Feeling fatigued or stressed at work? Conventional wisdom says you might want to take a break, but new research finds playing casual video games can actually be more restorative than just passively zoning out in a break room for five minutes.
Researchers from the University of Central Florida had 66 study participants use a computer to perform a repetitive and boring task designed to induce cognitive fatigue, which involves a decline in working memory and decision making.
Subjects were then given a break during which some participants played a casual pachinko-style game called "Sushi Cat 2," while others did a guided relaxation activity and a third group sat quietly without access to any devices.
Of the three groups, only those who played the game said the break made them feel better. Those that did the guided relaxation had the highest scores for working memory, but interestingly the relaxation activity led to an increase in feelings of worry.
Overall, a Sushi Cat break put the subjects in a better mood, reduced feelings of worry and increased engagement compared with guided relaxation or sitting quietly.
"Playing a casual video game even briefly can restore individuals' affective abilities, making it a suitable activity to restore mood in response to stress," reads the conclusion to the study published Tuesday in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
The paper stresses more research is needed to find out the best way to take the most effective breaks from work. It's also worth noting that 66 study participants is a fairly small sample size.
Still, the findings join a long list of studies that suggest video games have positive ancillary benefits, including improving eyesight, and perhaps even .
If that's really the case, perhaps it's not so hard to imagine casual games as a new tool used around the office during breaks to boost productivity.
"We often try to power through the day to get more work finished, which might not be as effective as taking some time to detach for a few minutes," explains Michael Rupp, one of the study co-authors, in a statement. "People should plan short breaks to make time for an engaging and enjoyable activity, such as video games, that can help them recharge."
In other words, if you're starting to feel overwhelmed, pulling out your phone and playing a few rounds of Sushi Cat could actually be the best way to stay productive. Tell your boss we said it's because science says so.
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