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How the Gaming Industry has Increased the Brain's Ability to Focus

By Special Guest
Russell Emmental
March 01, 2019

It’s been a long-held belief by parents that video games turn your brain to mush and increase violent tendencies. Actually, it’s quite the contrary.

The stigma around video games really stems from the view that it is a waste of time. They’re viewed as distractions instead of a legitimate hobby or a tool that can help students and adults improve their brain activity. Research has attested that, while these types of games can sometimes lead to short bursts of aggression, they’re also a great way to improve cognitive function and focus.

How They Help

First-person shooting games have been cited to help improve hand-eye coordination. However, scientific tests have shown that gamers who have played games like Project I.G.I., which can be downloaded at, demonstrated better spatial reasoning, visual acuity, spatial focus, and decision-making.

Neuroscientist Daphna Bavelier has stated that videos games help to “retune connectivity across” different areas of the brain. This means that video games aren’t just mere distractions and can be used to confer skills that can be applied outside of that virtual world. A few studies have been done that show exactly how these skills can be applied.

A study done by researchers at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rochester shows how technology, beyond video games, effects cognition and attention. They wanted to see if video games soften the effects of media multitasking.

Media multitasking is using two or more media technologies at once, such as watching television and scrolling through social media. The act of media multitasking is associated with a lack of focus and the inability to ignore distractions. They used action games, such as first-person shooters, in their study. The results supported the theory that gaming enhanced the ability to pay attention and weakened the negative effects of media multitasking.  

When Will You Notice an Improvement in Focus?

If you’re looking to improve your ability to pay attention by getting into video games or playing more, you won’t have to play too much to gain benefits. Two studies have shown an improvement in visual attention and spatial reasoning for non-gamers.

One of these studies was conducted in 2006 by the Bavelier. With the help of researcher C. Shawn Green, nine non-gamers where tasked with playing Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for an hour a day for ten days. Another eight non-gamers were tasked with playing Tetris for the same amount of time. Those who played the first-person shooter were the ones who improved their scores on three tests of visual attention, a skill that helps with attention in activities such as reading and driving.

What About the Negative Effects of First-Person Shooters?

Another widely held and widely debated assumption about video games, particularly first-person shooters, is that they can lead to violent behavior. Studies go back and forth about the topic. You’ll find research that supports both sides. It’s important to remember that correlation does not imply causation.

Bottom Line

The assumption that video games have no use beyond a distraction is going away as a growing body of research proves otherwise. Studies like the ones mentioned above show the benefits that video games have while also demonstrating how media multitasking can actually be a cause of lack of attention.

More and more studies show that playing first-person action games, namely shooters, improves your brain function. Playing just for an hour a day can result in better learning skills and cognitive ability, which can be utilized in real-life applications. So, if you’re having trouble focusing, turn on the Xbox and play some Call of Duty.

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