Remember how our parents always said that playing too many video games would rot your brain? As gamers, we’ve heard all the tales about how video games are bad for us and will make us lazy. Some of us have even fought for years against this stereotype. Now, we have some studies to support our beliefs that video games might not be so bad for you after all.
According to a study published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, playing fast-paced action video games might actually make you a better learner. For some of us, this notion is not so far-fetches. Simulation and gaming have been used in education for generations from the youngest ages to the college and post-graduate level.
The study says:
Recent advances in the field of learning have identified improvement of perceptual templates as a key mechanism underlying training-induced performance enhancements. Here, using a combination of psychophysics and neural modeling, we demonstrate that this mechanism—improved learning of perceptual templates—is also engaged after action video game play. Habitual action gamers or individuals trained to play action games demonstrate perceptual templates better tuned to the task and stimulus at hand than control groups, a difference shown to emerge as learning proceeds. This work further illustrates the importance of the development of improved perceptual templates as a mechanism mediating training and transfer effects and provides a novel account for the surprisingly broad transfer of performance enhancements noted after action game play.
Taking a look at this evidence, we can see that video games, specifically certain types of games, can greatly enhance a person’s ability to learn. The insights gained from this study can also help further education and help people who have suffered strokes or other brain injuries. Imagine how many lives could be improved with this type of technology?
There’s also more to this belief, based on science. People who play games such as “Call of Duty” can better multitask, perform cognitive tasks such as rotating objects in their minds, and focus and retain information than non-players. This comes from Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences at both the University of Rochester and the University of Geneva (via Bloomberg Media). She goes on to say that they also have better vision.
But it’s not just any video game that helps you grow smarter. The studies show that fast-action, fast-paced games are the ones that do the trick. Typically, first or third-person shooter games are the ones that create the best learners. People who played as much as two hours a day for five days a week, for two months showed improvements that lasted for a year after.
Why do FPSs seem to help? Well, the brain contains many neurons, capable of firing off at the same time. A fast-action game like a shooter requires you to change quickly according to live scenarios. You will have to change your connectivity quickly in order to match the task in front of you. You have to adjust your brain to noise and distractions, learning to suppress these distractions in order to achieve your goal. Doing this regularly trains the brain so it responds the same way in other life situations, outside of the game.
So what do you think? Have a new excuse for playing your favorite shooter now?
Vikranth R. Bejjanki, Ruyuan Zhang, Renjie Li, Alexandre Pouget, C. Shawn Green, Zhong-Lin Lu, and Daphne Bavelier
Action video game play facilitates the development of better perceptual templates
PNAS 2014 111 (47) 16961-16966; published ahead of print November 10, 2014,