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How can electronic games, and in particular GTA, improve mental skills?

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Promotional cover of the Game GTA V and its Online Version.

I admit, I play video games and PC and I don't see anything wrong with that. Of course, on time, and when I'm free to do so. By the way, one of my favorite games is one of the GTA (Grand Theft Auto) series.

Before the reader leaves judging me and thinking that playing this type of game is absurd and encourages violence, read what led me to write the text below.

Yes, I will defend GTA. Hello Rockstar Games. Call me.

The triggers were these articles from the BBC News website:, and, and I thought it justifies and a lot, about my opinion in thinking that electronic games, in some cases, do help in the intellectual development of people.

And my opinion of finding it silly to say that playing electronic games is bad.

About the game (or series) Grand Theft Auto.

Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a video game series created by David Jones and Mike Dailly, later managed by brothers Dan and Sam Houser, Leslie Benzies and Aaron Garbut. Most games were developed by Rockstar North (formerly DMA Design) and published by Rockstar Games. The name of the series is a police term used in the United States to identify car thefts: Grand Theft refers to high-value thefts (greater than US$ 400.00) and Auto-designates automobiles.

Default title of the GTA Series games

The games in the series take place in fictional cities dominated by crime and street gangs, heavily modeled on large metropolises, mainly in the United States. The playable character (a criminal, protagonist of a plot full of illegal activities, such as violence, drug trafficking, murder, prostitution, etc.) can fulfill missions to advance the story, as well as participate in non-linear actions in an open world, consisting of action, adventure, RPG, racing, among others. GTA also pays homage to several personalities, such as Eazy-E, who inspired the character Ryder in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Video game developer DMA Design was responsible for starting the series in 1997, which currently features eleven standalone games and four expansion packs. The third game in the chronology, Grand Theft Auto III, was highly praised, as it brought the series into a 3D setting with much more experience and inspired the release of various clones. Subsequent titles, such as Driv3r, were developed based on the pattern introduced in Grand Theft Auto III.

The franchise, like Call of Duty, is one of the most profitable entertainment products in history, raising nearly a billion dollars with its latest game in the first 24 hours of release. It also broke various Guinness Book records, including as the video game action game to reach the highest sales value in 24 hours. The franchise was also named by The Telegraph as one of the UK's biggest exports. As of November 2016, the Grand Theft Auto series has sold over 250 million copies, making it the fifth best-selling video game franchise of all time.

But, the success came even with the last released title: GTA V. And that's the one I liked the most and I play a lot. Including its online version.

What do I think is great about GTA V and its online version?

Here I will argue using a bit of the article I saw in Folha de S. Paulo and which is a republication of the Finacial Times article: see here.

Amidst the barrage of announcements that surrounded the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, one fact surprised no one - that Rockstar Games' “Grand Theft Auto 5” is getting a next-gen re-release. With that, it will possibly be the only game to be released for three successive generations of consoles, having initially come out in 2013.

By most estimates, “GTA 5” is the most profitable media product of all time. At least 135 million copies of the game have been sold to date, grossing a total of well over $6 billion, or Rs. $31.9 billion — more than double the box office gross of the highest-grossing film in history, “Avengers: Endgame.”

The fact that people continue to buy this game is interesting; after all, 2013 is practically the Cretaceous, counted in years of video games. With so many innovative and compelling games coming out every month, why do millions of people continue to play “GTA 5”?

For starters, “GTA 5” offers a stellar experience for the solo gamer, who can control three daring criminals who launch a series of daring heists.

Rockstar's characteristic tone is satirical, and this edition makes fun of social networks, reality shows and the culture of “wellness”, with abundant references to pop culture.

For example, if the player goes to Raton Canyon at 7 pm, they will see two women hurtling off a cliff in a convertible, in a reference to “Thelma & Louise”. This is just one of countless hidden details that reward dedicated explorers of the virtual state of San Andreas, a tiny California pastiche filled with unique detail and characterization.

Even though it has this compelling story, the game owes its real and lasting success to its multiplayer component, “GTA Online”. The online mode was seen as a failure when it was released, but since then, Rockstar has been modernizing it, converting the game into a sophisticated product that is not intended only for inveterate fans, so much so that this year “GTA Online” reached a player record.

Constant updates to the city of Los Santos offer players new missions and new vehicles, as well as the opportunity to run nightclubs where they can launder illegally earned money.

The introduction of fluorescent alien outfits this year led to an intense war in which players formed armies of green and purple aliens and hunted each other in the city. Rockstar has given players the tools to create their own virtual culture and history.

And why does playing such a game help develop goal focus? What brings good to my work?

It is here that the BBC reports quoted at the beginning of the text help in the argument. Incidentally, the headline of the first article is as follows: “Games improve memory — and other revelations from the largest intelligence experiment ever carried out in the world”.

This headline in the first article alone calls attention to the fact that it demystifies that maxim, that videogames or even PC games, or even games from other platforms, are harmful, leave people alienated, or even make them violent, like GTA.

Opening a parenthesis, I always thought this was silly. I'm from Atari's time, and at that time I already had shooting games and I didn't become a bandit.

The research began with an invitation from the BBC for people to participate in an intelligence test developed by scientist Adam Hampshire, from Imperial College, London.

More than 250,000 people have already answered questions about themselves and then been tested, with activities that sometimes feel like games.

These numbers provide information about how different types of human intelligence are related to variables such as lifestyle, personality, and technology use — this is the hook for me to talk about games.

I'm going straight to the point of the research that talks about the influence of games on people's minds.

To the researchers' surprise, there is no clear link between intellectual ability and the type of technology used or the amount of time spent on it.

Except in one area…

The more time people spend playing computer games, the better their scores are on tests of spatial working memory (your ability to remember where things like your car keys are), attention and verbal reasoning.

In this case, the effective age was not considered. So, it's not about young people against seniors, but a clear link with the game.

One of the most surprising findings was that games can actually improve one of the main components of intelligence: working memory, our ability to temporarily keep information active for use in different cognitive activities such as understanding or thinking.

“Anyone who has gone somewhere to do something and forgotten what it was on arrival knows what we're talking about,” says Louise Nicholls of Strathclyde University.

People who play computer games scored better on these tests than those who train mentally, indicating that these games may be a more valuable pastime for those looking to elevate their cognitive skills.

It should be noted that controlled studies on the positive relationship between the amount of play and this aspect of intelligence have produced results consistent with those of the BBC, says Nicholls. But does it matter what the game is?

“The most reliable results speak especially to action video games, those that involve navigating different environments, finding visual targets and making quick decisions. But even space puzzle games like Tetris are beneficial,” says the expert.

In the second article, I read that if you have difficulty carrying out several tasks simultaneously, ignoring everyday distractions and prioritizing your to-do list, be amazed — video games can be a great ally.

That is, perhaps the practice is not as much of a “waste of time” as some parents (or girlfriend, friends) imagine.

“As a mother of three, I thought the same thing. As a scientist in the lab, I was very surprised to discover that some video games have positive effects on the brain and on our behavior,” says cognitive neuroscientist Daphné Bavelier, whose research used electrodes attached to the scalps of gamers to understand what happens in the brain while playing games. Plays video games.

OK… What about GTA? It's a game where the characters are criminals and commit crimes. Is this beneficial?

This is what the research in the second article explains. But before…

The question of whether the game sets a bad example or not is irrelevant to me.

Let me explain: as in the opinion above, I always thought it was silly that this game thing makes people violent or even makes them commit crimes.

I believe it depends more on the person's character and how it influences the person's mind. Generally, people who use violent games to commit atrocities already have a behavior problem, or even this character deviation. In this case, it is more a psychological-forensic study (congrats to the Great Forensic Psychologist Guido Palomba, professor at the Law School), of the criminal and his past life at the time of the crime committed than already assigning guilt in so-called violent games.

Aren't there also violent movies? And horror movies? (which, by the way, I like a lot too). When these films are released, do we see an “epidemic” of people dressed as clowns murdering others? Do not. We didn't see.

So this discussion that games are the main culprits of people's violence for me is bullshit and I will continue to talk about the benefit they bring to people's minds. Anything to the contrary is already bordering on hypocrisy.

Here's how video games affect the brain.

“First and third-person shooters really reinforce how well you pay attention. They also improve how well you see or hear—what we call perception. And they also reveal a marked improvement in spatial cognition and working memory and multitasking ability “, says cognitive neuroscientist Daphné Bavelier.

“In fact, they are benefits, with potential for use in everyday life.”

What happens is that by playing these games, you are training your brain.

“We activated a network of areas in the frontal cortex, others in the parietal cortex — a network known to be responsible for descending attention. This network is more reinforced and much more efficient in processing information”, explains the neuroscientist.

And so, see how the game requires people's dedication to the missions contained in it, namely.

The smartest updates are the ones that encourage players to create communities, form biker gangs or hire each other, forming complex mafia hierarchies — teamwork, right?

One of the GTA Game missions - which requires dedication and focus from the player.

“GTA Online” has evolved little by little, going from an absurdist criminal simulator to a virtual life that people went to simply to spend time with friends or drive cars that they would never have access to in reality. Okay, if it's well dosed, the person doesn't abstract from their ′′ normal ′′ life, but here I'm emphasizing the creation of friendship bonds, or even networking. Yes, if people can create emotional or even sexual bonds on dating sites, why can't they in the game?

Similarly, gamers have taken advantage of the growing popularity of YouTube and Twitch to post videos of themselves playing, reaching massive audiences. By the time I'm writing this text, 11 million hours of “GTA 5” had been watched on Twitch last week—look at the focus their people!!! Some even earn money from it, spreading information about the game (entrepreneurship).

From the beginning, Rockstar took the smart step of letting players modify the game's software. It introduced an editor mode that allows audiences to direct the weather, weather conditions, and inhabitants to create movies with video game casts (known as “machinima”).

These films range from nature documentaries to three-hour 007 simulations. Those who want to dive even deeper can join the community of “modders” who edit the software to update the images or add elements like superheroes and an LGBT pride parade. We can add, content production, encouragement of diversity, living in community.

Even more surprising, action games have also been shown to increase gray matter in an area associated with abstract reasoning and problem-solving.

Regarding vision, a recent study found that playing 50 hours of action games for nine weeks — a little less than 1 hour a day — improves contrast sensitivity.

In other words, you're better able to distinguish between shades of gray, useful when you're driving at night or in other low-visibility situations. And contrast sensitivity seems to naturally worsen as we age.

Unfortunately, you don't get these benefits from playing slower games — they must be action games.

Are they benefits or not? Yes, as long as it is done with MODERATION, the GTA game and other action games can indeed be great allies for the development of your work.

If you disagree, out of fear, be sure to present your argument in the comments or some related link, with some scientific study, for example. Spare me tantrums and ideological positions, this is a network about work and corporate education.

And anyone who wants to play GTA online with me, I invite you. Call me in private. And I have the Discord app, as a good player, that is.


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