Have you ever played Portal 2? You should know, that this PC game can improve your cognitive skills more than special brain training exercise game.
Besides being a scientist, Val Shute loves playing videogames. But she does not really think about the games in the same way the average player does. For example, Shute enjoyed playing Portal 2 when it was released in 2011. “I was really just entranced by it,” she told. “While I was playing it, I was thinking, I’m really engaging in all sorts of problem-solving.” And then an idea came up – why not conduct a study on the game?
Being a psychology of education researcher at Florida State University, she joined with two other colleagues to design a study that would compare Portal to Lumosity, a well-known game advertised as a brain training exercise. What Shute and her colleagues found is that playing Portal 2 for eight hours delivered more improvement in standard cognitive skills tests than playing Lumosity for the same time. What is more, Lumosity did not beat Portal in not even one single test. “Portal 2 kicks Lumosity’s ass,” Shute concludes the result.
To be fair, the length of the study was fairly short. It is therefore hard to judge what the long-term effects would really be. But the study is the first one that tried to compare a fairly standard, commercially available, videogame with a game specially made for improving cognitive skills. Naturally, a single study is not enough to prove that Portal is better for your brain than Lumosity, but it does raise some questions.
“If entertainment games actually do a better job than games designed for neuroplasticity, what that suggests is that we are clearly missing something important about neuroplasticity.” says Shawn Green, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin.
Shute’s study belongs to a longer list of studies that have found positive effects of some videogames on human brain and cognitive skills. Whereas all kinds of commercial software advertised as a brain training tool are being sold with little evidence of their effectivity.
“Have we actually found the active ingredients for neuroplasticity, or are these commercial games sort of better?” Green asks, rhetorically.
If you’ve never played this game, you can check out this HD video gameplay:
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