Eight Abilities Fostered by
Computer Games. Not Just for Business.

Boris Gertzovskiy

co-founder of Nexters

My father used to teach computer science in high school, and one day he showed me, a seven-year-old, the game Space Invaders on a free computer in the classroom. I played for 15 minutes, and, of course, I fell in love with it. My dad noticed and said, "Bor, if you want to play more, solve the problem on the board." I tried to argue that I was still in second grade and the task was for ninth grade, but my father didn't accept the argument. In the end, I solved the problem and gained access to the game. Since then, my journey began...

Nineteen years ago, I tightly connected my life with game development: I became a co-founder of TimeZero. And in 2021, Nexters (of which I am a co-founder) entered NASDAQ with a valuation of around 2 billion dollars.

Throughout my life, I've heard over and over again: "Games make us dumber – it's a waste of time." Or: "Games are addictive and responsible for the rise of violence in society."

Of course, there are games that serve no purpose, operating solely on the stimulation of dopamine release. For instance, Candy Crush and its endless clones, where you need to match three colored objects in a row. Such an approach doesn't teach anything, depriving the player of motivation, creativity, and time, while narrowing the focus of attention.

But this problem doesn't only exist with games. The closest example is mindless TV watching and social media. Victor Pelevin named the phenomenon "Homo Zapiens" (The Channel-Changing Man), and this was even before the invention of Instagram, let alone TikTok. When social media emerged, allowing you to scroll while reading only headlines, it also became a vivid example of a short dopamine loop that captures a person's attention.

Play is older than culture, as the concept of culture, however unsatisfactorily described, in any case implies human society, while animals didn't have to wait for the appearance of humans to learn how to play. "Homo ludens. The Playing Man." Johan Huizinga.
Games - the most natural form of learning among mammals. Just remember how puppies play, how they learn to hunt for prey. Usually, parents offer a safe play object: the little one sneaks up on it, attacks, sometimes retreat, and attacks again.

Or games with an adult cat and a ball. Pouncing from a standstill, the animal performs acrobatic tricks to catch the prey. They're needed to practice complex, not always predictable trajectories because potential prey behaves similarly. A cat is a predator; it needs to be in good shape, and the ball doesn't bite back.

Team-building exercises, where we train trust - "I'll fall with my eyes closed, and you catch me." Role-playing games, are where we can experience someone else's life, which is more beneficial than living it ourselves.

It can be said: play is mimesis, a simulation of complex life situations with lowered stakes but comparable experience. There are so many examples that it's worth considering renaming Homo Sapiens to Homo Ludens, the Playing Human.
Therefore, instead of scaring people with the harm of video games, I, relying on scientific research, want to talk about the benefits they bring to the brain and business, and the abilities they develop.

1. Cognitive Abilities

In April 2015, a study was published comparing the brains of adults who played action video games extensively with those who played rarely or not at all.

Two key differences: those who play have more gray matter and greater connectivity between different parts of the brain.
Another study, involving nearly 2000 children, showed that those who played video games for three hours or more per day performed better in tests of cognitive skills, including self-control and working memory, compared to children who never played video games.

Different games develop different skills. For example, real-time strategy (RTS) players excel in cognitive flexibility compared to first-person shooter (FPS) players, who typically exhibit higher adaptability and faster task switching.

2. Creative Thinking

Games are an excellent trainer for creativity. A good game product doesn't mind if you "break it" and act according to your own rules.
By deliberately creating a high degree of freedom, you agree to let go of control, and it's the joy of a game designer to see players go beyond planned solutions and find their original path. This approach trains you well for future life and business situations where thinking outside the box is necessary.

3. Adaptability

If your child is into chess, you're happy. Football or basketball? Great choices too. Sports develop various skills. But what about esports? It cultivates adaptability.
When was the last time the rules of traditional sports changed? For example, chess rules were established five hundred years ago, and tennis a century ago. Football rules were updated in 1970, with technical changes that didn't affect player actions on the field. Basketball, a relatively newer game, saw its rules change in the 1990s.

Esports rules can change every week. A new hero, weapon, or format emerges. And, most importantly, new maps. You must always adapt. It sounds a bit like business, doesn't it?
4. Strategic Thinking

Here's the obvious part: various types of strategies offer players the ability to predict the actions of one or more opponents many moves ahead in a dynamic environment and conditions.
Compared to chess, it's even a bit more complex. In video games, you don't know the shape of the chessboard, the colors of the pieces, or how many players are against you. You're always in a new situation, working with what you have.

5. Team Communication

Organizing a squad of four people to solve a virtual combat mission can sometimes be more challenging than managing a workflow. How about creating and organizing a clan's economy?
People who enjoy esports or even cooperative games possess strong online communication skills.

Imagine playing on a five-person team. You coordinate your actions every second, while the battlefield conditions change every second. And you're constantly in touch with your team. Hence the simple conclusion. Even if you're not ready to boost your communication skills by playing cooperatively, you can always hire people with similar experience.

I'm confident that very soon, experience in video games will become a mandatory part of many candidates' resumes.

6. Involvement in Social Groups

COVID literally forced us to work remotely. And then, as if that wasn't enough, a war began, and thousands of people relocated. Joint games have become one of the indispensable forms of shared leisure for colleagues and friends at a distance. Moreover, personally, by getting the guys involved in our gaming group, I helped them overcome mild forms of depression.

How does it work? Read "Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst" by Robert Sapolsky. When people play a cooperative game, the level of oxytocin, responsible not only for "hugs" but also for group integration, increases tenfold. If a player knows or thinks that there are bots playing in their team instead of real people, there's no increase in the hormone level.

A similar story unfolds when a player competes against another player, but now a different hormone is involved - testosterone. Again, this only works when facing live players.

The session time is very limited, creating a beneficial stress that stimulates the short-term production of other hormones - dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Those who have played know how exciting this state can be.

7. Flow State
Most of us have become accustomed to living amidst constant stimuli. Listening to a whole album without distraction... When was the last time you did that? Today, some people have to go to Tibet for Vipassana to focus on one thing. Even when watching movies at home, we often do so while glancing at our phone with one hand. Video games are one of the few forms of entertainment that can reliably immerse you in a flow state.

In recent decades, this state has been well-studied. For instance, the dissertation by Alma María Rodríguez Sánchez in 2009. Speaking broadly, regular immersion in a state of flow positively impacts mental health, especially, and overall quality of life. The flow state is simply essential to maintaining holistic mental well-being. And video games are one of the good options, when they are balanced with the rest of life, of course.

8. Cultural Layer

Today, games constitute a significant layer of culture. Similar to any new medium, they are often underestimated in their initial stages.

130 years ago, cinematography was regarded as nothing more than a mere hi-tech entertainment. Serious individuals approached them with extreme skepticism, if not outright disdain. However, over the course of 20-30 years, films evolved into genuine forms of art—a potent new tool for conveying meanings.

Imagine a hypothetical scenario. If someone were to tell you today that they don't watch movies at all. None whatsoever. How would you feel? You'd likely feel a sense of sadness. This would mean that this person hasn't experienced films by Cameron, Nolan, or Wes Anderson. They haven't even seen Pixar animations. Can you envision it?

This is precisely how I feel whenever an adult says they don't play games. After all, it signifies that they're unfamiliar with the world of Horizon, haven't shed tears in Detroit: Become Human, haven't explored the wastelands in Fallout, haven't battled evil spirits, and haven't developed fondness for sorceresses in The Witcher.

The era when games were merely hi-tech amusements for teenagers has long passed. Games are a full-fledged art form, on par with literature, music, and cinematography.

I am a gamer. Not because I lack a life of my own. But because I possess thousands of them.


Boris Gertzovskiy, the founder and head of R&D at GDEV Inc, as well as a co-founder of Nexters – a leading global video game developer, established in Russia with its headquarters in Limassol, Cyprus.

Boris graduated from Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University named after Peter the Great.

Married and a father of two daughters, Boris has been residing in Spain since 2018.

Within the walls of Boris' residence, you'll find six huskies, a cat, and a kitten.