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Can Video Games in the Office Make Employees More Productive?

Hip startup employees have been known to enjoy digital entertainment at work, but does it actually have a positive effect on employees?
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Most days around our office, you’ll find a big gathering at 4 p.m. for Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. on the projector wall. This isn’t because everyone is goofing off. Believe it or not, there is a lot more to it than that.

Tech companies, especially those in the San Francisco Bay Area, may have a natural affinity for playing video games, but there are a lot of benefits for any company to consider gaming in the workplace.

For starters, video games are a fun way to decompress. Most can be played in three- to 10-minute increments, so they’re effective for shorter or longer breaks. And any break, even if just a few minutes away from your desk, is helpful to get your circulation flowing and improve concentration.

Related: 3 Things Video Games Can Teach You About Being a Better Business Leader

While many employers may see breaks as precious time away from doing actual work, I’ve found they can improve employees’ productivity. Gaming may promote a little R&R, but it can have many more lasting benefits to a company.

Bonding over Mortal Kombat. Not to be overlooked is the social aspect to gaming at work. The beauty is that games bring people together who would not normally interact, and other times, people who regularly work together get to let loose and have some fun.

Without any calculated effort, there is organic team-building as people rally around the game. With my company currently undergoing a huge growth spurt (we doubled in size in 2013 and will close to triple this year), it’s encouraging to see relationships forged and gaps bridged so quickly.

I personally enjoy gathering with employees to play a round -- it’s allowed everyone to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment. The end result is a united team, at all levels of the company.

Exercise your mind. Video games also offer mental stimulation, which we often interpret as simply a break from our hectic days and the consuming nature of work. However, the benefits can far exceed a mental break -- gaming can exercise your brain or even improve your mental acuity.

Related: Great at World of Warcraft? Put It on Your Resume.

A 2013 study found that real-time strategy games, such as StarCraft II, can improve your cognitive flexibility, the ability to allocate your brain's resources under changing circumstances. In other words, decision-making in real time. StarCraft is all about resource allocation, knowing what your competitors are doing at any given moment and quickly reacting.

From virtual to reality. Aside from the therapeutic, social and cognitive values, certain games can help train us for the business world. When it comes to resource allocation, what if the minerals that you’re managing in StarCraft were dollars? What if your multiplayer opponents were an analogue of our real-world competitors?

What’s happening in games can be representative of the challenges we face, and the strategies and tactics we need to exercise in our work. In both contexts, you are problem solving, trying to do things in the fastest, most optimal ways, and in an elegant fashion.

Press start. While games today are much more sophisticated than the arcade games that surfaced decades ago, all offer fun interlaced with varying degrees of strategy and understanding your opponent. Many people will find simple enjoyment and escape with video games, with the added benefit of varying degrees of mental stimulation and exercise.

Video games achieve a lot in a very natural way, so you should perhaps consider setting up some games in your office. Who can argue with something that’s fun, relieves stress, unites a company and could offer intellectual gains?

Related: 3 Things Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Video Games