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Game On

What may seem like countless hours spent pointlessly bashing buttons could be one of the most influential hobbies around. Gamers have proven to be the best problem solvers in older ages.

Parents, relax a little. The Nintendo Switch your kids haven’t put down since Christmas Day may be creating future CEOs and scientists. Research is increasingly revealing how video games can foster an unmatched problem-solving ability amongst young gamers. 

Dutch research published in American Psychological Association found certain video games taught skills as effectively as formal education. Interestingly, shooting games were most effective, despite their otherwise negative reputation. The research from 2013 found such games improved spatial reasoning and awareness more than academic courses could. The studies also found those students who spent more time playing strategic video games like RPGs also saw increased test scores the following year. These benefits are specific to video games and not seen with other technology use.

Scientists from Berkeley and Lisbon have developed a game called Hexxed available to all in an attempt to better understand problem-solving. With absolutely no instructions as to how to succeed, users are expected to experiment and problem solve in their own way. Over time, they will compare how human problem solving compares to artificial intelligence, perhaps providing a baseline to understand which forms of AI are actually more effective. Moreover, the traits of the most intelligent problem solvers can be identified and used in education or training.

Born out of Elon Musk’s Ad Astra School for employees’ children, Synthesis School is a games-based education. On top of their existing schooling, children admitted to Synthesis complete weekly games online with students globally. Note that Musk is not involved in the project. Again, the idea is that actively solving problems will teach more than being taught about information and facts.

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