May 7, 2012 at 3:35 PM ET
The image of video games continues to improve on an almost weekly basis, at least among researchers. One new study suggests that first-person-shooters, known for being implicated during violent shooting incidents, might actually be beneficial.
Kotaku recently highlighted a study conducted by Ian Spence, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, which demonstrates how playing games, even for a short period of time, can cause differences in brain activity.
The study focused on "action video games," which in this instance refers to first person shooters. According to the results, they can improve a player’s ability to quickly recognize and process visuals cues.
Only subjects who did not previously play video games were included in the study. Two groups were assigned games to play for ten hours; one was given a first-person-shooter for ten hours, the other a puzzle game.
Before playing, subjects were asked to detect a target object across a visual field, one filled with a variety of distractions as their brain waves were recorded. This exercise was done again, after both groups had played their respective games.
Those who were playing first-person-shooters showed the greatest improvement, where those who played the puzzle game exhibited no improvement whatsoever. Spence explains further:
Studies in different labs, including here at the University of Toronto, have shown that action videogames can improve selective visual attention, such as the ability to quickly detect and identify a target in a cluttered background… But nobody has previously demonstrated that there are differences in brain activity [that] are a direct result of playing the videogame.
Spence also noted how increased visual perception is extremely beneficial in many everyday activities, such as driving a car or even avoiding tripping over children's toys scattered on the floor of room.
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.