"Turn that video game off and go outside - it's bad for you!"
Au contraire, dear mother/partner/overly involved housemate: so long as those games are 3D, you could receive a serious memory boost.
A team of neuroscientists from the University of California have published findings suggesting that titles such as Super Mario 3D World can improve memory skills within two weeks.
The research saw "non-gamer college students" (as in, people with social lives?) selected to either play two-dimensional classic Angry Birds or delve into the three-dimensional world of Super Mario 3D World for two weeks.
Prior to, and following, the two week test period, the students took memory tests that targeted the brain’s hippocampus - a section of grey matter linked to complex learning and memory. Participants were first asked to study images of everyday objects, followed by slightly altered images of the same objects. Recognition of the slightly altered images would call the hippocampus into action, and prove whether the subject's memory was improved or unchanged.
Students who had played the 3D game saw a 12 per cent improvement on their memory test scores (the same amount it normally decreases between the ages of 45 and 70), while the 2D games saw no discernible improvement.
"The 3D games have a few things the 2D ones do not," said Craig Stark of the University of California. "They’ve got a lot more spatial information in there to explore. Second, they’re much more complex, with a lot more information to learn. Either way, we know this kind of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus."
However, before you go plugging into all the latest VR games you can lay your hands on, Stark added that it's unclear whether the overall complexity of a 3D game or the spatial relationships and exploration is stimulating the hippocampus. "This is one question we’re following up on," he said.
So, if you want to boost your memory skills, quit playing drab old 2D experiences and plug your eyes into something 3D. Or just go out and explore the real world. Take a coat, it's cold out there.