Head Games

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In CertMag’s Study Guide, we try to show readers how they can build up their brainpower using various tools and techniques, but by and large, most people wouldn’t associate these with the word “fun.” That’s not to say these educational means aren’t engaging, interesting and outstanding. But fun? Not really.


Your mental development doesn’t have to be all work and no play, though — IT pros can sharpen their intellectual skills through various kinds of games that give the mind a workout. After all, the brain is a muscle of sorts, and it needs to be exercised.


In fact, recent medical research shows bad memory and sluggish synapses are not necessarily inevitable consequences of old age but will almost certainly result from one’s failure to consistently exercise the mind and body.


Chances are, you’re already aware of many of the games that boost the brain. But you might not be aware of exactly how they do so. Here’s a quick overview of the some of the best-known games out there and what they can do for your mental enhancement.




Most of us know the game by its diminutive title, but the iteration established in 15th-century Europe and continues to this day is properly referred to as Western Chess. More than 600 million people play it on a regular basis, making it one of the most popular recreational games in the world.


I won’t go into the specifics of how chess is played here. What I will explain, though, is how it benefits the brain. For one, the game is based on patterns of movement and, thus, requires a great deal of memorization. Indeed, the most proficient players typically can glance at a board midgame for a few seconds, look away and then recite where all the pieces are.


Also, it helps with relational thinking, or understanding how dynamic units interrelate within a whole system. And with chess, these complex conditions constantly are shifting, which means participants must be mentally agile for competitive play.


Crossword Puzzles


The first crossword puzzles appeared in New York-based daily newspapers early in the 20th century and have since become a staple of all kinds of periodicals. Variants on these include word jumbles and the board game Scrabble.


One obvious advantage of crossword puzzles is they help build vocabulary. These games force people to really think about words and their meanings, which are often manifold (such as “duck,” “blast” or “run,” for example). In addition, crosswords necessitate a problem-solving mentality, as verbal clues — often very complex ones — are provided for participants to decipher.




Although it’s a relative newcomer in the world of mind games, Sudoku has grown significantly in popularity during the past couple of years, and it now appears in almost as many newspapers as crosswords. Perhaps this is to be expected — many people view this grid-based exercise as the numerical equivalent of those word puzzles.


It might come as a surprise to the uninitiated, though, that the numbers in Sudoku aren’t based on any kind of arithmetic. Rather, the numerals can be thought of as nine “characters,” which can (and frequently have been) substituted with almost any set of symbols. The rules are always the same, but the complexity of the puzzles can vary greatly.


Sudoku works well as a brain game because it’s founded entirely on logic. Players have to analyze a board and identify potential options and conflicts. Because of this process, it also encourages experimentation. Participants will often try out strategies, only to go back a few moves when they’ve discovered their attempted solutions are unworkable.


Game on!

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