There are a few qualities and skills that will always be highly valued in the job market, like teamwork and decision-making ability. These qualities can be built up over time by experience in the workplace . . . or by playing video games! Try your hand at these 5 games and build up some valuable skills.
Strategic Planning: Super Mario
In 2013, a study conducted at the Max Planck Institute discovered that people who play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day showed increases in the regions of the brain associated with strategic planning, memory formation, spatial navigation, and fine motor skills. This contrasted with a control group, showing a direct causal link between playing Mario and changes in the brain.
And why shouldn’t there be? Platforming games like Mario often require players to plan several steps ahead, make quick decisions, and memorize patterns on the fly. Games like Crash Bandicoot, Donkey Kong, Rayman, and my personal favorite, Shovel Knight, require a lot of quick thinking, and playing these kinds of games can help make you a more strategic thinker.
If you’re looking for a good platformer, check out our list of the 20 best platformer games of all time .
Cognitive Flexibility: StarCraft
Another 2013 study found that playing 40 hours of StarCraft, a game that “stresses rapid and simultaneous maintenance, assessment, and coordination between multiple information and action sources,” resulted in participants scoring higher on tasks of cognitive flexibility. This is a measure of a person’s ability to switch between different tasks and sets of information.
While we know that the human brain isn’t good at multitasking, having more cognitive flexibility does help people functioning in complicated environments—when you’re trying to quickly switch between email, a phone call, preparing a PowerPoint, and coordinating a meeting, you’ll benefit from your experience playing fast-paced real-time strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, or EVE.
Leadership: World of Warcraft
In looking at how the Sloan model of leadership was present in games, a 2007 study conducted commissioned by IBM found that all four facets of leadership—sensemaking, visioning, relating, and inventing—were present in World of Warcraft interactions. Other massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like EverQuest and Neverwinter require similar skills.
In games where teamwork is required and large groups of people need to come together for a common objective, such as when a large group of WoW players go on a 6-hour raid, having strong leadership skills can be the difference between success and failure. And because of the lower stakes in video games, they might provide good training grounds for these sorts of skills.
Want to start playing MMORPGs? Check out these 10 free options to get your feet wet.
Problem Solving: Splinter Cell
2013 saw the publication of yet another video-game related study, this one focused on self-reported problem-solving skills and school grades. The authors, supposing that “[s]trategy games may teach the player to first gather information and think of a strategy before attempting to solve a problem,” asked high schoolers to rate themselves on a series of problem-solving statements like, “I think hard about what steps to take” and how often they played different kinds of video games.
Those that reported playing strategic video games (which is defined rather broadly in this study) rated themselves higher on the problem-solving scale that those who did not. They also reported higher academic grades. While “strategic games” could mean a lot of different things in this context, the authors did specifically mention Splinter Cell, which suggests that other stealth-focused games, like Metal Gear Solid, may also have the same effects.
The newest Metal Gear game, along with 14 others, are on our list of 15 games you shouldn’t miss in 2015 .
Resource Management: SimCity
If you’ve played any of the SimCity games, you know that you need to manage a lot of different things at once: the happiness of your citizens, the energy you produce, the money you spend, the facilities of your city, and a host of other things all need your attention. Making a change to one can affect several others, requiring a delicate balancing act. This is often the case in real-world situations, and having practice in analyzing situations and prioritizing resources can be very helpful.
Although no research has been done on SimCity and the development of these skills, a variant of the game is being used in some classrooms to assess how well students can solve problems and explain the relationships inherent in complex systems, both very valuable skills when it comes to working in the real world. Being able to manage resources and time while simultaneously being able to explain why you’re using the strategy you are will send you quickly up the professional ranks.
Destiny is a hugely ambitious game that throws together in a large universe in a battle to save the human race. And while you can play the game on your own, to get the most out of it, you’ll need to work together with other players. Working through a strike or a raid often means three or six players need to be doing the right thing at the right time, and good communication is key.
No one has studied the benefits of video games on the ability to communicate, though there’s some evidence that playing co-op games does promote cooperative tendencies. However, games like Destiny are low-stakes situations in which you can practice assertive, effective communication in a low-pressure environment. If you’re nervous about talking to others, starting with online games might be a great way to start.
In addition to Destiny, Evolve is another game that requires effective communication.
Games Can Help You Get a Job
Video games get a bad rap. That’s changing with the release of a number of research studies over the past few years that indicate that not only are video games not turning our children into moral-less monsters, but that they actually have some cognitive benefits. The widely publicized finding that first-person shooters are good for visual perception and quick thinking doesn’t do the field justice, however.
Getting a job requires a lot more than just developing skills, but showing that you can function with these abilities will go a long way toward keeping you employed. So keep playing! (Don’t forget to update your résumé, though.)
Do you feel like you’ve made improvements in any of these areas by playing video games? What other skills do you think games could help develop? Share your thoughts below!
Image credits: people in the queue via Shutterstock, N64 Super Mario Whomp Fortress by Tyan23 via Wikimedia Commons, Starcraft 2 via Starcraft Wikia, Splinter Cell by Geforce, SimCity by SimCitizens, Destiny via Gamespot.