The Commuter Series: Can playing app games on your commute help your brain?

9th June 2022 | 2 min read

commuting blog app games

In the first instalment of our new series looking into the activities and quirks of the everyday commute, Hannah Forrester delves into the impact of app games on our minds.

Where once the newspaper crossword was the common denominator on the commute, the advancement in smartphones has led to app-based games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush becoming more commonplace diversions for people. However, this year Wordle has been the word that’s been on everyone’s lips.

Originally created for fun by web developer Josh Wardle, the six-guess word game has been filling our social media feeds and group chats daily with grids of green and yellow squares.

Unlike most other App games, it doesn’t contain ads or monetised elements. It’s also “not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs,” Wardle said in an interview with the game’s current owner and publisher the New York Times.

But why has Wordle, which only releases a game once-a-day, become so popular with commuters? It can’t solely be because we’re filling in time on our journey with the latest fad.

Might it be because looking at letters and spelling words, like traditional crosswords, have more benefits for us than light-hearted games like Angry Birds? Quite possibly, according to a study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. This study, in conjunction with another that focused on crossword and number-based puzzles, found evidence that word and number-based games can improve cognitive function in individuals over 50, with participants performing better in tasks assessing attention, reasoning, and memory.

So, maybe playing word or number games on your commute is actually helping warm up your cognitive functions and getting you ready for work activities, such as client meetings, an ideas session or talk.

And for those of us looking to wind down rather than warm up, a University of Bath study has found that shape or image games may help with relieving stress – often even better than dedicated mindfulness Apps.

Therefore, it’s entirely possible that by playing games like Candy Crush, or a good old game of Snake on your commute you’re giving your brain just as much TLC as filling in a Sudoku or crossword, as well as wiling away the time.