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Gaming has been a popular topic for GetKidsInternetSafe because it is the favorite past time for many children. We have covered a variety of gaming topics which include the brain traps of gaming, violent video games, professional gaming, and even if we should gamify education. Games have developed so much in the past 25 years and the graphics, concepts, and design continue to improve. One of the big concerns about children’s gaming is addiction and distraction from academics. When done right though, gaming can be a valuable supplement for well-rounded education.

What is Intelligence

Intelligence is a highly debated term because traditionally it involved biased measures of cognitive ability. However, over fifty years of scientific research has demonstrated that intelligence cannot fit as neatly into a box.

American psychologist Robert Sternberg suggested the Triarchic Theory which states that there are three types of intelligence: analytical, creative, and practical. Taking it a step further, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner proposed that there are eight different types of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.[1]

The most widely used intelligence theory in Western culture, is centered around skills in math, memory, verbal comprehension, and visual-spatial reasoning.[2] Simply put, theories of intelligence center on one’s ability to eclectically conceptualize and utilize information.

Games That Surprisingly Affect Intelligence

Most games require specialty skills for success. Popular games can be incredibly complex and require high intelligence to engage successfully. Adults don’t typically consider that playing Overwatch, Roblox, or Minecraft is a learning opportunity. As a player myself, I disagree. In my experience, it is evident that my fellow players excel at things like reaction time, creativity, and spatial awareness.

When I was in my mid-teens, I was an avid gamer. I played many games, but Minecraft was my favorite. What peaked my interest were the parallels with real life and the possibilities for creation were endless. Knowledge needed for the game helped me in real life by enriching my vocabulary, excelling my reaction time, and nurturing my creativity. My spatial awareness was also boosted due to understanding the means of measurement in Minecraft (each block was a square meter). Using those as reference, I had a better gist of measurement in comparison to my 6-meter-tall character. I even began to conceptualize fundamentals of construction and physics when I would set up mob traps to capitalize off the loot they dropped.

After my Minecraft phase, I moved onto Lumosity and my eyes opened to how impactful games could be. Lumosity is an educational gaming app that has minigames specially designed to challenge a variety of our cognitive abilities.

If you are wondering when is the right time to introduce video games to your kids and how to do it safely, check out Dr. Bennett’s age guidelines and recommendations in her book Screen Time in The Mean Time: A Parenting Guide to get Your Kids and Teens Internet Safe.

Gaming Designed Specifically for Intelligence

Many great new app developers seek to make fun educational games. Edutainment is refers to media designed to educate and entertain.[3] Many edutainment activities are developed by education specialists and cognitive scientists. Commonly targeted abilities are in the area of executive functioning, working memory, self-control, and mental flexibility.

A study by Jocelyn Parong and colleagues from the University of California, Santa Barbara researched the effects of games on cognition. They put students in two groups. The first group played Alien Game for four hours. The second group played an updated version of the game called All You Can ET. After the two groups played, an improvement in mental flexibility was found.[4] Their findings replicated those of a previous study that also studied cognition and gaming.

Further, a 2016 study by Viviane Kovess-Masfety and colleagues analyzed data from over 3,000 children. Upon gathering information from the children’s teachers on how they were in the classroom, Kovess-Masfety and colleagues found that children categorized as “high use” gamers had slightly higher reported intellectual functioning. Most of the high-use gamers reported approximately seven to ten hours of gaming per week.[5]

GKIS-Recommended Intelligence Games

Games that are designed specifically to improve intelligence are still relatively new. Research has been mixed but shows promising results for improvement. Gaming can be a practical approach to keep ones intelligence sharp and have fun! Here are some intelligence games GKIS recommends as promising:


Lumosity is a popular “brain training” app for mobile devices and computers that provide entertaining mini games that focus on an individual skill. The free version selects three mini-games for you to play from their bank of over 40 mini-games. With the premium version, you get access to in-depth statistics and can choose among all their available games.

Lumosity games may help with skills ranging from attention, memory, problem-solving, subitizing, language, and mental flexibility. This is great for tweens and teens.

Words with Friends

Words with Friends is a fun puzzle game—similar to Scrabble—that can expand your vocabulary and think creatively. You can play alone, challenge game bots, or play with friends.

Khan Academy Kids

Khan Academy Kids is a free educational game geared towards children. There is an assortment of games that help with language, reading, math, attention, memory, and problem-solving. An added benefit of these games is that they also help with emotional development, motor functions, and creativity.


Kiddopia is an app focused on teaching kids a variety of skills and general knowledge. Kiddopia games are incredibly diverse, including school topics like learning numbers, basic arithmetic, language, and problem-solving. This app also has entertaining games that cover geography, human anatomy, animal care, and even careers!

Before your kids are introduced to gaming, check out one of Dr. B’s favorite GKIS articles Teaching Kids the Brain Traps of Video Games May Break the Spell.

Thanks to CSUCI intern, Avery Flower for researching intelligence and gaming, and co-authoring this article.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Photo Credits

Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. from Pexels

Image by DAMIAN NIOLET from Pixabay

Image by Egnez from Pixabay

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Works Cited

[1]Shearer, C. B. (2020). A resting state functional connectivity analysis of human intelligence: Broad theoretical and practical implications for multiple intelligences theory. Psychology & Neuroscience13(2), 127–148. https://doi-org.summit.csuci.edu/10.1037/pne0000200.supp

[2]Flaim, M., & Blaisdell, A. P. (2020). The comparative analysis of intelligence. Psychological Bulletin146(12), 1174–1199. https://doi-org.summit.csuci.edu/10.1037/bul0000306

[3]Lathan, J. (2020). Edutainment in the Classroom: Technology’s Changing the Game. Retrieved from https://onlinedegrees.sandiego.edu/edutainment/

[4]Parong, J., Wells, A., & Mayer, R. E. (2020). Replicated evidence towards a cognitive theory of game-based training. Journal of Educational Psychology112(5), 922–937. https://doi-org.summit.csuci.edu/10.1037/edu0000413

[5]Kovess-Masfety, V., Keyes, K., Hamilton, A., Hanson, G., Bitfoi, A., Golitz, D., Koç, C., Kuijpers, R., Lesinskiene, S., Mihova, Z., Otten, R., Fermanian, C., & Pez, O. (2016). Is time spent playing video games associated with mental health, cognitive and social skills in young children? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology: The International Journal for Research in Social and Genetic Epidemiology and Mental Health Services51(3), 349–357. https://doi-org.summit.csuci.edu/10.1007/s00127-016-1179-6

Avery Flower
Avery Flower
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