Fighting games are packed full of positive psychological benefits for your mind and your life and are so effective at training your brain that they can even be put to good use as a tool for personal development and self improvement. How? Two words: Decision making. Fighting games are, in essence, a fast-paced decision making activity. As such, they teach our brains how to make good decisions in minimal time. They force us to carry a great deal of information at one time and to make snap second decisions based on knowledge, odds and analysis.

In order to best explain this we’ll consider Daigo’s classic match VS Sabin at Seasons Beatings.

Season's Beatings: Redemption: US vs International, TS Sabin vs Diago

Any part of the Daigo VS Sabin match will illustrate how effective fighting games are at getting us to make split-second decisions, but or particular interest is when Daigo Umehara (Ryu) performs an absolutely sick C.FP to Super to counter Arturo Sanchez’s (Dhalsim) F.FP and win the match. That’s what happens in-game, but what i happen in-brain? (see what I did there.. . )

First things first, he has a set of options in his mind (he has various moves he can choose between) and he has to choose the best move to use. He chooses to cancel crouching fierce into super based on several observations: he has full super, it’s his only real chance to regain the health advantage and, most importantly, he knows there is a high possibility that Sabin will use Dhalsim’s F.FP because it’s a fairly safe move (or at least should be–check out the look on Sabin’s face after to see just how amazed he was). As can be seen, Daigo has to choose the best move from many possibilities and he has to do so whilst under pressure. The first benefit of fighting games, as is here seen, is the ability to make quality decisions in minimal time whilst under pressure. This is the exact same skill that is used in thousands of occupations, from stock and options trading to police enforcement (of course the amount of pressure and the amount of knowledge required varies but the underlying, core mental process that occurs in these activities remains the same: we make judgement calls under pressure).

Next up, Daigo has to bait Sabin to press a button when at the right spacing (if the two characters were closer together or further away this set-up would not work). To do so, he has to analyse a huge amount of information by working out Sabin’s movement habits. This information includes: analysing the way Sabin reacts to Daigo’s own movements; analysing the pattern of Sabin’s moves; determining exactly when and where Sabin likes to attack in order to be prepared to counter.

Finally, whilst all this information is being processed, Daigo has to react in literally spilt seconds to hit the button in time.

So, we have the ability to hold lots of information whilst simultaneously carrying out extensive data analysis and finally putting it all together in one moment of blisteringly quick reactions. All in all, we have one heck of a great tool for developing decision making skills, skills that can very readily be applied to a great variety of jobs and other real life situations. It is not hard to see how these positive effects of fighting games could be adapted for use in corporate training education, personal development programs or even athletics training.

Other Positive Benefits of Fighting Games

They teach us how to be patient: Decent fighting game skills require the gamer to patiently bait out mistakes from the opponent that they can then punish. Patience is one of the most obvious differences between an absolute noob and a fairly decent player as noobs will almost always opt to simply rush in and will end up being countered all day until they are dead (A.K.A Jump, Uppercut, Jump, Uppercut, Jump… yawn). The patience fighting games develop is applicable to myriad areas of personal and professional life but is perhaps most applicable to public sector work like public health service jobs and police law enforcement jobs.

Positive Thinking Exercise: Whilst a good gamer will be patient, they won’t just sit around waiting for the opponent to come to them. Instead, they must continually pressure the opponent in order to force them to make a mistake. Essentially, this means the gamer is continually working towards a positive goal and hence is developing their positive thinking skills. Again, there are a great many areas where this skill is applicable, including: personal life (from success in weight loss programs to confidence with women), education (I’m sure I’m not alone when I state that positive thinking was absolutely essentially to getting through my university degree and was perhaps even more so in drama school, which this author attended during his obsession with education).

Pattern Recognition: A lot of fighting game skills come down to what is referred to by the fighting game community as “Yomi.” Yomi is commonly considered mind reading, but in reality is the ability to interpret move sequences in order to know what comes next. In other words, fighting games develop your pattern recognition abilities, skills that are applicable to jobs such as being a software engineer or solution architect.

Planning & Adapting: Being good at fighting games requires the player to form complex strategies to use in different match-ups, but more importantly requires them to have the wit to change that strategy at the press of a button (literally).


Relaxation: Whilst the actual fighting in fighting games is very exciting and serves to get the blood boiling, fighting games can very quickly be turned into a tool for relaxation by heading to the training room. Any fighting game player will instantly know what this is about, but for those readers who do not play fighting games themselves, the training room can best be thought of as a sandbox where players can try out new moves, tricks and combos on a dummy-opponent. Here, two key relaxation tools can be found. Firstly, there is the relaxation found in exploration as the player sets about trying out new moves and set-ups. Perhaps better than this however, is the ability to perform combos over and over again. Learning combos in fighting games is rather like learning basic piano tunes, and, as with piano playing, the rhythm and repetition of combos naturally serves to calm the mind.

Overall: Next time someone tells you you’re wasting time playing fighting games, tell them you’re simultaneously developing your decision making skills, patience, positive thinking habits and pattern recognition skills cause you don’t know whether to work in stock trading, law enforcement or solutions architecture. That should shut them up.

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.


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