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Games Science

Video Games Lead To Quick Thinking Skills 174

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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  • hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:19PM (#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.
  • Anecdotal Evidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:21PM (#33580506)

    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...

  • Hum. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:26PM (#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...

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:26PM (#33580582)

    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.

  • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:33PM (#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.

  • This is no surprise (Score:2, Interesting)

    by John Saffran ( 1763678 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:37PM (#33580736)
    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 change the gain. The type of game played does bias the type of brain activity triggered, for example turn-based strategic games heavily favour the logical thinking aspects but that's not different from a board game such as scrabble, merely the manner in which the stimulation is received changes. Even the seemingly useless video game arcade games are useful in training quick thinking, hand-eye coordination, and to a lesser extent strategic thinking .. can't say I've ever seen a 'dumb' person be good at any game.

    The results aren't a surprise, that people would think games to be useless and of no benefit is more of a surprise.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:58PM (#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 war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @06:53PM (#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 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @07:28PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @12:40AM (#33583336)

    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.

    Agreed, another step up is to learn to drive a truck. Professional lessons recommended, you learn to look and plan much further ahead. Most car drivers don't seem to be very aware of what's behind them either and truck driving teaches you that. Motorcycle lesson before learning to drive and a heavy vehicle lesson after a year of driving would make a world of difference to most people's driving.

  • Re:hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arrogance ( 590092 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @09:27AM (#33585904)

    >>>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 [] or similar sites, download a few of your old favourites (WC, Master of Magic, etc) and enjoy them with Dosbox. []

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis