Action-Packed Video Games May Be Good for You After
TUESDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Fast-action video games
may help train people to make quick, accurate decisions in all
aspects of life, new findings suggest.
The authors of a study published Sept. 14 in the journal
Current Biology theorize that action games like
Halo encourage players to better use evidence drawn from
their senses in decision-making, a skill known as probabilistic
And their decisions are just as accurate as those of
non-players, which is evidence that the fast-paced gamers are not
responding in a "trigger-happy" fashion, the researchers said.
"They are making more efficient use of the information that is out there," said C. Shawn Green, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral associate at the University of Minnesota's department of psychology. "They are pulling more information from the sensory world, related to the decision facing them."
It was only action games, which are commonly "shooter" games,
that had this effect, as opposed to strategy or role-playing games,
the study authors found.
The researchers had one set of subjects play the first-person
Unreal Tournament 2004 and
Call of Duty, while control subjects played
The Sims, a strategic game meant to simulate life.
Both groups were then asked to perform visual and auditory tasks
that tested decision-making skills. One task involved observing an
array of dots in motion and trying to detect their primary
direction of movement. Another asked the subjects to don headphones
and listen through white noise to figure out which ear was
receiving a tone signal.
Action video gamers displayed superior decision-making ability
in terms of speed, and their responses were no less accurate than
the other players' responses. These findings held true for diehard
video game players as well as non-gamers recruited to play action
video games for 50 hours.
The research team chalks up the enhanced decision-making skills
to the action games' unpredictability. Because players never know
what might happen next, they learn to absorb information from their
surroundings quickly and employ it to make snap judgments.
"The games are teaching them to learn how to learn, to learn how to solve new tasks rapidly," Green said.
Exactly what neural processes come into play is still unclear,
the researchers said, but this type of training potentially has
broad applications. For example, people suffering from vision
problems could be taught to better assess the world around them by
playing video games that improve their perception, Green said.
Research on video games often focuses on worrisome behavior,
such as whether players develop aggression. "The negative effects
of video games are often a big topic of conversation, but it is
important to recognize that video game play can have benefits,"
said Art Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas.
"Studies like this are one example. There is also work showing that
games with pro-social messages where the players engage in
adventures to help others can increase helping behavior in
However, gamers should keep in mind that they may receive mixed
messages from the action video games they play, Markman added.
"It takes a fair amount of video game play to improve decision-making. If this time is put in on games that are aggressive, then there is pretty solid evidence that these aggressive behaviors can spill out into people's behavior in general," Markman said.
"In addition, the time spent playing video games could also be spent on other activities," he noted. "Once kids start playing video games, for example, they read less often, they spend less time on homework, and their grades go down. So, the benefits of video game play do come at a cost."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tips for
parents who want to balance
electronics usage and family time.
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