Though devoted video gamers are often imagined as anti-social misfits, it seems there are real-world benefits to finding pleasure in a virtual one. Our friends at Babbage have highlighted an interesting new study published in Current Biology, which suggests that video gamers make faster and more accurate decisions.
According to cognitive scientists at the University of Rochester, playing fast-moving action games, such as "Call of Duty 2" and "Unreal Tournament", can lead to an improvement in decision-making skills. Players of these games were 25% faster at coming to a conclusion than non-action players, and just as accurate. Oddly enough, "players of 'The Sims 2', a game where one has to decide how to organise an entire simulated world, did not benefit this way."
The scientists conclude that video-game players develop an enhanced sensitivity to what is going on around them, and this may help with activities such as multitasking, driving, reading small print, navigation and keeping track of friends or children in a crowd. The precise neural mechanism for this effect is still unknown. What is known, however, is that people make decisions based on probabilities, which are constantly being calculated and refined in their heads—something called “probabilistic interference”. The brain collects small pieces of information, eventually gathering enough to make an accurate decision. When driving a car, for example, these many probabilities will be collated to make decisions such as whether or not to brake. The more efficient one is at collecting visual and auditory information, the faster a person can reach the threshold needed to make a decision.
But all is not lost for the non-gamers among us. With only some 50 hours of training on perhaps "Mirror's Edge" over a few weeks, we all can get a little faster with our decision-making. Alas, "Fret Nice" isn't gonna do it. And cheating probably won't help either.
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