Can a Video Game Make Better Athletes?

Athletes who want to improve their performance may want to spend more time sitting in front of computers instead of only hitting the gym. IntelliGym – a software platform made by Applied Cognitive Engineering that got its start training Air Force pilots – has branched out to give hockey, basketball and soccer players a new way to train without taxing their bodies.

Video Games Can Train Athletes to Play Smarter
Practicing a sport in real life is an obvious requirement for athletes who want to excel. In recent years though, scientists have found that playing certain types of video games can train athletes to play smarter on the field or court.

Somewhat surprisingly, the most effective video games don’t attempt to replicate the experience of playing sports. Instead, athletes get the most benefits from playing games that encourage them to think about sports in abstract ways. This approach to training forces players to react quickly to challenging scenarios that they can apply to real-world sports.

IntelliGym offers low-fidelity games that force players to make quick decisions without getting distracted by the high-fidelity simulations. Making the sports more realistic wouldn’t have the same effect. By separating decision-making from the sports environment, athletes have a chance to train their brains in a way that enhances their skills during competition.

Athletes See Notable Improvements After Using IntelliGym
Research shows that IntelliGym improves athletic performance by 35 percent. It takes about five weeks before players can expect to see on-the-field improvements. During those five weeks, athletes sit down to play games for 30 minutes twice a week. Since the video games don’t require any physical exertion, athletes can easily incorporate them into their typical training schedules.

The company claims practically any type of athlete can see notable improvements after playing IntelliGym games for five weeks. The software has already become popular among professional, college and amateur players. Parents can even purchase games for young athletes. Coaches can introduce it to college players. Professional athletes can choose to play the games to help them develop better skills.

A Proven Record of Success
Applied Cognitive Engineering has been making IntelliGym games since 2005. It has gained significant popularity among athletes over the last decade. In fact, some people believe that IntelliGym is responsible for improving the overall abilities of athletes.

In 2013, the New York Times reported that USA Hockey had been using IntelliGym for five seasons. The game seems to have had a positive impact on young hockey players who use it.

IntelliGym may even explain why young American hockey players have become so competitive in recent years. While the senior men’s hockey team hasn’t won a championship since 1996, the American junior and youth teams have excelled. The future of American hockey, therefore, may have more to do with video games than spending extra time on the ice.

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