Do Video Games Make You Smarter and Aid in Academic Achievement?

June 23, 2023
By AdmissionSight

Do Video Games Make You Smarter and Aid in Academic Achievement?

Imagine a high school student who, day after day, immerses themselves in the virtual realms of video games after school. Despite initial concerns, this student significantly improves problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, and strategic thinking. Their grades in challenging subjects like math and physics start to climb. This isn’t a rare exception but a reflection of the cognitive benefits that video gaming can offer. Such a scenario gives rise to an intriguing and often debated topic: Do video games make you smarter, and can they aid in preparing for college?

The world of video games today isn’t just about virtual escapades and fleeting amusement. It’s an expansive, interactive platform that stimulates the mind, requiring players to strategize, make quick decisions, and solve intricate problems.

This blog post aims to explore this fascinating subject, seeking to answer the question: Can video games, typically seen as a distraction from academic pursuits, actually contribute to enhancing intellectual capabilities and preparing students for the rigors of college?

For those high school students preparing to embark on their college journey and the parents endeavoring to support them, this exploration may provide a novel perspective on the potential role of video games in academic achievement and college readiness.

Unpacking the Debate: Video Games and Intelligence

The advent of video games in our daily lives has been nothing short of revolutionary. It has transformed entertainment, shaped pop culture, and even impacted our cognitive processes. But the question remains: Do video games make you smarter?

Happy little boy watching videos

The association between video games and cognitive enhancement is continuously debated among educators, psychologists, and scientists. Some firmly believe in the power of video games to sharpen the mind, endorsing them as tools for enhancing problem-solving, spatial navigation, multitasking, and more. Research is emerging that supports this perspective, suggesting potential links between video gaming and various cognitive improvements.

On the other hand, some approach the topic skeptically, perceiving video games more as a distraction than intellectual development. Concerns range from video games potentially fostering addictive behavior to possibly detracting from time that could be spent on traditional learning or physical activities.

Moreover, the debate extends to the context of the games themselves. All video games are not created equal – different genres and titles can offer varying cognitive benefits or drawbacks. Strategy games, for instance, might stimulate problem-solving and planning skills, while action games could potentially enhance reaction times and hand-eye coordination.

As we navigate this debate, we must remember that moderation and balance are crucial. It’s not about completely replacing traditional learning methods with video games but understanding how gaming can complement and enhance traditional education, particularly in preparing students for the cognitive demands of college life.

The Science Behind the Screen: Cognitive Skills Developed by Video Games

Do video games make you smarter? Video games are more than just entertainment; they can act as a gym for the mind. As players navigate through different levels, quests, and challenges, they inadvertently exercise various cognitive skills:

Problem-solving and Strategic Thinking: Games often involve complex scenarios where players devise strategies to overcome obstacles or enemies. This promotes critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Memory and Information Recall: Many games require players to remember intricate details from previous levels or recall information quickly to progress. This can enhance both short-term and long-term memory.

Multitasking and Task-switching: Gamers frequently manage multiple objectives and rapidly switch between tasks, honing their ability to multitask effectively.

Spatial Awareness: From navigating open-world maps to judging distances in racing games, gaming can foster an understanding of space and distance, improving spatial awareness.

Multiple studies provide scientific backing to these claims:

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that playing 3D video games could improve memory capacity. Participants playing 3D games performed better in memory tests than in 2D games.

Research conducted at the University of Rochester revealed that action video games can enhance the ability to make quick decisions without compromising accuracy.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that strategy-based video games could improve older adults’ cognitive flexibility or the ability to switch between tasks.

These findings suggest a significant potential for video games to serve as cognitive skill development tools, complementing traditional academic learning and preparation for college.

From Console to Classroom: Video Games in Academic Context

How do video games make you smarter? The cognitive skills fostered by video games can find direct applications in the academic sphere. Let’s delve into how:

Problem-solving and Strategic Thinking: Whether it’s solving a complex calculus problem or planning a history essay, these abilities are transferable to tackling academic challenges.

Memory and Information Recall: Recalling information quickly and accurately can significantly aid study efficiency and exam performance.

Multitasking and Task-switching: These skills become invaluable in managing diverse academic workloads, from juggling multiple assignments to balancing study time for different subjects.

Spatial Awareness: Useful in subjects such as geometry, physics, or any discipline that involves spatial reasoning or data visualization.

Interestingly, some video games align directly with academic subjects, almost mirroring their learning outcomes:

Math and Logic Games: Games like “Portal 2” require players to use mathematical reasoning and logic to solve puzzles, directly translating to a better comprehension of math concepts.

Historical Games: Titles like “Assassin’s Creed” features historically accurate environments and events, offering an engaging way to explore history.

Language and Literature Games: Interactive story-based games such as “Life is Strange” can enrich a player’s vocabulary and appreciation for narrative structure, akin to reading a good book.

Science and Engineering Games: Games like the “Kerbal Space Program” incorporate real physics principles, giving players a hands-on experience in basic engineering and space science concepts.

These examples illustrate how video games are not just leisure activities but could potentially be educational tools that dovetail with traditional academic disciplines.

Video Games and College Preparation

How do video games make you smarter? The path to college is not just about academic prowess; it’s also about developing skills that will help students succeed in a new and challenging environment. Here is where video games can provide a unique advantage, complementing traditional methods of college preparation.

Learning How to Learn: Games often require players to grasp new rules and mechanics quickly, fostering adaptability and a mindset for continuous learning – two elements crucial for acclimating to the fast-paced learning environment in college.

Teamwork and Communication: Multiplayer games emphasize the importance of collaboration and clear communication to achieve common objectives, mirroring the group projects and team activities common in college.

Video games can also foster a set of soft skills often overlooked in traditional college preparation:

Resilience: Games constantly challenge players, sometimes leading to failures or setbacks. Learning how to cope with these in-game challenges can help build resilience, an invaluable trait for the rigors of college life.

Strategic Thinking: Whether allocating resources in a strategy game or devising tactics to defeat a boss in an action RPG, strategic thinking is a core aspect of gaming that can directly apply to managing one’s time, resources, and workload in college.

Stress Management: Contrary to common perception, video games can be relaxing. Certain games can provide a much-needed mental break, helping manage stress levels – an essential skill to keep a balanced college life.

These aspects underscore how gaming if done responsibly, can align with traditional college preparation methods and provide a distinctive edge in equipping high school students for their upcoming college journey.

Parent’s Corner: Understanding and Guiding Your Gamer

While it’s evident that video games can offer various cognitive benefits, parents often have valid concerns regarding their potential negative impact:

Excessive Screen Time: Too much time on screens can lead to health problems like eye strain, sleep disturbances, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Addictive Behavior: Some worry about video games being addictive, leading to a lack of interest in other activities.

Academic Performance: Parents may be concerned that gaming takes away from time dedicated to studying or reading.

It’s crucial to acknowledge these concerns and understand that, like any tool, the impact of video games depends largely on how they are used.

Young gamer playing video game wearing headphone.

However, video games can still contribute to cognitive development when approached with moderation and proper guidance. The key question remains: do video games make you smarter? Individuals can exercise and enhance their cognitive abilities by engaging in gameplay that requires problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making. Nonetheless, balancing gaming and other activities is essential to ensure a well-rounded development that encompasses physical exercise, social interactions, and academic responsibilities.

Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy balance between gaming and academics:

Set Clear Boundaries: Establish agreed-upon rules for gaming, such as specific times of the day or after finishing homework.

Encourage Variety: Ensure your child engages in various activities outside gaming, such as sports, reading, or socializing with friends.

Educational Gaming: Encourage games that have educational value and directly contribute to learning.

Open Dialogue: Maintain an open conversation about gaming. Discuss with your child about what they’re playing, and show interest. This can lead to better understanding and cooperation.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate gaming but to ensure it fits into a balanced lifestyle that includes studying, physical activity, social interaction, and other hobbies.


In exploring the question, “Do video games make you smarter, and can they aid in college preparation?” we have touched upon numerous aspects. From understanding the cognitive skills that games can enhance, such as problem-solving, memory, and multitasking, to examining how these skills translate to the academic world and college preparation, it’s evident that video gaming holds potential beyond mere entertainment.

This discussion does not aim to settle the debate but rather to open a dialogue about the potential role of video games in education. We hope to encourage students, parents, and educators alike to explore and understand this avenue rather than dismissing it outright.

The future of education is constantly evolving, and as we stand at the crossroads of gaming and learning, it’s exciting to ponder this blend’s possibilities. After all, as Albert Einstein famously said, “Play is the highest form of research.”

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.



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