Do Board Games Benefit the Brain? Yes and No

Do you remember playing board games as a child? Hours of fun and laughter spent strategising with your friends to win the game. Does this mean that you were actually improving your brain whilst having fun? Despite many articles that can be found on the Internet stating that board games have been shown to have positive benefits on the human brain by improving motor skills, memory, socialisation etc, the reality is that these are likely to be anecdotal experiences of the article writers rather than proven facts.

I have searched for academic sources showing the positive effects of board games on the human brain, but surprisingly few studies have been carried out. Some studies have looked at specific games such as Chess or Go, or the effect of educational games on the learning outcomes of children, but there are none that looked at a range of popular board games to see for a fact if they have measurable outcomes on the brain.

However, that being said, there are positive reasons to play board games. Board games, played regularly can help to improve memory, motor skills, socialisation and strategic thinking but generally this benefit is most marked in the elderly where there is already some cognitive decline, those with acquired brain injuries or children with ADHD. (The effectiveness of intervention with board games: a systematic review Shota NodaKentaro Shirotsuki & Mutsuhiro Nakao )

Of course common sense dictates that for instance, anyone who is lonely, but then starts playing games with friends, is going to feel much less isolated and will build stronger friendship bonds than if they stayed alone watching tv. Someone who has had problems with their hand dexterity should show some improvement after often playing a board game where picking up and manipulating small playing pieces is an integral part of the game. Children will learn road safety if they play a game in which the rules of the road are part of the game play, or learn about geography when playing a game that includes information about countries.

Additionally, playing any game regularly will allow players to get better at it as they learn the strategies and general gameplay that helps them to win, resulting in them eventually having an advantage over newer players. Is this an improvement in the brain function, or simply a skill learned for that game only? Again no study has been done to show that the skills learned in an individual game are transferable to a) another game or b) real life situations.

Although the impacts of various board games have been previously examined, their effects have yet to be comprehensively reviewed. As a result, the functions and effects of board games as a whole remain unclear.

BioPsychoSocial Medicine

Scientists do say that you should ‘use it or lose it’ as far as keeping the brain active, and there is no doubt that playing games is a fun way of using the brain. Studies have shown that people, who during their lives have kept their brains active, have more defence against the effects of dementia by in effect

Although there are no definitive studies of the effect of general family board games on the brain, there have been studies on three games in particular that have been shown to have positive effects on fluid reasoning, comprehension-knowledge, short-term memory, and processing speed. These games are Chess, Go and Shogi.

Personally, I think that playing board games is better for your brain than not playing board games – if you enjoy playing of course! The following are areas where common sense says that there will be a benefit to the individual, whether it is measurable and lasting or not is really irrelevant if the player has enjoyed the experience.

The possible benefits of board games for the brain

Memory

It is believed that board games help to improve memory by stimulating the brain and encouraging social interaction. Previous studies have shown that both of these activities help to keep the brain active and protect against cognitive decline. Board games also tend to be more challenging than other forms of entertainment, such as watching television, which may explain why they are so beneficial for the brain.

Motor skills

One of the most obvious benefits is the development of motor skills. Board games require players to use their hands to manipulate pieces, roll dice, and so forth. As a result, board games can help to fine-tune hand-eye coordination and improve fine motor skills.

Socialisation

One of the great benefits to playing board games is the socialisation element. In our fast-paced, tech-driven world, it’s easy to forget the importance of face-to-face interaction. Board games provide a perfect opportunity for people to gather together and connect with one another. The back-and-forth nature of play helps to promote communication and collaboration, both of which are essential skills in everyday life.

Strategic thinking

One of the key benefits is the ability to think strategically. To be successful in many board games, players must plan ahead, take into account the possible actions of their opponents, and make decisions accordingly.

Concentration

Another way that board games can benefit the brain is by improving memory and concentration. Players need to remember the rules of the game, as well as the positions of pieces on the board. Concentration is also key in board games, as players need to be able to focus on their turns and make strategic decisions.

Creativity and imagination

One of the benefits of board games is that they can help to improve creativity and imagination. For example, games like Scrabble and Boggle require players to come up with new words from a limited set of letters. This type of wordplay can help to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and create new associations between ideas.

Confidence and self-esteem

One of these benefits is the improvement of confidence and self-esteem. Board games require players to think strategically, make decisions, and solve problems. These activities help to develop confidence and self-esteem by teaching players that they have the ability to overcome challenges and succeed. In addition, board games also promote social interaction and communication, which can further improve confidence and self-esteem. By providing a fun and stimulating environment, board games can help to improve confidence and self-esteem in players of all ages.

Cooperation and teamwork skills

Working cooperatively with others is an important skill in life. It can help you succeed in your career, build strong relationships, and solve problems more effectively. Board games are a great way to develop cooperation and teamwork skills. While some games require players to compete against each other, many board games are designed specifically for cooperative play. In these games, players must work together to achieve a common goal, such as defeating an enemy or escaping from a dangerous situation. As everyone works together towards a common objective, players learn how to communicate effectively and make concessions when necessary. As a result, cooperative board games can be excellent tools for developing teamwork skills.

Patience and perseverance

One of the most underrated benefits of playing board games is the impact they can have on patience and perseverance. In our fast-paced world, it can be easy to give up when things get tough. In order to win most board games, players need to be able to plan ahead and think about their next move carefully. This requires a certain amount of patience, as well as the ability to persevere when things are not going your way. Board games teach us to persevere through difficult situations and keep trying even when things seem hopeless. As a result, board games can have a positive impact on both yourPatience and perseverance.

Fun

Most importantly, board games are fun ! They provide a unique form of entertainment that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Board games are a great way to spend time with family and friends, and they can also help to improve brain power. So next time you have some free time, why not break out the board games and enjoy a few hours of fun!

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