A scene from Call of Duty.
Action packed video games are often criticised for being distracting and encouraging violent behavior. However, a review published this month has found that people who play ‘shoot ’em ups’ such as Halo and Call of Duty have far better visual attention than their non-gaming peers.
This mental skill allows people to focus on relevant visual information while suppressing irrelevant data. It helps us to pick out a friend’s face from a crowd or drive a car along a busy street without getting sensory overload.
The review, led by Dr Daphne Bavelier from the University of Rochester looked at how gaming can affect our ability to cope with the almost overwhelming amount of visual data that we must process every day.
The study, published in WIREs Cognitive Science, found gamers consistently outstripped non-gamers in visual attention tests.
The authors referred to a number of training studies that found non-gamers could improve their visual attention by playing video games, establishing that the games themselves were causing the benefits.
However, only fast-paced, action based games provided this benefit. These games emphasised rapid responses to visual information and required divided attention.
Study co-author Bjorn Hubert-Wallander, said: ‘Just as drivers have to focus on the road, other cars, and potential obstacles while ignoring other information, modern action games place heavy attentional demands on players.
‘These games require players to aim and shoot accurately in the center of the screen while continuously tracking other enemies and fast moving objects.’
The findings could have implications for military training as well as clinical rehabilitation programs for conditions such as amblyopia or ‘lazy eye.’
Co-author Shawn Green said: ‘At the core of these action video game-induced improvements appears to be a remarkable enhancement in the ability to flexibly and precisely control attention, a finding that could have a variety of real-world applications.
‘For example, those in professions that demand “super-normal” visual attention, such as fighter pilots, would benefit enormously from enhanced visual attention, as their performance and lives depend on their ability to react quickly and accurately to primarily visual information.’
Via Daily Mail