7 Skills You Can Learn From Social Gaming

Mark Stephens

Do you think that kid sitting next to you is simply playing a game? Wiling away a few moments in idle fun, shooting zombies, matching candy, making birds angry? Well, possibly. But he could also be learning some valuable skills during the process. There is a lot going on in our minds and subliminally when we play social games – below we look at seven of the major skills we can develop.


1. Timing

Remember the Thwomps in Super Mario Bros? You would only make it past them with impeccable timing and that doesn’t come naturally to most of us – it must be learnt. This ‘guillotine’ type obstacle is an important feature of action games but it is not the only demonstration of timing. Two of Monkeybin’s first games Jumpship Thrust Control and Seagull’s Revenge relied heavily on timing to navigate around obstacles and evade seagull shooters, for instance. Navigating through traffic on a busy road next time becomes that little bit easier because of the timing you learnt while gaming.

2. How to manage resources

Where would you be in life if you weren’t able to manage your time, money, food, energy, possessions and so on? Pretty lost, pretty worn out, pretty hungry, or pretty poor, at least. Gaming can teach us how to juggle our resources for the best possible outcome – often to achieve a particular mission. Take first person shooter or role playing games where an important part of being successful is purchasing and managing your ammunition, fuel, manpower etc. Knowing when to ‘use it’ and when to ‘save it’ is key to doing well.

3. Organisational skills

Your boss at work is a lousy organiser you say? Maybe he never played Tetris as a kid. Being able to visualise where things need to go is important in many jobs from organising supermarket shelves to filling up a removals van. Games like The Sims, Cityville and Farmville, where organising and designing a house, entire city or farm come into play, teach not only space management but a whole host of organisational skills and ‘executive functioning’ such as prioritising and time management.

4. Cognitive abilities

Our brains are ‘sponges’ able to learn new skills all through our lives and essentially re-wire themselves. We are able to improve the ‘fitness’ of our brains and effectively improve the way we think – and games can help the process. The Nature journal recently published a study showing that playing video games can boost brain and cognitive function in older adults. When a group of 60-85 year olds played games for 12 hours per month they improved their skills significantly, especially in relation to their multi-tasking abilities. Try BoardRush & Friends for instance.


5. Hand-eye co-ordination

We rely on good hand-eye coordination for everything from eating dinner to playing tennis. The research tells us that playing video games can improve it, so much so that some surgeons even play games as a ‘warm up’ for surgery, because they make fewer mistakes and are able to perform the operation quicker. Game playing is also known to improve reflexes.

6. Attention and memory recall

In one study on the effects of video game playing on attention, memory, and executive control, expert gamers were able detect changes to objects stored in visual short-term memory, switched more quickly from one task to another, and mentally rotated objects more efficiently. Being able to focus on, and recall information quickly, helps us to respond quicker and more appropriately to the demands and stimuli of our environment. Try QuizPix & Friends.

7. Social intelligence

Social intelligence is the ability to get on with other people; social gaming can be a way to bring people together in an environment where they need to cooperate and strategise on tasks and missions as part of a team to be successful. You see this in many massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMOGs) especially.

Try it! As you go through your day, think about what you are doing and see if you can isolate any skills or actions where gaming has heavily influenced your ability. You may well be surprised.