What computer games can teach us

The first studies on the effects of games on improving brain function

The initial evidence that this was possible came from testing shooters. That the often-criticized "shooters" could be beneficial was noticed by Sean Green, a psychology student at the University of Rochester. He gave a visual attention test to his friends, who showed striking results. At first, Green and his supervisor Daphne Bavelier wrote it off as some kind of mistake, because when Bavelier herself was tested, her result was normal. The difference between the participants in the experiment was that all of Green's friends devoted more than 10 hours a week to playing the shooter Team Fortress Classic.


The Economics of Education 

Green and Bavelier then conducted another experiment, dividing the group of "gaming novices" into two teams. The first team spent one hour a day on a shooter for 10 days; the second spent the same amount of time on a spatial puzzle game called Tetris.


Tests showed that participants in the first group were better able to focus on objects of interest in a visually busy background, and could track up to five moving objects simultaneously. During other studies, it became known that Tetris, in turn, improved spatial reasoning abilities and visual representations of two-dimensional objects.


Bavelier, now a cognitive researcher at the University of Geneva, notes that fans of "action games" "maneuver better" between distributed attention (the brain's ability to respond to stimuli simultaneously) and focused attention (the ability to concentrate on a target stimulus). "This is called attention control, the ability to switch flexibly as needed," she says. Task switching is also facilitated by playing All You Can ET, a special cognitive simulator in which players must provide aliens with certain food and drinks in a timely manner. 


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