Purpose of review
The notion that play may facilitate learning has long been touted. Here, we review how video game play may be leveraged for enhancing attentional control, allowing greater cognitive flexibility and learning and in turn new routes to better address developmental disorders.
Video games, initially developed for entertainment, appear to enhance the behavior in domains as varied as perception, attention, task switching, or mental rotation. This surprisingly wide transfer may be mediated by enhanced attentional control, allowing increased signal-to-noise ratio and thus more informed decisions.
The possibility of enhancing attentional control through targeted interventions, be it computerized training or self-regulation techniques, is now well established. Embedding such training in video game play is appealing, given the astounding amount of time spent by children and adults worldwide with this media. It holds the promise of increasing compliance in patients and motivation in school children, and of enhancing the use of positive impact games. Yet for all the promises, existing research indicates that not all games are created equal: a better understanding of the game play elements that foster attention and learning as well as of the strategies developed by the players is needed. Computational models from machine learning or developmental robotics provide a rich theoretical framework to develop this work further and address its impact on developmental disorders.