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In the past, puzzle games were seen as great ways to pass the time and occupy your mind when you had a spare moment. In recent years, there has been more of a push towards reframing them as a great way to train your brain and improve your mental faculties.
The question, then, is whether puzzle games actually live up to the claims made about their mental benefits, or whether this is a case of marketing hype glossing over the less stimulating truth.
Today, puzzle games come in a huge variety of styles and can be enjoyed on an almost unending number of different platforms.
There are still traditional paper-based games, like crosswords and sudoku, which have their hold over a vast international audience. There are also electronic puzzle games, from simple mobile offerings like Candy Crush to slots found on sites like Casumo.
Software-based solutions are entertaining, expandable and accessible on the move thanks to smartphones. And there is evidence that many people, especially those in their older years, could benefit from engaging with this type of experience.
The best games for elderly individuals are web based games. They require no download, which can often be a barrier to play, and are easily accessible. You can easily play online jigsaw puzzles or solitaire within seconds on a computer or mobile device.
Over 60s can see improvements in their ability to deal with everyday tasks if they use puzzle-oriented brain training programs, according to a British study.
The same report found that there are perks for players of younger ages as well, with puzzles assisting with verbal skills and general cognition.
Even with the apparently positive impact of puzzle games being recorded in at least one bout of academic research, there is disagreement over this issue in the wider scientific community.
A lot of the specialists who dismiss the claims of puzzle games offering general brain benefits focus on the idea that while you can develop new skills through play, these are not transferable to other areas of your life.
The naysayers also point out that you can get more benefits to things like mental health and memory retention by increasing the amount of exercise you do, although again this is something that seems to have a more tangible impact on the quality of life for older people rather than youngsters.
More Research Required
As with many areas of science, especially in the case of psychology and neurology, the question of whether puzzle games are good for your brain is one which has yet to be answered decisively.
The amount of studies which focus on this specific topic is fairly small, with limited sample sizes meaning that there is plenty of room for sceptical voices to emerge unchallenged.
Over time this will change, but a the moment the debate can continue to rage as additional evidence is gathered and analysed.
Benefits Of Play
Although puzzle games in particular have received a comparatively limited amount of research, the wider gaming market is gaining momentum in the academic and scientific spheres. Studies have found that games which involve both problem solving and light exercise are especially effective at having a positive impact on metal performance. For example, brain games for the elderly may be particularly beneficial.
Furthermore to maintain these benefits in the long term, it is necessary to keep playing to engage both mind and body in a symbiotic way.
Experts suggest that puzzling or playing games that require mental and physical dexterity at least five times a week is the optimal way to see significant benefits and reduce the chances of deterioration occurring.
For younger generations who are already thoroughly embedded in gaming culture, this should be an easy target to hit. For older people who did not grow up with the same gaming options available to them, this might be more of a challenge.