?

  16. Very interesting post. I think this article was very beneficial especially for me as I have been personally experiencing memory loss over the past couple of months. I was told by my doctor that this is most probably due to stress and recommended that I ate healthier and worked out. However, little did I know that video games would actually improve memory loss. I had always heard about luminosity and actually tried it but it did not help. I am guessing that the reason why video games help improve memory retention is because they require more strategy and have one think outside the box.

  17. After reading this and checking out the infograph, there was literally a huge smile on my face! Although I am no longer a die-hard gamer as I was when I was younger, I still do enjoy the occasional video game time that I emerge in. I am always hearing people bad mouth video games and criticize them for violence, etc, but what these people don’t realize is that the brain is stimulated in many different ways through the use of various gaming. Sure, it is obvious that not all games are educational, therefore they are not meant to be held within the realm of education, but all games in one way or another ‘work out’ the brain. Ultimately, I am a firm believer that video games are a great educational accessory/tool that should be pushed forward to a greater extent. Whether we are learning math, reading, memory, moral skills, life skills, etc, there is always a source of education to be gained from video games.

    Also, I am really interested in learning more in depth on what, if any, games have been reinforced as educational tools? I know Minecraft is doing well in the eyes of education. And in my personal opinion, Minecraft is a good game on it’s own, so it’s great to see that it can also provide some form of learning.

  18. Natalie Starling

    I find this extremely interesting! Being I do not play video games, I never would have thought this or realized how playing video games could increase gray matter in the brain, along with strengthening brain cells, and underlying memory as well as learning. I was very interested when I read that it could also help to improving reading skills for those who are dyslexic. I defiantly think this is a great thing, and using educational games is something I would be all for. Of course there is a good and bad side to this; just like most things, such as altering moods when played to often or behavioral issues. Video games are something teachers and parents should monitor and set time limits, as well as making sure the games are age appropriate and educational.

  19. This blog really caught my attention especially because it’s confirmed my long time obsession with video games and how it’s geared me up for adulthood.
    Ever since I could remember video games have been a critical part of my life. They’ve only grown with me as I matured and I only started by the age of 6 with my Sega Genesis, which I recently learned was launched in the US from Japan in 1989, same year I was born. 😀
    Before I could really understand the English language I learned how to pick up a controller and play “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I can see how video games can improve a person’s memory, problem solving skills, concentration, and all around hand-eye coordination. It improved my fine motor skills as well as short term memory. It also helped me practice my English when the script was captioned on the bottom of the screen.
    This also helped my self-confidence when I found out almost all of my friends in school were playing Pokemon for the Nintendo Gameboy Pocket. Yeah, that was my first hand-held video game console and I took it everywhere. By that time I was already well versed in many Role Playing Games (RPGs) like some of my favorites: Legend of Mana, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, Super Mario 64, Chronotrigger, and many more. All these games helped build my short-long term memory skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills. I encourage many of my friends as well as my future children to play fun and thought provoking games, even some of the apps that are being used today like Angry Birds and even Candy Crush. Hopefully some day soon, schools will integrate video games into their regular curriculum and Gamify Education.

  20. Natalie Starling

    N.S Post 2: After reading some of the other posts I have to agree with what is being said by some. It’s true most people don’t really see the positive side in video games normally people see it as something fun to do and not really educational or positive. I feel it’s all about how you use it and how you apply it to education. After learning more about the positive side to gaming it’s safe to say you have my attention. I will defiantly use technology in my classroom, along with educational games to better engage with my students and to help increase their brain activity in more than one way. I feel there must be time limits in place, and I strongly feel that not all games will have a positive effect. We should take the time to understand the positive side to gaming and use it help better our students rather than just look at gaming as something negative. After all students today learn differently than we did, so we must keep moving forward and use tools like gaming.

  21. Everything makes sense now, I played Mario constantly and i happen to have an amazing memory. Of course playing video games can increase learning. Video games are problems that we need to solve. We need to find a way to rescue the princess and we always have to think quick; therefore it makes us fast thinkers. I remember playing Tetris and thinking that this game had to help the brain in someway. It was fast game where thinking quick was the key to wining. I’m glad people are starting to realize that video games are not just a waste of time and that kids as well as adults can excise their brain which is just another muscle.

  22. I really enjoyed this article! I myself love playing video games; they are a great way to relieve stress and use your brain. Among my favorites games are super Mario Bros. and the Uncharted franchise. I agree with that fact that playing videogames that stimulate multiple parts of your brain does help you be more creative, strategic, and retain more information. It is like exercising a muscle, the more you get in the habit of trying how to beat levels in games through the use of strategies and puzzle solving, the more you can do it in life when completing projects and work assignments. You’ will be able to come up with better ideas and your overall performance will have improved.

  23. Being the avid video game player that I was in the past, I found this article much more interesting that the rest. I consider myself to be very smart. I feel as though my logic, reasoning, and persuasion skills are quite good. Is it possible that video games have helped shape my intelligence? I don’t think so. I feel as though my skill in video games comes from my logic. However, I feel that playing video games definitely keeps certain areas of the active and sharp. According to the photo, dopamine which is associated with learning and reward is released in the brain when video games are played. On the contrary, activity in the frontal lobe may decrease, which leads to more frequent change in emotions.

  24. I think that there is a possibility for video games to improve our brain functions. Playing video games can improve our motor skills and hand eye coordination.For example, Nintendo’s Brain Age video game specifically helps improve our memory. Playing video games can be beneficial but like everything, too much may potentially be harmful.

  25. Wow! Really opened my eyes to some of the things that might have been happening in my head all my childhood years. Looking at some of the positives, it almost makes me want to pull out the N64 and play some more Mario.

    It is interesting though that a lot of the negative aspect of brain function pertaining to video games stems form violent video games; which is predominantly the games most people my age play (ie. COD, Assisan’s Creed, GTA etc…). It really helped me think about what games I should consider the next time I’m buying a game for myself or a friend.

  26. This is a great post! I am a fan of Tetris. I got to say I get pretty upset when my screen fills out with various shapes that just refuse to fit perfectly!!!

    Little did I know that this frustrating game was actually helping me enhance my decision-making skills. I think my parents should take a look at this article!

    With all the bad rep going on around gaming it is refreshing to read about the benefits different games bring to the table. I feel like we tend to go with whatever society thinks and we forget we have a mind of our own. Now I have a great list of games I look forward to playing.
    Thank you for the great info!!

  27. This post makes me happy, my brother who is in middle school plays a lot of video games; non-violent. It seems to me that the violent games take all the negative side affect. On the contrary, playing non-violent video games can trigger certain responses in your brain that can be beneficial. I wonder how guitar hero acts on the brain (that’s what I play). The key is not to over-do anything in life, too much of something is never good.

  28. Roberto Gavilanes

    I wish I could go back when i was a little kid and show this to my parents, nobody ever tries to look at the positive aspects of video games like this article demonstrates. I believe that there are video games out there that do increase your knowledge and memory retention, however I also am aware that there are mindless video games as well. Parents should focus more on the video games that are beneficial to their children and try to stray away from the violent ones. Now with the new video games consoles like Wii kids are also able to get some exercise in doors while still learning.

  29. This is a great post! This makes a lot of sense too. These games require fast thinking and efficient problem solving. This takes a lot of focus and it’s great to read about the benefit that these games have. This is a positive light to shed on gaming and is insightful to all those who are questioning if it’s beneficial or not. Improving these skills are crucial to people of all ages and games are such a fun way to be able to achieve those needs. I loved learning about how the brain works when reacting to this kind of activity and I definitely view gaming much differently than before!

  30. As a compulsive player of video games, I’m at 90% according to the information in this post. Where I really disagree is in the analysis of violent video games. I played all kinds of violent games and I think it has not affected my character at all. In addition, this type of video game should be played only by adults over 18. But as I said, I played GTA since age 14 and it has not affected my behavior at all, or my emotions, quite the contrary, I consider myself a peaceful person. I think the time spent on video games is the key, not so much the content of them.
    Very good information, I wish I had it ten years ago so I could show it to my mother!

  31. This blog caught my attention, and I have to agree. Apart from the indisputable negative impact caused by a sedentary life, it’s good to know that video games contribute to better brain health. It’s only logical to think of the brain as a muscle that increases and gets stronger with exercise, and video games stimulation seems to create this effect. Very informative! Thanks.

  32. A few months ago, I created an account on to try their brain training games. Through their free trial, I was able to see the instant benefits of these games. My situational awareness increased and my memory improved through repetition of certain games. Sadly, I was not willing to pay for full access to the site at the time, but it did open my eyes to exercising my brain for these functions and more. Historically, I’ve had some issues with my memory that I intend on gradually fixing thro

  33. A few months ago, I created an account on to try their brain training games. Through their free trial, I was able to see the instant benefits of these games. My situational awareness increased and my memory improved through repetition of certain games. Sadly, I was not willing to pay for full access to the site at the time, but it did open my eyes to exercising my brain for these functions and more. Historically, I’ve had some issues with my memory that I intend on gradually fixing through the use of brain games.

  34. Natalie M. Lopez-Rivera

    It is amazing to see the benefits that playing video games has on the mind. I have always known this to be true. Ever since I was young, I have always loved to play Tetris. I played it religiously, I still play it to this day. One thing I learned that I gained from the game was the ability to make the most out of the space I have. May it be making the most out of the space in my purse, car or room. Tetris also allowed me to plan ahead. Everything thrown at you is important, but it is important to make sure to use your pieces to your advantage. Same goes in life when finding the quickest route home, figuring out whether a couch will find in the living room, ect. I know I have great decision making skills and I can probably thank tetris for that. The graph you posted was definitely important to allow a visual understanding of what you blogged about. Great job!

  35. I am a firm believer that too much of anything is not good! However, I think a specific amount of time dedicated to playing video games for increased brain capability is a good thing. I also play games to empower my brain function. is a website that allows adults to play a few games targeted towards improving memory, speed, and other critical functions the games maybe in total 15 minutes long and the results are said to be long lasting. I am a member and it actually kind of fun!

  36. Great article. I got out a lot of the discussion as well. I think educational games are great to develop the mind. Games can stimulate the brain and parents can give good games to their children since they are toddlers to activate their minds. I would give my child an educational board game or coloring books before doing homework to relax the mind, but not a video game to block their brain and grab their attention from homework.

  1. Pingback: Adult Programming Ideas for International Games Day at the Library | Llama Llama Librarian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: