How Playing Multiplayer Video Games Helped me Develop a Growth Mindset

can video games make you smarter

I read an interesting post the other day by Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy about how he has been training his son to have a “growth­ mindset”.

Here is a quote from the post:

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

In short someone with a growth mindset will embrace challenges and be willing to fail multiple times before reaching their goal, whereas someone with a fixed mindset will not even try.

How I developed a growth mindset

I was thinking about this idea of the growth mindset and people I have met over the years, some who take on challenges and others that shy away from things they find difficult. I feel I have a growth mindset (you need one to run a startup) and believe I can do anything, within reason; it just comes down to time, motivation and opportunity cost.

That doesn’t mean I succeed at everything, not even close. I have failed startups and struggled at creating, writing and promoting a successful blog. But I keep pushing on through uncertainty and I am happy to fail.

So where did I get this skill from?

It’s difficult to pinpoint but I believe one of the places was from multiplayer video games.

I was a big gamer in my day, some of my favourites included Counter Strike, Starcraft and X-men vs Street Fighter. All fast paced multiplayer games.

starcraft 2

If you’ve never played a multiplayer game such as the above you may not understand where I’m coming from, but they are mentally intense activities, more so when you are playing against skilled opponents.

Multiplayer games can be played endlessly even if you’re playing the same map or level. When you are playing against humans, the gameplay is different every time, much like sports (in fact, video games are increasingly becoming mainstream sports but that is a different story).

I would play these games for hours on end, getting beaten down and killed over and over. Sometimes I would get incredibly frustrated, but I kept playing, and I kept getting better and slowly I started getting more kills, winning games and eventually got to a point where I was topping the leaderboard on almost every map on Counterstrike (tk baby!).

Should your kids play video games?

Seeing progression in any activity will give you confidence that you can learn and grow and will help develop a growth mindset. This growth mindset has carried me through my studies, career, and social life.

I’m not saying that video games are the solution to developing a growth mindset (even though there are some encouraging studies that show action game can make you smarter), I’m just saying I can see some correlation there.

So if your kids are playing video games anyway, get them playing hard multiplayer games that require the development of a skill set vs casual easy games on the iPad.

Starcraft 2, Fifa or Call of Duty are good places to start.

Do you feel you developed a skill set from playing video games?

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Vinay Patankar

CEO and Co-Founder of Process Street. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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