Recently, there has been a lot of research into the positive effects of video games on cognition, As business insider reports.

I'm curious as to whether somebody should play video games purely to increase career performance based on the evidence given:

A study states that attention is increased by 14% when playing world of warcraft and another supports this hypothesis of attention and gaming.

Another study in particular states that learning agility is increased after playing action based video games such as call of duty. This is possibly explained by video games improving the performance of perceptual templates.

Though studies in this area usually contradict each other. In that case, I ask how valid are these studies in predicting effects of video games on cognitive performance.

Many high end careers require workers with high concentration and learning agility abilities, especially a computer programmer at google. In this case do video games increase performance of individuals in a career? A study linking career performance and video game play would be valuable.

This article writes the following:

video gamers were better than non-gamers in ability to fly and land aerial drones and were essentially as good as trained pilots on this skill (MKinley et al., 2011). Another correlational study revealed that young, inexperienced surgeons who were also avid video gamers outperformed the most experienced surgeons in their field (Rosser et al., 2007).

While the evidence is there, it feels very uncomfortable to make the conscious decision to play video games, in order to boost career performance, rather than entertainment reasons. How valid are these studies, and is the decision to play video games purely to boost cognition, and career performance reasonable?


1 Answer 1


I think your references are good examples of the way that some of this research is covered in the media (World of Warcraft is good for you! Yay!) as opposed to the academic research which is much more cautious and limited. You seem to be familiar with the 10+ years of research by Bavelier, Green and colleagues showing improvements in attention. The first part of your title/question ("Does playing video games increase attention and learning agility?") is well discussed by those papers, and also by this SE answer. My take on it is that there remains some controversy, particularly about whether games (and it is normally action video games they are talking about) actually CAUSE improvements, and the degree to which that transfers to more general tasks.

The second part of your question (does playing games enhance your career performance) is always going to depend a lot on what careers you are talking about. I wouldn't read too much into the McKinley and Rosser papers which you cite, as they both seem to look at highly specific "simulation-like" careers (drone pilot and endoscopic surgery), and I don't find it hugely surprising that skills from gaming transfer there. I'm also not sure of the definition of "learning agility" which seems a bit vague, and would want to see the evidence that "computer programmer at google" requires particular skill X. Why does it "feel very uncomfortable to make the conscious decision to play video games, in order to boost career performance"? Perhaps it is because such gaming takes time (indeed the amount that some spend is astounding), and that is time that could instead be spent on other sorts of more conventional education and training.

So my short answer to your last question is that those studies are not valid for endorsing gaming to boost general career performance, and that you should seek specific training for whatever career you want (be it something game-like or not).

  • $\begingroup$ Thankyou for your question splint, very comprehensive. There are some people on here who have stated that other game related videos are valid, so I will just wait for any of their arguments if they come. and for learning agility the article is:smh.com.au/small-business/the-venture/… quote from above: "Good marks still matter. But more important is learning agility and other emotional-intelligence traits. $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ My motivation behind this question was to figure out whether I should play games instead of, for example, meditation, in order to improve attention, but this does seem faulty. $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Nov 2, 2015 at 10:15

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