Mindful Gaming Lessons

With a new year comes a lot of work. As people strive to make meaningful gains on their New Year’s resolutions, many overlook the necessity of playing games. Research shows that participating in fun activities can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and lead to low levels of stress. A little fun is not only good for our health it can also be an important part of new innovations. In fact, researchers are using games to make new scientific discoveries all the time.

Listed below are three fun, popular games that have inspired scientists and recently led to fascinating studies.


Pokémon Go

This smartphone game became all the rage over the past year. Sharing similar characteristics to geocaching, Pokémon Go is a GPS-based game in which people must walk from location to location in order to find and catch Pokémon characters. This game brought to life a childhood favorite so it has greatly impacted the emotional health of millions of users and all the walking can help people stay more active—thus reducing their risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes. But that’s not all. Researchers from the University of California, Riverdale have used to Pokémon to study memory in humans. They found a strong link between prior familiarity in “long-term memory and visual short-term memory storage capacity.”


Originally known as “CRISS CROSS WORDS,” this game was developed throughout the 1930s and 1940s and was later trademarked as “SCRABBLE” in 1948. Since then this word game has become world famous, with competitions held across the world and championship tournaments held every year. Playing board games like SCRABBLE not only help us better master our spelling skills, it’s also a great way to socialize and connect with others.

Researchers have also used SCRABBLE and competitive players to study word recognition behavior. These competitive players typically study 180,000 words that are listed in The Official Tournament and Club Word List. And while it was previously thought that we are far limited in the development of word recognition in adulthood than childhood, this study of SCRABBLE players shows that visual word recognition can be shaped by experience, even in adulthood.


Just like SCRABBLE, chess is an international game that is played in parks and schools across the world. Chess is said to date back centuries and there are many health benefits associated with the game. Playing chess has been linked to Alzheimer’s prevention and schizophrenia treatment. Researchers have also used chess to study different aspects of human nature. For instance, these researchers analyzed chess players and found that our brain tends to stick to solutions that we’re already familiar with, rather than trying to construct better alternatives.


Bonus. Want to bring a little play into your life? Consider playing board games with your family or play a game online. There are, of course, many other ways you can bring a little play into your own life without playing games. For more advice, check out these tips.