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Weapon X

Video games improve players' visual skills: study

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. - People who regularly play action-based video games score high on standard vision tests and non-players can improve their visual skills with training, researchers say.

 

Researchers at the University of Rochester used psychological tests that measure visual skills to compare people who played action games such as Grand Theft Auto 3 and Spiderman almost daily for at least six months to nonplayers.

 

Gamers were better able to spot details in busy, confusing scenes, cope with more distractions and process fast-changing visual information more efficiently, said brain and cognitive sciences Prof. Daphne Bavelier, the study's co-author.

 

Bavelier wants to find out if video games may be a useful tool to help people who are visually impaired, to train soldiers for combat, or to improve driver safety.

"Although video-game playing may seem to be rather mindless, it is capable of radically altering visual attention processing," the researchers wrote in a letter in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

 

The tests required mostly male subjects aged 18- to 23-years-old to recognize and interpret shapes of quickly flashed objects.

 

The experienced gamers could have higher visual skills to begin with or the playing experience could be refining their vision and attention skills. To find out, the researchers tested all the subjects' skills before and after they were all trained on two types of video games.

 

One group played the action-packed Second World War game Medal of Honor and the second group played the puzzle game Tetris (which focuses on one object at a time).

After training for one hour a day for 10 days, those who learned Medal of Honor scored better on the performance tests. The Tetris players showed almost no change in the skills.

 

"By forcing players to simultaneously juggle a number of varied tasks, action-video-game playing pushes the limits of three rather different aspects of visual attention," wrote the researchers.

 

Bavelier suspects the complex visual demands of action games lead to the improvements, but the heightened awareness from a game's sense of danger, sensory overload and competitive atmosphere could be playing a role as well.

 

She hopes to create programs that improve visual performance without exposing stroke victims or other people with damaged visual systems to the violent images common in many video games.

 

 

 

Written by CBC News Online staff

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