The next time your parents tell you to stop horsing around and put your nose in a good book, you can tell them that you’re improving your cognitive development. Don’t worry, there is truth in this statement that may be able to get you some extra hours shooting pool or sliding a puck across your air hockey table.
Several research studies have all concluded that game rooms improve performance in the classroom. Similar to the cognitive benefits observed in children who play musical instruments, billiards, foosball, and other game tables can help develop areas of the brain that are neglected in traditional studies.
Game Tables Stimulate Neural Activity
Dr. Jan Mohlman, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers and self-proclaimed billiards enthusiast, uncovered powerful correlations between billiards play and neural activity. In her post entitled This is Your Brain on Billiards: How Your Brain Maintains the Mind-Body Connection, Dr. Mohlman explained how a game of pool stimulates all four lobes of the brain.
“While you are busy playing your match, your brain works overtime to maintain a connection between your body and mind so that you can make brilliant shots and successfully plan your runout. This is accomplished through the activation of a number of neural networks and channels…that lead to your game.”
-Dr. Jan Molman, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University
Through a process called peripersonal spatial mapping, the brain creates a virtual understanding of your body and its surroundings. This can come in handy for students attempting to conceptualize abstract topics/ideas in the field of civil, mechanical, and aeronautical engineering. Game tables also create a positive reinforcement that teaches the brain to correct itself and employ learned behavior.
The Impact on Emotional Wellness
Game rooms facilitate a social space where students can engage and make connections with other who they would have never met. In a published report by Patrick Terenzini and Ernest Pascarella, the pair concluded that informal student-faculty interactions are linked to intellectual progression, academic performance, and personal development. (Terenzini, 1991).
The competitive nature of shuffleboard, air hockey, and billiards can increase comfort levels and spur meaningful interactions. While hanging out in game rooms students (and faculty) build deeper connections outside of the classroom. This strengthens mutual understanding, building a family of individuals who have a vested interest in your academic success.
Most University students would agree that they have spent many painstaking hours in study groups. Hey, how’d you get those notes? Spending hours in discussion on current issues can have a significant effect on critical thinking and cognitive development. (Twale & Sander, 1991). The game rooms serves as an environment to empower students through networking which is often a key to making it through school. It’s not what you know but rather who you know.
The Case for Commuter Students
In a case study conducted at the University of South Florida, researchers found that the majority of students who use game rooms are commuter students, those who do not live in university-owned dwellings. Statistically speaking, commuter students are far more likely to drop out of college than residential students. (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Rather than suffer from boredom or fight traffic to and from their place of residence, students have an opportunity to relax and enjoy some down time.
The study at the University revealed improved retention rates of commuter students who accessed game rooms regularly to burn time during extended periods between classes. Individuals who are active in student-life outside of the classroom are more likely to succeed. Not everything is all fun and games however. Students were found to be discussing classroom material for a surprising amount of the time spent in the campus game room.
Game rooms can supplement lower education as well. At the Boys Town Research Hospital West game tables have been used as a reward system for youth suffering from mental illnesses. Good behavior and academic achievement is rewarded with access to the schools air hockey and foosball table. These added features make students feel at home, lower anxiety levels, and promote social cohesion amongst students and staff.
For more information on the benefits of game table play we recommend reading these articles: