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Games Science

Video Games Lead To Quick Thinking Skills 174

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the and-no-add-whatsoev dept.
shmG writes "Parents who dismiss video games as mindless entertainment with no intrinsic value for their children may not have a leg to stand on anymore thanks to science. Cognitive scientists from the University of Rochester have proven action based video games train people to make quick, accurate decisions. These skills acquired from video games, which help players develop a heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, can be used in real world applications. This includes multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town."
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Video Games Lead To Quick Thinking Skills

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  • Video Games (Score:5, Funny)

    by wbav (223901) <Guardian.Bob+Slashdot@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:17PM (#33580438) Homepage Journal
    Creating first post people everywhere
  • by Bai jie (653604) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:18PM (#33580454)
    the article was tl;dr
  • ...read this on Ars and saw it on Engadget days before it made /.

  • hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:19PM (#33580480) Homepage
    I am utterly convinced that sitting in front of a computer as a pre-teen, staring at a computer for hours at a time trying to figure out how to get through infocom games has given me a huge mental payoff through my life.
    • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nschubach (922175) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#33580678) Journal

      They did for me. Well, getting them to run on those PCs by tweaking autoexec.bat and config.sys files, conserving hard drive space and learning all about zip, then eventually running out of compatible games and having to write my own in good old QuickBasic (which I couldn't even imagine working in now...)

      Of course, that was post TRS-80 days of cassette loading, 5.25 (if you were lucky) drives that were the size of a PC today and typing in BASIC programs from the back of a magazine.

      Mental payoffs come in many forms though. I think the original story was talking about boosting your brains processes of quick recognition skills, reaction, and dexterity... I think I am (we are?) talking about knowledge and critical thinking skills where speed wasn't so much an option.

      • Oh wow you took me back 14 years. I did all this too just to make games load

        I hate you with all my heart, conventional memory, EMS and XMS !!!
      • >>>Well, getting them to run on those PCs by tweaking autoexec.bat and config.sys files

        Should have bought an Atari, Commodore, or Amiga. These computers were plug-and-play simple and didn't make you dick around with that shit. You just inserted the game, typed LOAD, and played. Even today I still can't get the Wing Commander 1 and 2 to operate on a PC, but on my Amiga it just works.

        Also I think maybe I understand now why people say, "Jr.Pac-Man is hard. I'd rather play Pac-Man." If you

        • by PRMan (959735)

          You just inserted the game, typed LOAD...

          You had to type LOAD? Atari had self-booting disks.

          • Really? That's pretty advanced for a 1979 computer. Commodore didn't have any self-booting disks until they released Amiga in 1985.

            • Actually the Commodore 128 can have self booting disks as well and it slightly predates the first Amiga.

              • Yeah not really. It was possible but it was a hack requiring Assembly knowledge by the user. Plus it didn't work at all in C64 mode (where 99.9% of programs ran). In all the time I owned a 128 I don't remember autobooting anything. It was always "GO64" followed by the standard LOAD"*",8,1

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by arrogance (590092)

          >>>Well, getting them to run on those PCs by tweaking autoexec.bat and config.sys files

          Should have bought an Atari, Commodore, or Amiga. These computers were plug-and-play simple and didn't make you dick around with that shit. You just inserted the game, typed LOAD, and played. Even today I still can't get the Wing Commander 1 and 2 to operate on a PC

          Dosbox FTW. Yes, you sometimes have to dick around with it, but you can play tons of old games with it. Go to http://www.abandonia.com/ [abandonia.com] or similar sites, download a few of your old favourites (WC, Master of Magic, etc) and enjoy them with Dosbox. http://www.dosbox.com/download.php?main=1 [dosbox.com]

    • Except the study was about action games, and the improvement was in speed, not accuracy.

      Not that you're necessarily wrong, just that your claim is completely unrelated to this story except for the fact that it involves computers and games.

      • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

        by znerk (1162519) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:58PM (#33580998)

        Except the study was about action games, and the improvement was in speed, not accuracy.

        From the summary:

        action based video games train people to make quick, accurate decisions.

        Speed and accuracy.

        I'll just assume you're not a gamer, shall I?

      • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:58PM (#33581014)
        They're asserting that action games help with both speed and accuracy. They're suggesting that it's based upon "probabilistic inference" basically a process similar to card counting in black jack.

        The main problem with that is that you're only training the brain to deal with certain types of stimulus, primarily visual and auditory. It's definitely a real phenomenon, but I'm thinking that they're overstating it and I doubt very much that it extends much beyond a narrow range of tasks.
      • by nomadic (141991)
        Except the study was about action games, and the improvement was in speed, not accuracy.

        And I wasn't trying to support the study, just mentioning as a side point I gained a lot from computer games. Conversations evolve, my friend.
    • Well, I have no way to prove it for sure, but I do feel that Counter Strike, Quake and CoD helped me to get better at real world navigation. I was having huge troubles using maps and getting grasp of "where am I". Then (in my adult life -- 20+) I bought myself a good gaming PC and started playing action games. At first, I sucked most at the same thing: navigation. Radar was absolutely useless to me, as I had problems finding the simplest paths.

      But now, I'm pretty good at it. And in real life too.

    • by LanMan04 (790429)

      Oh Leather Goddess of Phobos, how I miss thee.

  • Yep (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:20PM (#33580484)
    I know grand theft auto helped me learn learned how to drive, and perhaps how to lose the cops.
  • Anecdotal Evidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by decipher_saint (72686) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:21PM (#33580506) Homepage

    I actually agree quite a lot with the summary, I'm legally blind, I have no depth perception and I had a lot of trouble tracking moving objects (like frisbees or baseballs). When started playing video games I started to notice that my reflexes were getting a little better the more I played. Soon I was able to catch a frisbee and throw it back. It was an amazing change for me.

    I've also noticed that I have some innate ability to make intricate maps of everywhere I go. I never get lost (this is important as I can't read street signs without assistance). I'm not sure if playing video games where map memorization is key or what but I do seem to be better at it than many of my non-gamer friends.

    Interesting stuff...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833)

      I've also noticed that I have some innate ability to make intricate maps of everywhere I go.

      You know, I'm sort of the same way. If I spend a couple minutes looking at a map of where I'm going I can generally navigate there without looking at the map again. If I actually drive somewhere, I can typically find my way back to the same place years later without checking directions. I definitely spent a lot of hours when I was younger playing RPGs and other games with maps. Of course, there's no telling how I would be if I hadn't played those games.

      • by Quirkz (1206400)
        I often have to re-check a map getting someplace the first time, but I can always retrace my steps heading back, and once I've learned the way I almost never forget, even years later.

        In my case I know the skill is almost completely unrelated to video game mapping. I did a lot of that, too, but that's primarily because I almost always get badly lost in games (first-person games). I find a huge disconnect between turning around in the real world and trying to navigate a virtual world. Particularly in the ol

    • I think that's a combo of good sense of direction and a good memory. I was able to do that stuff prior to my video game craze setting in. Although, GTAIII+ have all helped too. I seem to know just where a good shortcut is, even without the map. Repetition is also the key, as is much repetition.

      Personally, there's nothing like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town, all at the same time! Videogames, is there anything in life you don't

    • >>>I'm legally blind, I have no depth perception and I had a lot of trouble tracking moving objects (like frisbees or baseballs). When started playing video games I started to notice that my reflexes were getting a little better the more I played. Soon I was able to catch a frisbee
      >>>

      "Video Games: Helping the blind to see since 1972." ;-)

      We need more of these stories to share with idiots that thinking gaming is bad.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Eh, it's got nothing to do with video games. You can train the brain to do the same thing without the video games. It's how I managed to get so good at catching things with my non-dominant hand. Visualization exercises are what does it, the video game is just a tool to make the visualization happen.
      • by war4peace (1628283) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:53PM (#33581596)
        Let me point out the difference:
        By gaming, you passively train your brain to do "the same". You get some skill-ups by having fun. Others, who don't play games, can actively train their brains to do the same stuff, but they don't have that much fun in the process.
        My girlfriend doesn't play PC Games. At all. She is bright but can't make sense of stuff I immediately understand. E.g. she hated the new phone I bought her; she had and still has problems configuring this and that; she manages to do so but takes her a lot more time than it takes me to do that. It may be a result of me playing puzzle games. Also, orientation in unknown environments (such as finding the route back to a hotel in a foreign city) is more difficult for her than is for me. It may be a result of me playing quite a few dumb FPS games with complex levels. You'd say probably my girlfriend is dumb. But I know she isn't. She lacks certain skills. And maybe if she played games, those skills would have been better.
        • by gknoy (899301) <gknoy@NospAm.anasazisystems.com> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @06:28PM (#33581930)

          It's interesting, though. Do we like these kinds of games because we are innately gifted at such puzzle-solving, or did playing those games make us good at it? Did I like playing with Lego because I had (have?) good 3d-visualization skills and common engineering-sense, or did I develop that from playing with Lego?

          I was astounded to see how much I've (unconsciously) learned by playing FPS games. I tried to introduce my father in law to COD4, and watching him puzzle out how to look around, move, and do both, was both fascinating and cringe-inducing. I guess it's what drivers feel when they like watch non-drivers learn.

          • by russotto (537200)

            It's interesting, though. Do we like these kinds of games because we are innately gifted at such puzzle-solving, or did playing those games make us good at it? Did I like playing with Lego because I had (have?) good 3d-visualization skills and common engineering-sense, or did I develop that from playing with Lego?

            IMO, it's a positive feedback loop.

          • by martas (1439879)
            see, this is why we need time travel technology! imagine being able to do a rigorous scientific experiment of the effects of playing video games for just one subject! of course, the results wouldn't be generalizable to other people, but there are many kinds of studies that are impossible today, that would be child's play with TT. for example, smoking - it's completely unethical (those damn IRB folks...) to conduct a study where you get a bunch of kids, assign them to two groups, and make one group smoke for
  • It's true (Score:5, Funny)

    by eln (21727) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:22PM (#33580526) Homepage
    I once played Call of Duty for 72 hours straight. On my way to the 7-11 to get another case of Code Red I heard a loud bang right behind me. Instantly I spun around, dove to the ground, and emptied the clips on the two handguns I keep strapped to my sides at all times in order to fend off any crazy baseball-bat-wielding maniacs (I play a lot of Grand Theft Auto too). Anyway, it turns out it was just a school bus full of kids backfiring, but the incident gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to react quickly in any given situation. Shame about the kids, though.
    • by nschubach (922175) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:38PM (#33580752) Journal

      Kids get a lot of hit points these days thanks to the sugars and fatty foods. They'll be fine. ;)

      • If there's one thing that games have taught me over the years, it's that eating food makes the pain go away and restores hit points.

        The pinnacle of this was perhaps Odin Sphere where you had to feed the souls of those you killed in combat to plants so you could mix their fruits with various storebought foods into delicious recipes that gained you experience and health.
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      Everyone runs faster with a knife in their hands.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nyder (754090)

        Everyone runs faster with a knife in their hands.

        Double Dragon taught me to wait for the other person to reach down for the knife, then attack.

  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:24PM (#33580552)
    when I wasd type. Not sure wasd about decisiveness though.
  • Hum. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CannonballHead (842625) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:26PM (#33580578)

    So video games affect our brains but violent video games don't.

    I hope Slashdot responds with the same correlation != causation responses that accompany any "violent video games cause insert something here" claims... :)

    Unless I can be shown where this actually IS proven causation...

    • Re:Hum. (Score:5, Informative)

      by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:32PM (#33580664) Homepage

      The main thing to note (based on what I read of this study) is that it doesn't make you better at making decisions, it makes you faster (without loss of quality).

      Basically, video games have the same effect as a job that forces you to make lots of decisions really fast. It just exercises the "make decisions" part of the brain, where as reading or watching TV or painting a wall probably doesn't.

      Actually, I would expect this to almost be used as proof against violent games. After all, violent games make people violent (an accepted truth by those making these kinds of claims), and video games make you faster at making decisions (this study)... so ergo video games make people violently snap and kill people faster than normal people.

      • ... so ergo ...

        Nice touch there.

      • Re:Hum. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Rary (566291) * on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:57PM (#33580976)

        The study shows that, immediately following an action gaming session, gamers were quicker to respond. However, it does not indicate whether this actually lasts. They could just be on an adrenaline rush (or something similar), which could wane eventually. It doesn't seem to indicate that they have actually been "trained" to make decisions more quickly.

        It may be the case, but it isn't clear, at least not from the article.

      • Violent video games generating violent behavior is a touchy area. Violence outbursts are incredibly complex behaviors, requiring not only the priming for aggression but also and encouragement to act out and potentially some level of training to perform the behavior.

        More rapid decision making is a much more basic process. As you point out there was not real improvement to the accuracy or quality of the decisions, they simply occurred faster. This is exactly what you would expect when a person practice

    • by hedwards (940851)
      That's not apples to apples with the comparison. This study doesn't say anything about morality, it just says that video games appear to improve a person's probabilistic inference. Meaning that while they still might be apt to gun down innocent civilians, it's less likely that they'll do it accidentally.

      Morality is a completely different portion of the brain than what they're studying here.
    • It's simple logic.

      Using a skill repeatedly improves it.
      Gaming uses certain skills.
      Therefore, gaming regularly improves those skills.

      In the "violent games makes violent people" argument, the logic is:

      Simulating violent acts repeatedly increases tendency for violent behavior
      Gaming simulates violent acts.
      Therefore, gaming regularly increases tendency for violent behavior

      The thing, while the premises of the first argument are accepted generally, I've never seen any evidence that the first premise of the second

  • Awesome.

    1) Video games.
    2) Heightened sensitivity to surroundings and quick accurate decisions.
    3) ???
    4) Profit!


    But wait! there's more ... reminds me a a great Gary Larson cartoon from a while back:
    http://gamerinvestments.com/video-game-stocks/index.php/2010/04/20/gary-larson-predicted-the-future-of-video-game-employment/ [gamerinvestments.com]
  • Does this mean I can finally put my old MOHAA ranks and team leading experience on my resume?

  • Sigh, the issue is not gaming vs gaming. It's gaming vs other activities. This study gives no illumination upon the following question which is much more important than the one the study actually answered: Given a distribution of various activities that a (young) individual can engage in, including but not limited to physical activity, mathematics, reading, art, and video gaming, if the distribution is predominantly composed of video gaming, will the individual develop better aptitude to a median distribu
    • by Prune (557140)
      Er, I meant "gaming vs not gaming"...
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:34PM (#33580692)

    "You are damaged by the fall!"

    I saw that while playing Rogue back in the early '80s. I'm still considering what I should do next.

    Yeah, quick thinking, indeed . . .

  • I play many games, including ones that want you to navigate large cities, and my skill navigating a city in meat-space has definitely not improved--I'm terrible at it. Can I get my money back?
    • I find that I'm excellent at navigation in real life (including in complex cities), but terrible in games. Generally I can't get anywhere in a game without looking at the map, even in really linear games. Even with the HUD and all kinds of stuff, there's tons of navigational clues that I use subconsciously in real life that are missing in games.

  • Any type of game (and most types of complex activity more broadly speaking) is ultimately determined by the use of the brain's capabilities, be it the purely cerebral such as solving a puzzle or muscular coordination such as sport. Considering that children's games are ultimately training in areas such as team work, body-eye coordination, and strategic thinking for adult life it should come as no surprise that merely changing the playing field from a physical realm to a logical one doesn't necessarily chang
  • Ever since I completed GTA4 there are times when I confuse driving in real life with the game.

  • What about pinball that has action without the violence of most Acton games?

  • by PPH (736903)

    It takes a bit of everything. Sure, your gaming experience helps you navigate a city in map space. But you still need to go outside and play. Or your fat ass is going to get run over by a cab trying to waddle across the intersection before the signal changes*.

    * I saw one just the other day. Outside Microsoft's new officees in downtown Bellevue. Perhaps a great programmer. But no clue about the Big Red Hand and no ability to get out of the intersection quickly before almost getting mowed down.

  • by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc,paradise&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:03PM (#33581048) Homepage Journal
    Want to drive better? Learn to ride a motorcycle.

    Seriously - nothing makes you more aware of *all* of your surroundings quite like having no defenses save your wits and reflexes. The idea of who would be "at fault" in an accident quickly becomes irrelevant, because you understand viscerally that it really doesn't matter in the end [if you value your life, anyway].

    Those metal and fiber shells we lumber along in make us very complacent. The skills you learn from being exposed on a motorcycle will result in an immediate improvement in how you drive a car as well. And you'll find yourself wondering how [relatively] oblivious you were before that -- even those of you who are more aware of your surrounding than most.

    Here's a quick test you can give yourself - do you look ahead to where you're going when you make a turn, or do you keep your primary focus parallel with your hood? Most people do the latter until they learn to ride, effectively preventing them from truly seeing potentially critical information in the path ahead -- if you don't believe me, just observe a few people doing it.

    (I'd also recommend the standard motorcycle safety course - invaluable even if you have experience.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've had some of the same 'benefits' from riding a bicycle.

      You constantly have to be on the alert for people who will negligently mow you down.

      To this day, I react to lights about 20% faster than most others--I anticipate the light some by noticing the status of the opposing lights, while also being more aware of cross-traffic, and I often arrange to show up at the light just as it turns green so I don't have to fully stop. (Having to fully stop on a bicycle is a big bummer, you lose ALL your hard-won kine

      • by vlueboy (1799360)

        Slightly OT, like you: How much it be just our geek IQ and how much game training?

        Would the improvement on "making decisions" faster also have to do with why an informally tested IQ of 136 (or the training in me) lets me laugh or note the subtly telegraphed gags, or scary moments, seconds before others at the movie theathers?

        Happened in fast-paced scenes like the new Scott Pilgrim movie for example.

      • I do that too - though it's because I'm impatient. The flip side is that you need to actually *look* at the intersection to make sure there are no late runners or other idiots. Something that on a motorcycle (and a bicycle I'm sure) you do by habit anyway - but all too many others never do. Before I started riding, I had a habit of assuming a steady green was safe... after I started riding, I realized that there's no such thing as safe.

        Related: did you ever notice that the people who start edging the

    • A corollary to that: if you do start riding, invest a lot of money in a good helmet and a decent jacket. As someone who just put my bike down on the road for the first time a month or so ago, I can tell you that the $400 I spent on the best helmet I could find was, by far, the best money I've ever spent in my life. I wouldn't have a jaw anymore if I didn't buy such a nice helmet. If you ride, eventually, you will crash. It's important to protect your squishy parts as much as you can when that day comes.
      • Absolutely! I put mine down a couple of years ago (someone pulled out in front of me in the rain without looking -- then stopped at the green light in front of us. I should've anticipated the possibility - live and learn, fortunately.). Even though it was low speed at about 25mph, my head against the pavement left a nasty scar on the plastic (and ruined the internal cushioning) that would have been a fractured skull at best.

        My leather was also abraded from where I slid a dozen feet -- which would've oth

  • Unless you are a fighter pilot or a Ninja assassin, quick thinking isn't always the most helpful skill / strategy.

    "Decide in haste / Repent at leisure"

    "Twice measured / Once Cut"

    I think we need a new emphasis on Ent-like pondering. Most of the most important problems that humans
    collectively have to solve in this day and age have global and hundred-year-long consequences. Thinking
    carelessly but having your solution proposal a day early is likely to be counter-productive.

    We need to learn how to do some slow,

    • by russotto (537200)

      Unless you are a fighter pilot or a Ninja assassin, quick thinking isn't always the most helpful skill / strategy.

      True, but in general it's the way to bet.

      I think we need a new emphasis on Ent-like pondering.

      As soon as we get an Ent-like lifespan.

      Thinking carelessly but having your solution proposal a day early is likely to be counter-productive.

      Taking overly long to act is unlikely to result in a better decision, but it might result in taking the right decision too late. I'm sure Tolkein's Ents would h

    • I see your point but both approaches are important. If you're about to buy a house you might want to take the time to think it over, consider the pros and cons of the purchase and maybe speak to others about it. Conversely, if there is a bus that is a few metres away and travelling towards you at 50 mph, you probably shouldn't think it over, consider the pros and cons and talk to others - you should probably get the fuck out of the way.

      The ability to do both is achievable and desirable.

  • The FA has an irremovable add that dimms the main page and cannot be removed. No scrollbars on Chrome. So, fuck that site.

  • I remember seeing fliers for this study when I was a student at the University of Rochester (graduated in 2008). They definitely tried to make it sound as awesome as possible, getting paid to play video games. I think a lot of people signed up to do it; I did a questionnaire via email or something to see how well I fit the type of person they were looking for (plays games a lot - at the time I probably only played a couple hours a month, no surprise they didn't choose me).

    Anyway interesting to see the resul

  • The type of games I play tend to be strategy-focused rather than acting out the details of in-game fights; I wonder if this helps my slower-speed (longer-term) strategizing and planning skills

  • by Gastrobot (998966) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @11:35PM (#33583312)
    This study seems presumptuous.

    1) My wife, a statistician, gets irritated when studies say that they have proven things. When trying to draw conclusions from data you always run the risk that your data is not indicative of reality. You get around this with large sample sizes and by receiving data that points to the same trends on repeated studies. This study has a small sample size, 26 people total, and has no mention of repeated results.
    2) The friendly article claims that the study has "proven" that action games train people to respond quickly and accurately. The article is overstepping the study in that the conclusion of the study was that people who play action games had the same level of accuracy as those who played The Sims II. The article should have said "quickly without losing accuracy".
    3) The author of the study claimed that "People who play these action games make informed, better decisions than those who don't". The study only compared people playing two FPSs to people playing The Sims II. There is no mention of a control group that did not play any video game. The conclusion needs to be a bit more humble and only make statements between people who play FPSs and people who play ... whatever narrow genre The Sims II falls into.

    I frequently enjoy Alien Swarm. I played Portal and my wife and I are slowly meandering our way through Uru. I used to be hooked on Starcraft, Myth II, Myth, Master of Orion II, and others. I believe that these games have shaped my neurological development and given me advantages in problem solving, strategy, coping with unexpected setbacks, and more. I also believe that they've cost me in self-discipline, my attention span, humanity (desensitization to violence and beyond that enjoyment of violence). My point is that I want the conclusions of this study to be true to give some legitimacy to what is otherwise an unproductive diversion but the study feels a little shoddy.
  • by erice (13380) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:49AM (#33583582) Homepage

    Fast, low complexity decisions is what machines do well. Is it really productive to train our brains to do what machines already do better? Would it not be better to train our brains to generate the deeper insight that, so far anyway, computers have been unable to provide?

    • When you're driving down the road and the retard on the cell phone doesn't see a stop sign, runs it, and is headed straight for your driver's side door, deeper insight isn't particularly valuable.

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