Study: Casual games can help your mental health

Who says games aren’t good for you? A new study suggests that playing casual games including puzzle games can help you maintain a healthy mind. The research is being published by PopCap Games and The Games for Health Project. The findings are being presented as part of the Serious Games Summit happening this week at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Jose, Calif.

Ben Sawyer, co-founder and director of the Games for Health Project, said in a statement that although researchers are still in the early stages of scientific understanding, consensus is growing that “defined cognitive exercise can play a critical role in healthy aging.”

“As part of that role, it seems clear that puzzle games, strategy games, and games which aren’t as spatially oriented can play a significant role in that effort,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer cautioned that many pieces of this puzzle haven’t yet been put in place: There’s no definitive answer to how such efforts work physiologically, nor is there absolute agreement on what kind of games or mental exercises work best. He said that science and medicine is probably about a decade away from understanding this on the same level that they now understand how physical exercise can improve cardiovascular health, for example.

The study cataloged research papers and media stories about cognitive exercise. According to the report, research indicates that people who maintain “healthy cognitive loads” like playing chess, doing crosswords and other activities appear to have lower rates of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive problems. It’s not just about working your mind, though — it’s equally important to remain physically active and engage in social activity, according to the research.

Produced by the Serious Games Initiative, the Games For Health Project seeks to apply games and game technologies to public policy, leadership and management issues. It’s funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. PopCap Games is a leading provider of casual games for Mac, Windows and the Web.

This story, "Study: Casual games can help your mental health" was originally published by PCWorld.

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